As tensions mount between Pakistan and India, Bollywood director and producer Karan Johar has broken his silence over jabs that he has been anti-national by employing a Pakistani actor in his upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Scheduled for release next Friday in India, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere to coincide with the Diwali holiday, the romance film stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan (with a cameo by Shah Rukh Khan). Fawad Khan is a Pakistan-born actor and recently broke out in this year’s hit Bollywood family drama Kapoor & Sons. Watch Johar’s video statement below.
Strife has intensified between the neighboring countries over attacks in the disputed Kashmir territory. Johar’s statement comes as India’s right-wing Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party has threatened to attack cinemas screening Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Difficulties Of The Heart), given the inclusion of Fawad Khan. Indian film producers association, the IMPPA, recently banned Pakistani actors, singers and technicians from working in India. (Johar in his video vows not to “engage with talents from the neighboring country” in the future.)
Bollywood Hungama reports that today MNS supporters staged a protest at the Metro Cinema in South Mumbai on Wednesday with some arrested.
The Times of India reports, however, that Union Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, has assured full support for the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Mukesh Bhatt, President of the Film & Television Producers Guild of India, said after a meeting with Singh that the minister promised to speak to the chief minister “of every state and assured that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will release without any violence or issue.”
Rai Bachchan, Kapoor and Sharma — and of course Shah Rukh Khan — are major stars and there has been much anticipation surrounding Fox Star Studios’ Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with Diwali a key date for Bollywood releases.
Separately today, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has set a ban on Indian content across television and radio which will begin on Friday.
PEMRA said in a statement, according to The Times of India, “The ban will come into effect at 3PM on October 21, and radio and television stations which violate the ban will have their licenses suspended without a prior show cause notice.” Per local reports, PEMRA had earlier begun cracking down on local channels which were airing more than the 5% quota on foreign content. Indian films and soap operas are very popular in Pakistan.
Protests in Kashmir began in July, following the killing of a young Muslim separatist leader by security forces, Reuters notes. Relations then worsened in September, when militants attacked an army base in Kashmir and killed 18 soldiers. New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan, but officials in Islamabad denied involvement. The ban on Pakistani film actors on Indian screens followed and Pakistani cinemas responded by banning Bollywood films.
Johar had previously remained mum over the growing issue and says in his statement that he wants to clarify that he has been silent “because of the deep sense of hurt and the deep sense of pain that I felt that a few people would actually believe that I am being anti-national… For me, my country comes first. Nothing else matters but my country. I always felt that the best way to express your patriotism is to spread love and that’s all I ever tried to do through my work, and my cinema.”
When he was shooting the film last year, he says, “the climate was completely different. Going forward I would like to say that of course I will not engage with talents from the neighboring country because of the circumstance. But with that same energy, I beseech you to know one thing, that over 300 Indian people in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears into my film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and I don’t think it’s fair to them to face any kind of turbulence on account of other fellow Indians… I condemn any form of terrorism and especially the terrorism that would affect my country and me.”
And here’s the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil trailer: