India-Pakistan tensions spill over into Bollywood, violence threatens a new movie’s release

Posted on Oct 21 2016 - 3:32pm
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Prominent Indian director Karan Johar said he would not cast Pakistani actors again after Hindu nationalists threatened to attack cinemas showing his forthcoming movie. (AFP/Getty Images)

In India’s Bollywood film industry, director-producer Karan Johar, known as “KJo,” hosts a popular celebrity chat show called “Koffee with Karan” and enjoys a mainstream popularity in India akin to Ryan Seacrest.

So it was shocking for Indians to see one of their favorite celebrities, dressed in black, appear somberly on camera earlier this week to affirm his patriotism and plead that the release of his new movie — set for Oct. 28 — not be delayed or overshadowed by violence — just because it has a Pakistani actor in it.

“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,” said Johar in the video statement. He promised not to work with actors from “the neighboring country” in the future — a pointed reference to actors from Pakistan.

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After alleged Pakistani militants attacked a military encampment in India’s Kashmir territory last month and India retaliated, tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors have been running high.

Now these tensions are spilling over into the entertainment and media worlds in both countries, with the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association banning all Pakistani artists in future films and many Pakistani actors, technicians and song writers fleeing Mumbai over concerns for their safety.

Movie theaters in Pakistan, meanwhile, have stopped showing Bollywood films, and no Indian-produced movies and television shows will be aired there starting Friday.

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Earlier this month, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a far-right political party in Maharashtra, where the Bollywood industry is based, issued warning to all Pakistani actors to leave India within 48 hours. They have also announced a boycott of Johar’s movie and threatened violence if the movie is screened in Indian theaters.

Even after Johar released his video plea, the MNS seemed unimpressed, vowing continued agitation at local multiplexes. Already 12 protesters have been taking into judicial custody in Mumbai after they tried to force their way into one multiplex during a protest.

“We will not allow any film to be released that has Pakistani artists,” one of the leaders, Amey Khopkar, told the Asian News Agency.

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On Thursday, Mukesh Bhatt, the president of the India’s Producers Guild, met with India’s Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, to seek security for movie theaters where Johar’s film, “Ae Dil hai Mushkil,” will debut next Friday. In the movie, a Pakistani actor named Fawad Khan has a small role.

Labelling the MNS as his “brothers who have gone astray,” Bhatt appealed for nonviolence at the film’s release next week.

Friday, some of Bollywood’s left-leaning actors defended Johar, saying he was bullied, while other critics lamented the sense of nationalistic zeal that has swept through India’s artistic community in the wake of recent cross-border attacks.

Johar “appears to be caught in one of those hostage situations, where the victim is made to admit that he is a spy, probably just before he is executed. In a way, he is a hostage, not just to a small political party that openly threatens to ‘teach a lesson’ to all those who use Pakistanis in their films, but also to the growing belligerence in our polity which makes it almost impossible to tolerate a diversity of opinions, ” Sidharth Bhatia wrote in the Wire news site on Thursday.

Bhatia continued: “The film industry is a perennially soft target because of its high profile and its swift buckling in to any such pressure, but don’t be surprised if soon, reading Pakistani authors or being Facebook friends with Pakistanis or even writing about that country could be declared anti-national. Any of us could then be turned into Karan Johar.”

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India-Pakistan tensions spill over into Bollywood, violence threatens a new movie’s release was last modified: October 21st, 2016 by greendecker

This article was originally published on https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/21/india-pakistan-tensions-spill-over-into-bollywood-violence-threatens-a-new-movies-release/