The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India’s (COEAI) decision asking exhibitors not to release any movie featuring Pakistani artistes in single screen theatres has now landed Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil(ADHM) in hot waters. The film stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in a pivotal role, leading to the decision. Earlier Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) had also banned Pakistani actors. However, IMPPA had requested MNS to let the completed films such as Ae Dil hai Mushkil and Raees release.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Nitin Datar, President of COEAI tells us the reason behind this diktat.
What is the decision taken? Is there a ban?
There is no ban. We have only suspended the release of films where Pakistani artists or technicians are connected. Our decision is that we will not screen or release the movies in our cinemas.
Does the association have the power to suspend the release of the film?
It is our prerogative whether to release any film or not. It is the prerogative of the distributor whether to give the film to certain exhibitors or not.
Are they duty bound to obey your association’s decision?
It is our request to them.
So you have requested them to suspend the release of films featuring Pakistani actors?
Yes. This is a request to all our members to not screen the film keeping in mind the sentiments of the Indian public. It’s been happening for the last one month in the wake of the Uri attacks and cross-border firing. The sentiments of public are against Pakistani films. Pakistan has already banned our Hindi content on satellite. We haven’t done that. We have taken the decision to suspend films featuring Pakistani actors, given patriotic sentiments of our public. The public will be happy that the association took such a decision.
Have the exhibitors agreed to this decision of your association?
Exhibitors have agreed, that’s why we took the decision.
But isn’t it the government’s call to ban or suspend a film?
It’s my committee’s choice whether to suspend any picture or not. The government is not going to tell you u whether to ban a picture of not. It is my committee’s choice.
But that makes me ask the question again, does your association have the power to suspend a film?
So this is a request?
But the person who will be suffering the losses owing to the decision will be Karan Johar who is an Indian?
Are we are not suffering losses? Aren’t the exhibitors suffering losses? What will happen if theatres are damaged? Is Karan Johar going to compensate? Who will compensate the damages done?
Are you saying if ADHM is released, the political party who called for the ban will inflict damages?
There may be anyone who can inflict damages. Why just political parties?
But the government is there to offer protection and maintain law and order and theatre owners can seek protection if they feel there is an imminent threat to life and property?
It is Diwali period and government cannot give protection to all cinema screens. People can enter the cinema and inflict damages.
What is your advice to Karan Johar?
My advice is to wait for some time for things to settle down. But it is for him to decide what needs to be done.
So for the moment your association has decided not to screen ADHM and other films featuring Pakistani films?
At present, this is the decision.
And has every single-screen owner agreed to the same?
Theatre owners have to agree or not that is their call. But we have given our instruction and I am sure everyone will agree.