"Billu Barber" now "Billu" as film faces hairdressers' ire

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan attends a news conference at a hotel in Mumbai in this April 23, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Manav Manglani/Files

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Taking a cue from protests over the title of Oscar-nominated film “Slumdog Millionaire” in India, hundreds of hairdressers have slammed the Bollywood film “Billu Barber”, forcing its makers to drop the word “barber” from the title.

Media reports said “Billu Barber”, the story of a village hairdresser who is a childhood friend of a Bollywood actor played by Shah Rukh Khan, was criticised by an association of hairdressers who found the title offensive.

The term “barber” in India usually connotes a travelling professional in small towns and villages, who gives haircuts and shaves using minimum paraphernalia and at very low charges.

“I don’t think it’s wrong, they have their own take on it. Instead of going to and fro on who’s wrong, we decided on the posters and hoardings ... we’ll stick a paper on the word ‘barber’ wherever it can be done,” Khan told CNN-IBN channel.

Khan, arguably Bollywood’s most bankable star, talked to an association of hairdressers and salon owners and said he would hide the word “barber” from posters and billboards, and bleep out the word from the film, which releases on Feb. 13.

“I just wanted to make sure people were not unhappy,” said Khan, whose production company is associated with the film.

“I still don’t understand the reason but if they are so emotional about it, we will do what we can.”

“Slumdog Millionaire”, which has swept major international awards, has been flayed by some Indians for its portrayal of “poverty porn” while a social activist has filed a complaint against the title in a local Mumbai court.