MUMBAI: There's bad news for Ranbir Kapoor's upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with an association of cinema owners today deciding to ban any film with Pakistani artistes in the cast.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, timed for this year’s Diwali (Oct. 30) features Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
The ban announced by the Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) is likely to scupper the film’s box office returns in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa. However, it mainly covers single-screen theatres.
The association’s president Nitin Datar said the ban has nothing to do with politics but it was clear that it has political support. Goraksha Dhotre, president of the BJP's Film Artistes Cell, spoke approvingly of the ban.
The COEAI made it clear that the ban will apply to any film that has even the faintest of the taint of Pakistan associated with it: “Exhibitors will refrain from screening movies that have the involvement of any Pakistani artiste, technician, director, music director etc." Nitin Datar told reporters.
The Hindi film industry has been swept by a feeling of antipathy to Pakistani artistes working in its productions ever since the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) kicked up the dust after the terror attack on Uri last month.
The two films most likely to be impacted are Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees, which features another Pakistani actor, Mahira, in the lead role.
Bollywood’s producer lobby, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) was then very enthusiastic about not allowing Pakistani artistes to work in India but the COEAI ban threatens to leave it impaled on its very sword.
No wonder IMPPA criticised COEAI's decision today, saying films that have already completed production ought not to be targeted.
"We think films that are completed shouldn't be banned," T P Aggarwal, the IMPPA’s president, told the news agency PTI.
While the COEAI citied patriotic fervor as its justification, there were indications that the ban was in part motivated by its need to risk vandalisation of its theatres.
Censor Board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, a producer himself, wears his patriotism on his sleeve but was not too warm about the ban. "The film (Ae Ae Dil Hai Mushkil) is produced by Indians. The film stars a lot of Indian actors, so they (COEAI) should be concerned about our actors and Indian producers. They have no right to take such decisions," Nihalani said.
Reacting to the development, actor Om Puri said a ban can only be invoked by the government, and must apply, if just, “not only to artistes but all Pakistanis who have come here for business.”
A lot is riding on "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil", which stars heavy-weights like Aishwarya, Ranbir and Anushka, and also marks Johar's return to direction after a gap of four years.