Filmmaker Shyam Benegal is saddened to see that director Karan Johar is being unnecessarily harassed for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM). Benegal wants the government to step in to protect the film industry which is particularly vulnerable. “I am very saddened by what he had to say because the poor chap (Karan) is being unnecessarily harassed in a way because after all, over Rs.50 crore is at stake. What do you expect him to say?,” Benegal said.
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“Film industry is particularly vulnerable. They (film fraternity) need to be protected from people who will threaten them or attack them. We cannot avoid these things. Government has to protect us against these kind of attacks,” added Benegal referring to several political outfits’ threats to multiplexes who will screen ADHM soon. The filmmaker, who heads the government-appointed revamp panel of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), expressed after the latest turn of events when Karan broke his silence about the forthcoming film, which will release on October 28, two days before Diwali.
In a two-minute long video, Karan said that he is hurt on being labelled “anti-national” ahead of the release of his directorial and production venture ADHM, and said he would not engage with talent from Pakistan “in the circumstance”. Benegal feels the “government should protect people like that. It is the duty of the government to protect people against the kind of threats that he (Karan) probably has received or is likely to receive”.
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Karan’s film became the first target of those who are against inclusion of Pakistani artistes in Indian films after the September 18 Uri attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. The attack was followed by surgical strikes that India conducted on terror camps across the LoC. While the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issued an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to quit India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association passed a resolution asking producers to avoid working with talent from Pakistan.
Last week, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India announced single screen theatres in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat won’t screen ADHM. The film, which also stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, is already facing threats from the MNS.
Benegal asserts that no one is being unpatriotic, “Nobody has done anything unpatriotic. If you are born here, got education here, are working here, making your livelihood here and are voting every election, then why should you be constantly told to prove your credentials. What more credentials do you want? If you are an Indian then you are an Indian and are proud to be an Indian. I don’t have to say that every day and every morning from my terrace that ‘I am an Indian, and I am proud Indian’,” he said.
What does he think about various groups demanding a ban on Pakistani talent working in India? The 81-year-old said: “The fact is when the relationship between the neighbours was happy and okay, we were taking people from Pakistan. In fact, our actors and directors were also going to the other side. It was stopped because of the skirmishes on the border. This is a temporary thing.”