• My country comes first, nothing else matters to me but my country.
• I will not engage with talent from the neighbouring country, given the circumstance.
• I respect the Indian Army, I salute the Indian Army.
• I condemn any form of terrorism, any form….
New Delhi, Oct. 18: Karan Johar, arguably the biggest filmmaker in Bollywood, grovelled today – in sharp contrast with the grit displayed by two of the most popular onscreen figures in the country.
Johar has pleaded in a video statement that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil be allowed a trouble-free Diwali run despite a cameo by Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
Yesterday, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had threatened to intensify its opposition to the film, issuing a veiled threat to multiplex owners to fall in line.
Today, Johar wore his nationalism on his sleeve as he batted for Ae Dil and the 300 Indians involved in its making.
In the video statement this evening, he said: “I need to say this… and I say this with strength that for me, my country comes first, nothing else matters to me but my country.
“I’ve always felt that the best way to express your patriotism is to spread love and that’s all I’ve ever tried to do through my work and my cinema.”
He also made the now almost mandatory statement of respect for the army. “I respect the Indian Army, I salute the Indian Army for everything they do to protect us in our environment. I respect them with all my heart and I say that I condemn any form of terrorism, any form… and specially the terrorism that would affect my people in my country and me.”
Between the declaration of love and respect for the country and the military, Johar explained why he had not baulked at engaging a Pakistani actor last year and why he would in the prevailing circumstances.
“When I shot my film, ADHM… in September to December last year, the climate was completely different… the circumstances were completely different.
“There were efforts made by our government for peaceful relationships with the neighbouring country and I respected those endeavours then, those efforts then. And I respect the sentiment today! I understand the sentiment because I feel the same!!
“Going forward, I would like to say that of course I will not engage with talent from the neighbouring country given 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 making my film, ADHM and I don’t think it’s fair to them to face any kind of turbulence on account of other fellow Indians.”
Johar’s video statement opened the floodgates for a slew of comments on social media, with people questioning why it had taken him so long to break his silence. Some suggested that it was monetary consideration that had egged him on.
The statement of Johar stood out against those by actors Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra who have declined to join the backlash against actors.
Johar had so far maintained an outward calm. The MNS’s threat yesterday appears to have been the last straw on the camel’s back.
MNS leader Amey Khopkar was quoted by PTI as saying: “If any multiplex operator dares to screen the film, they should remember that multiplexes are decorated with expensive glass sheets.”
Sudheendra Kulkarni, whose face was blackened by the Sena last year for organising a Pakistani book launch, said: “It is the responsibility of the government to provide security so that the film can be shown. The BJP or the government cannot get away by saying they have no role in barring the screening of films with Pakistani artistes.”