NEW DELHI: Indian home minister Rajnath Singh has promised a ‘safe release’ of Fawad Khan’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’.
Prominent Indian directors Karan Johar and Mukesh Bhatt held a meeting with the home minister during which he assured that no one would be allowed to disrupt screenings as police arrested 12 MNS workers for shouting slogans outside a south Mumbai cinema.
Rajnath Singh said that Karan Johar’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ will release without any violence and all cinemas will have “100 per cent police protection”.
However, anti-Pakistan sentiment is expected to impact Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, which stars former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor, and other upcoming films.
Johar’s move came after the fringe but noisy right-wing MNS based in Bollywood’s home of Mumbai said it would stall the release next Friday of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” because it features Pakistani heart-throb Fawad Khan.
Hindu nationalists have been fuelling India’s crackdown with threats of violence while Pakistan’s media regulators have gone all out and banned all Indian content from television and radio networks.
Karan Johar said this week that he would not cast Pakistani actors anymore after activists from Hindu nationalist party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened to attack cinemas that show his forthcoming movie.
In a short video that divided opinion, an under-pressure Johar also took great pains to stress his nationalism and pleaded with protesters not to hamper screenings as it would hurt the movie’s 300-strong Indian crew.
“Some political interests question how you can use actors from what they call ‘an enemy state’ and release the film in India when the relationship is so bad between the countries,” he told AFP.
“But what connection does it have? Film actors are not political beings. They are entertainers. It’s completely without reason.”
“It was one of the saddest things I’ve seen because he has so much money at stake. He has to see that he doesn’t lose not only money but his business,” Benegal, 81, said of Johar’s statement.
Earlier this month, India’s Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association (COEA) said it would not show any films featuring Pakistani artists at single screen cinemas across four states.
The ban will also likely affect two movies of Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan — “Dear Zindagi” which features Ali Zafar, out next month, and other “Raees” starring Mahira Khan, which is due for release in January.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since grenade-hurling militants raided India’s Uri army base near the de-facto border dividing Kashmir on September 18 in the worst such attack for years.
Following the September raid, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, which represents a number of Hindi film industry employees, passed a motion banning Pakistani artists until relations improve.
Pakistan’s Film Exhibitors and Distributors group responded by suspending the screening of all Indian films “until normalcy returns”.
On Monday, organisers of the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival dropped classic 1959 Pakistani movie “Jago Hua Savera” (“The Day Shall Dawn”) from its programme following a complaint from an Indian NGO.
Then on Wednesday Pakistan’s state-run media authority fired another salvo, banning all Indian content from television and radio networks. It threatened to suspend the licences of any station caught flouting the ban, which came into force Friday.
“Attacking the entertainment industry is a cheap tactic,” Mumbai-based film trade analyst Akshaye Rathi told AFP.
“Political outfits seek bans to gain quick publicity and there’s no better sector than the film industry to piggyback on for two minutes of fame.”