New York: When Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was questioned at the Newark airport in the US last month, while visiting to perform in the South Asian Carnival, speculation followed that he was held back due to suspicions about potential criminal links of the event's promoters. But the London-based promoter of the show, Farhath Hussain, argues he's unlikely to be on America's watchlist.
"I travel every month to the US. If it's because of me or my brother that he (Shah Rukh Khan) was stopped, I should have been stopped first. We have no problems at all. I have been doing business in US for 25 years," says Hussain.
Meanwhile, the US Customs and Border Patrol refuses to comment on the Shah Rukh Khan case, but insist that he wasn't racially profiled or mistreated.
Farhath Hussain denies he could be under suspicion, but even he alleges that the underworld has had an eye on the business in the recent past. He himself received extortion threats from Mumbai based gangsters back in 2000 and as a result stopped working in the US for a few years.
"The first call was from Abu Salem, then basically I couldn't cope and refused to the terms - extortion terms. That time, there was no such big profit. Then I stopped doing shows in America," says Hussain.
But other Bollywood show promoters in the United States dismiss any claims of underworld involvement in the business, insisting they are lucky if they get 7 per cent - 8 per cent return on their investment.
"If they need money, the movie industry is back home. We as promoters hardly break even on every show. Our expenses are too much, the cost of talent is a lot and bottomline, there's no money," says Bollywood show promoter, Bharat Jotwani.
With thir fees shooting up and lucrative endorsements to choose from, actors no longer view US tours as a short cut to make a quick buck. A-list stars now tour less frequently, and mostly to keep their loyal fans happy, although heightened scrutiny by immigration and tax officials could also be partly responsible.
US show promoters claim they pay film stars by check and say they must withhold performers' taxes in advance before a show can even proceed, but privately, some will concede there are many other ways to compensate the stars off the books.
(With inputs from Akanksha Banerji in London)