Filmmaker Karan Johar, whose upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, on Tuesday broke his silence on the demand to ban artistes from that country in the wake of the Uri attack in September, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.
Under sustained pressure from Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which has been threatening to halt the screening of the film, Johar released a video statement in which he said he wouldn’t engage with talent from Pakistan in the future. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is scheduled for release on October 28.
Last week, an umbrella body of cinema owners – the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association – said it would stop screening films with Pakistani actors. The ban applies to single-screen cinemas in four states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka. Trade analysts said the ban could result in a loss of Rs 5 crore to Rs 6 crore for the film, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai and Anushka Sharma.
Johar claimed he had chosen to remain silent until now “because of the deep sense of hurt that few people could actually believe that I was being anti-national”. He said, “For me, my country comes first… When I shot Ae Dil Hai Mushkil from September to December last year, the [political] climate was completely different. There were efforts made by our government for peaceful relationships with the neighbouring country… Going forward, I would like to say that of course I wouldn’t engage with talent from the neighbouring country given the circumstance.”
He added, “Over 300 Indian people in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears into my film. I don’t think it is fair for them to face turbulence on account of other fellow Indians. I respect the Army ... I condemn any form of terrorism.”
Director Anurag Kashyap said, “I am tired of the film industry being soft targets. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t! ” He added elected representatives had a responsibility to protect people. “We elected them and so it is their responsibility to protect us from bullies – the media or political parties,” he said.
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit told HT, “In the video, Karan said he was silent because people called him anti-national, but I feel it was the other way around. People got hurt as his actor and he were silent. Karan never said he condemned his actor’s silence on the Uri attack. Today, under pressure, Johar has released this video.”
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