Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will release on schedule next week after Bollywood producers agreed not to hire Pakistani artistes in future, giving in to Maharashtra’s mercurial politician Raj Thackeray who had threatened to block the film.
The producers also agreed that under-production films featuring Pakistani actors will pay Rs five crore to an army welfare fund as “penance”. This could apply to Shah Rukh Khan-starrers Raees and Dear Zindagi.
The producers also agreed to include a tribute to Indian soldiers at the start of Johar’s film, which stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. But the so-called compromise triggered outrage on social media with many describing Thackeray’s monetary condition as “extortion”.
Peace was bought on Saturday morning after a meeting involving Thackeray, Johar and the producers’ guild president Mukesh Bhatt at Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ residence.
“We have always protested against Pakistani artistes but Bollywood never understood earlier. Now they have realised,” Thackeray said, claiming victory for his fringe but noisy nativist party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
“While Pakistan has banned Indian content, why do we give them a red carpet here?” He said those expected to pay up must publicly release photos of the cheques being handed over to defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
India and Pakistan’s heightened tensions since an attack on an army barracks in Uri, Kashmir, have resulted in increasingly acrimonious barbs even between its usually friendly film industries.
Pakistani cinemas stopped showing Bollywood fare in their theatres weeks ago. And a blanket ban against showing Indian content on Pakistani television networks and radio stations took effect last week.
India’s government has not issued a blanket ban but said it would make such decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Following the Uri attack, the MNS issued a 48-hour notice on September 25 to Pakistani actors to leave the country.
The MNS, formed after breaking away from the Shiv Sena in 2006, positions itself as a champion of native rights and the latest posturing is seen aimed at the upcoming local civic body polls.
Mukesh Bhatt, chief of the film producers’ guild of India, told reporters the film will be released as scheduled on October 28.
“Nation and patriotism comes first even for the film fraternity and we respect the Indian soldiers than anything else. We have decided to not engage any Pakistani artiste in our films in future,” he said.