Dr. Charles Dias
The protests of MNS triggered by Raj Thackeray for showing films with Pakistani actors has made a new turn with Maharashtra chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and MNS chief Raj Thackeray came to an agreement with producer Karan Johar to release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, a Karan Johar film starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan . The producers gave in to the MNS demand not to cast Pakistan artistes in future and to pay Rs 5 crore as ‘prayashchit’ (penance) to the Army welfare fund. Initially when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena vowed to ratchet up its campaign to intimidate and vandalize cinema halls against the screening of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sought to send out a message that the state would firmly deal with the protests. His remarks came a day after film-maker Karan Johar issued a video statement that he would not “engage talent from neighbouring country given the circumstances,”
The producers of the movie had earlier met Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar seeking security for cinema-hall owners. The Mumbai Police assured the producers that they would provide security for the screening of the movie scheduled to be released October 28.
The government’s action comes when it is under attack from the Opposition. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that the government had abdicated its responsibility with the state being shown up as weak in the face of threats by the MNS. “These goons have to be put behind bars,” he said. Film-maker Kundan Shah, who directed the cult film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, said that he was saddened by the call to ban Pakistani artists in India. “Calling it ‘intolerance’ would be evading the larger question. The question to be asked is ‘How can we stop the bullets?’ But no one wants to ask this fundamental question,” he said. Last year, Shah had returned his National Award to protest against what he called was “rising intolerance” and the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as head of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). “Trade has not stopped between India and Pakistan and the borders have not stopped exchanging goods. Then why should the artists be banned?” he said. Meanwhile, a day after Johar appealed to let ADHM be released citing the “blood, sweat and tears,” of “over 300 Indian people” in his crew, two more exhibitors’ associations said that they would not release the movie this Diwali. The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) received letters from the Central Cine Circuit Association (CCC) and the Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal, said COEAI president Nitin Datar.
On October 14, COEAI had called for a ban on ADHM telling its members to not release the film in their theatres. The decision came after the MNS threatened to cause damage to theatres. The film has been at the centre of controversy after ties between India and Pakistan soured in the wake of the Uri attack and the subsequent surgical strike by the Army.
After the meeting at Varsha — it was held a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath’s Singh’s visit to Mumbai to attend the western council meeting of chief ministers and other officials of Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat — Fadnavis said the Film and TV Producers Guild of India was justified in taking the decision to ban Pakistani actors in Indian cinema in wake of the border developments and overall public sentiment. “I told them I appreciate your desh bhakti and informed them about various welfare schemes undertaken by the Indian Army where they can help. They can take up the welfare cause ahead by talking to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar,” Fadnavis said. “The film producers told me that the decision to cast the Pakistani actor was taken long ago and was part of the initiative of the previous government to promote cultural exchange and man-to-man contact. However, after the attack against India, coupled with the Pakistan ban on airing of Indian content on television and radio, there cannot be any justification to support Pakistani actors,” he said. Asked why he gave so much importance to call and meet an outfit which forced producers to pay “hafta”, he said, “These two stakeholders needed a mediation and that’s what I did and came out with an amicable solution.”
On behalf of the Army, senior retired officers came out with protest that ‘the services of the Army made belittled by such an agreement’. They further complain ‘ who are these people to put a price for Army jawan’s life ? we do not want this kind of ‘price’.
MNS and BJP are making mockery of Indian people by their ‘show-off patriotism’. As former ministers and senior defense officials have stated that ‘ retaliation by our defense forces for each and every provocation from Pakistan’s or terrorists’ side had taken place’. The then Government or defense officials were not made a public hue and cry on this’.
The present two independent countries – India and Pakistan came into existence in 1947 from one area. Still, there are sentiments of ‘ Indianness’ among people of the two countries. Working together in wherever it is possible is one major factor of reducing tension and developing friendship. I remember participating in a debate on Urdu language once Dr. Farooq Abdulla said in Lok Sabha “Indian cinema is the one medium which gave Urdu language it’s presence in our country”. The warmth these words spread only a real patriot can recognize. At this moment , I salute artists of both India and Pakistan who crossed boarders and spread the message of love, fraternity and peace. BJP or MNS cannot understand these gestures of friendship!
Dr. Charles Dias is Former Member of Parliament (15th Lok Sabha)
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