The Cinema Owners Association says its decision not to screen the film in four states is in keeping with the public’s sentiments.
Following a meeting on October 14, the Cinema Owners Association of India (COAI) decided against screening films starring Pakistani artists, bringing some resolution to the speculations brewing around Karan Johar-directed Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which starts Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
The decision applies only to single-screen theatres and has already been put in place in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and in parts of Karnataka, Times of India reports.
Nitin Datar, president of the COAI, said, “Keeping in mind the patriotic feeling and the national interest in mind, we request all our member exhibitors to refrain from screening movies which have involvement of any Pakistani artists, technicians, directors, music directors, etc. Till the relation between India and Pakistan becomes normal, no films with Pakistani actors can be released.”
This decision, as Shilpa Rathnam of India Today tweeted, is not binding and adhering to it is up to theatre owners.
Datar said in a press conference after the meeting on Friday that the decision was not made under political pressure and was in keeping with the public sentiments.
When asked if the decision extends to other releases like Raees, which stars Mahira Khan, Datar told the Times of India, “We will see in the future. If the situation normalises, we will screen ‘Raees.’ It is not a decision we can take now.”
COAI’s decision – which includes films that have Pakistani artistes as well as technicians associated with them in any capacity – comes in light of an increasing backlash against Pakistani artists working in India.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had recently led a call for all film industry workers of Pakistani origin to leave India and had asked for their films to be banned. The ultra-nationalist party had even issued an ultimatum to Pakistani film artists to leave India or risk being “pushed out.”
The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, on its part, had announced an embargo on Pakistani actors, singers and technicians working on Indian films.
Datar also said that while the decision of the COAI would result in monetary losses for theatre owners, there would likely be greater damage if their screens were vandalised. He added that if single-screen theatres are set on fire during a screening of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the theatre owners would have to bear the responsibility of keeping people safe.
“Taking national sentiments and security issues into account, we cannot allow the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” he said.
On the subject of monetary losses, MNS leader Ameya Khopkar told India Today, “Nation comes first. We don’t care about losses faced by producers. There will be trouble in theatres if Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is released. Yes, we are threatening.”