KARACHI: Indian films have been banned in cinemas across Pakistan as tensions between Islamabad and nuclear-armed rivals New Delhi over recent scuffles in the disputed Kashmir region spilled into the world of Bollywood and celebrity.
The tit-for-tat retaliation came after Pakistani actors and technicians were banned from working on Bollywood sets by the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA).
Tensions have been simmering for months between India and Pakistan, but were dangerously ratcheted up Thursday when India claimed it had carried out “surgical strikes” across the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in disputed Kashmir.
The rare public admission of such an action on alleged “terrorist” targets prompted furious rhetoric from Pakistan, with both sides reporting fresh cross-border firing but no casualties early Saturday morning.
“It is deeply regrettable that a film trade body, the IMPPA, has passed a resolution to ban Pakistani stars and technicians from working in India,” a statement from Pakistan’s Film Exhibitors and Distributors group said late Friday.
“(Following) the IMPPA decision… the majority stake holders of the (Pakistani) film industry have decided to suspend the screening of all Indian films until normalcy returns.”
Celebrities on both sides of the border have also weighed in on tensions over the past week.
Bollywood star Salman Khan saw a vicious social media backlash after he was reported as saying that Pakistani artists should not be equated with terrorists.
While singer Adnan Sami, British-born but of Pakistani origin who received Indian citizenship last year, has been slated on Twitter by Pakistanis since praising Indian forces.
Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt received a similar roasting when he posted an image of himself calling for peace.
“Sadly, there isn’t much difference in the level of sanity on both sides,” observed Pakistani media website Mango Baaz in a story comparing the online reactions across the border.
Indian movies are screened in a majority of Pakistani cinemas, as filmmakers in the South Asian nation strive to revive its struggling motion picture industry.
Many Pakistani singers and film actors have been cast in the Indian films in a bid to improve people-to-people contact between the rival countries.
Cinema employees in Karachi were seen removing the giant posters advertising Indian films over the weekend and replacing them with banners for Pakistani and Hollywood movies.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.