AHEAD of the scheduled release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil on October 28, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors’ Association of India (COEAI) on Friday announced that theatres under its ambit will not screen movies featuring Pakistani actors and technicians.
In a circular issued Friday, COEAI said, “Keeping in mind the patriotic feeling and national interest, we request all our member-exhibitors from (withholding) screening (of) any movie that has involvement of Pakistani artistes, technicians, etc.” Pakistani actor Fawad Khan plays a key role in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The ban is reportedly applicable to single-screen theatres that are part of Mumbai territory, which includes, besides Maharashtra, parts of Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka. While the scope of the ban remains uncertain as of now, as other industry bodies are yet to come to a decision, COEAI stated, “We are in the process of requesting other associations connected with film industry to support these sentiments.”
Any such diktat will also affect films such as Raees, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Pakistani actor Mahira Khan, and Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi, which is supposed to have singer-actor Ali Zafar in a cameo. COEAI president Nitin Datar said the ban would spare greater losses producers and exhibitors would have suffered from vandalism had they screened the movies. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had earlier given an ultimatum to Pakistani actors to leave India.
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Welcoming COEAI’s decision, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar on Friday stated in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, “The government should not give them (Pakistani artistes) visa and work permit when there is no work (here).” The Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA), which had issued a circular on September 30 “unanimously appealing” to all producers to not hire Pakistani actors and technicians, has criticised COEAI’s decision. “Keeping the interest of producers in mind, IMPPA had spared completed projects like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees, and issued the restriction on employing Pakistani artistes in future projects,” IMPPA president T P Aggarwal said.
Aggarwal said this move will be a setback to financiers and producers whose movies are already complete. A strong appeal in support of Johar also came from the Film and Television Producers Guild of India. In an appeal, Mukesh Bhatt, the guild’s president, said, “We would urge the central government as well as all states to appreciate that film producers who have already shot their films, or are in the process of completing their unfinished films, should not end up paying (a) heavy price.”
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has been cleared by CBFC with a U/A certificate. Welcoming COEAI’s decision, all 18 single-screen threare owners in Pune, under the umbrella of Pune Exhibitors’ Association, said they will not screen the Karan Johar film. Prakash Chaphalkar, member of All-India Multiplex Association, however, said multiplex operators have not taken any decision yet.
In Chandigarh, Vijay Bhardwaj, spokesperson for several Hindu organisations for Punjab and Chandigarh region, said, “We have spoken with all Hindu sanghathans — Shiv Sena, VHP, Raksha Samiti and others, and have decided not to allow any film starring any Pakistani actor.” B B Arora, president of Northern India Motion Picture Association (of cinema owners and distributors), said, “We will go along with whatever multiplex cinema owners and distributors decide.”