Facing criticism over reportedly “brokering” a deal between producers of Bollywood movie “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has said he opposed the condition that filmmakers will have to contribute Rs 5 crore to an army welfare fund.
Two central ministers too disapproved of the deal. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said the government did not appreciate catching anyone’s neck to contribute, making it clear that donation to the army is “voluntary”. Information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu dubbed the MNS demand as “wrong ”.
Karan Johar’s film faced protests by MNS workers for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. The film’s smooth Diwali release, later this week, was ensured at a meeting of Film Producers’ Guild, producers and the MNS. It was mediated by Fadnavis last week.
Makers agreed that under-production films featuring Pakistani actors will pay Rs 5 crore to the army fund as “penance ”. The producers also agreed to include a tribute to Indian soldiers at the start of Johar’s film, as the so-called compromise triggered outrage with many describing Thackeray’s monetary condition as “extortion”.
Apart from the opposition, ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena slammed Fadnavis’s intervention in the matter, terming it an act of “siding with Pakistani personalities.” The army too appeared uncomfortable with the “penance”.
Fadnavis, however, defended his intervention to resolve the issue, saying democratic governments at times will even talk to separatists and left ultras for the sake of peace.
“...When the issue of Rs 5 crore came up, I intervened and made it clear to the Film Producers’ Guild that they need not have to agree to it. I also told them that the contribution has to be made voluntarily. However, it was producers’ decision to accept it,” Fadnavis said on Monday evening at his residence, ‘Varsha’.
“I categorically told that although it is nice that the Guild has decided to stand by the families of our martyrs but it is not a compulsion. Still if they wish to do, they may contribute whatever amount they feel (is) appropriate. This figure of (Rs) 5 crore came from MNS but was not agreed in the meeting and turned down then and there only,” he said.
India and Pakistan’s heightened tensions since an attack on an army base in Uri, Kashmir, have resulted in increasingly acrimonious barbs even between its usually friendly film industries.
“Another choice was deploying thousands of police staff outside theatres (when film releases). I would then face allegations like I have spoiled Diwali holiday of police staff. Issues should be solved by talking, and we are a democratic government,” Fadnavis said.
For his part, Union minister Naidu told reporters in Delhi: “That was a wrong proposal. We don’t agree with their (MNS) proposal. Maharashtra chief minister has also clarified that he was not a part of the proposal that was made by some other party.”
Stressing that the matter was between “some party” and the “producer”, he said the government did not “subscribe to that thinking at all and has no to role play”.