New Delhi: Expressing dismay over the controversy in the wake of his participation in book launch function of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in Mumbai, veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah said he was being targeted for being a Muslim.
"My name is Naseeruddin Shah and I believe that's why I was targeted. It really pains me to say this. I have never ever been aware of my identity until now," the celebrated actor told India Today news channel in an interview.
Shah said he was misunderstood and misreported in the media about his comments on Pakistan during the function held on Monday.
"I was quite astounded that everything I stated was interpreted as being anti-Indian and there was nothing of the sort that I actually said," he clarified.
He said there were other people also expressing their thoughts on issues but it was his views that were being presented as if he had said something against the country.
"I do not actually understand why anything said as a compliment to Pakistan must be construed as anti-Indian. If I say Imran Khan is great, does that make Sunil Gavaskar any less a cricketer," the Bollywood actor asked.
Emphasising that he was a proud Indian and would not allow anybody to question his patriotism, the 66-year-old actor said what eminent lawyer A.G. Noorani and veteran journalist Dileep Padgaonkar said during the function was not quoted at all even as they raised far more pertinent points than he did.
"I don't understand why I am being picked on," he said in the television interview.
Asked about his view on eminent writers returning their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest rising intolerance in the country under the BJP-led Central government, Shah said the protesting writers had written more strongly on what was happening in India.
During the book release function, the veteran actor regretted that performances of Pakistani artistes were disrupted in India.
"Hatemongers are unfortunately having a field day in India today," he said, adding that awards mean nothing to him and therefore he won't bother returning them.
On Shiv Sena's argument that terror and cricket or music couldn't coexist, Shah said, "The people who sponsor terror aren't the same who bring the message of peace from across the border."
"You have to make a difference and can't tar everybody with the same brush," the Bollywood actor said.
Shah is a recipient of Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi and other prestigious awards.