Top Bollywood director Karan Johar said on Tuesday he will not work with Pakistani actors again, days after a right-wing party threatened to block his upcoming film’s release in India.
‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ is scheduled to open in Indian cinemas on Oct. 28, two days before Diwali, the country’s festival of lights. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a regional party in Mumbai, has urged a boycott of Johar’s film for featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan at a time when tensions between India and Pakistan are running high.
‘Going forward, I would like to say that, of course, I will not engage with talent from the neighbouring country, given the circumstance,’ Johar said in a video statement on Tuesday.
Johar, known for his big-ticket movies and lavish locales, said he was ‘deeply hurt’ people thought he was ‘anti-national’ but it would be unfair to target his film.
‘Over 300 Indian people in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears in ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ and I don’t think it is fair to them to face any kind of turbulence on account of other fellow Indians,’ said the 44-year-old film-maker.
India blames Pakistan for a deadly assault in September on the Uri army base in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and Prime Minister Narendra Modi branded Pakistan a ‘mother-ship of terrorism’ at a summit of the BRICS nations on Sunday.
Last week, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India decided not to screen films featuring Pakistani crew because of ‘public sentiment’. The directive applied to single-screen cinemas in four revenue-generating states for Bollywood movies — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa.
The right-wing MNS has threatened to disrupt any screenings of ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, which could hit the film’s box-office takings during Bollywood’s lucrative moviegoing season.
Film-maker Anurag Kashyap was slammed by Twitter users for sending a series of tweets to Modi over the weekend questioning the prime minister’s visit to Pakistan last year while Karan Johar was filming ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’.
On Tuesday, Kashyap said he was tired of the Indian film industry becoming ‘soft targets’ and ‘scapegoats’ for voicing his opinion.
‘We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t,’ Kashyap said in a Facebook post.
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