Film-maker Karan Johar, whose upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, on Tuesday broke his silence over the demand to ban artistes from that country in the wake of the Uri attack in September, which 19 Indian Army soldiers were killed.
With the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatening to stop the screening of the film, which is set to release on October 28, Johar in a video statement said he wouldn’t engage with talent from Pakistan in the future given the current circumstances.
Last week, an umbrella body of cinema owners – The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association – declared it will stop screening films with Pakistani artistes. The ban applies to single-screen cinemas in four states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka.
Trade analyst said the ban could result in the film, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, and Anushka Sharma, suffering a loss of Rs5 crore to Rs6 crore.
The filmmaker, meanwhile, said he chose silence “because of the deep sense of hurt and deep sense of pain that few people could actually believe that he was being anti-national”.
“I need to say this with strength that for me my country comes first and nothing else matters to me… When I shot Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in September to December last year, the climate [political] was completely different. There were efforts made by our government for peaceful relationships with the neighbouring country and I respected those endeavours and efforts then. Going forward, I would like to say that of course I wouldn’t engage with talent from the neighbouring country given the circumstance,” he said.
“Over 300 Indian people in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears in my film. And I don’t think it is fair for them to face any kind of turbulence on account of other fellow Indians. I respect the Indian Army and salute them for everything they do to protect us in our environment…I condemn any form of terrorism, especially the terrorism that would affect my people in my country and me.”
A few others, however, said Johar “isn’t debating the actual thing, but giving an emotional lecture”. “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 [Fawad Khan] and he were silent. In his video, Karan never said he condemned his actor’s silence on the Uri attack. Today, under pressure, Johar has released this video,” filmmaker Ashoke Pandit told HT.
Another producer, who did not wish to be named, said Johar was left with no other option. “He was pushed against the wall, what else did you expect him to do?”
However, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt praised Johar for speaking out. “By releasing this statement, Karan has sent very sane signals to everyone around, who perhaps have read meaning into his silence. If it is being read by somebody that it is an act of being pressurised, I feel it is an act of great courage,” Bhatt told HT.
Meanwhile, film-maker Anurag Kashyap, who tweeted on October 16 asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise for his Lahore trip, clarified his stand saying: “It’s unfortunate that I have to explain the intention behind my tweet because others and my industry colleagues have [had] to suffer for my opinions….” He went on to write that he had “merely questioned the fairness of a situation” by talking about the PM’s Pak visit.
His tweets drew flak on the social media. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, actor and BJP member of Lok Sabha Paresh Rawal, actor Shatrughan Sinha and filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, too, criticised the film-maker’s tweet.