Protesters threatened to picket theatres showing THE GODDESS, after Turner won the role of SHAKTI, the Hindu symbol of power and energy - insisting a "sex icon" should not play the part.
But Merchant says the protests are based on misconceptions about the film.
He explains in a statement, "Tina Turner is one of the great artists of our time and has been a practising Buddhist for the last 20 years.
"An artist of such international stature should be welcomed. Contrary to the accusations of objectors, nobody is going to sing and dance on the back of a tiger and the goddess is not going to be half-naked or a sex symbol.
"Nobody has the right to dictate how one should worship the goddess or discriminate against an artist who seeks to portray her."23/03/2004 09:30