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Oct. 22: First came the hostage video. Then, the terms of ransom, brokered by none other than a chief minister at his home, squeezed out in the name of the Indian Army and announced in India’s showbiz capital to a whoop of victory by a party that revels in vandalism.
Karan Johar and fellow producers today bought box office peace for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil by agreeing to stop hiring Pakistani artistes henceforth, donate Rs 5-crore to the army as penance for casting a Pakistani actor and pay on-screen tributes to the soldiers who were killed in Uri.
The conditions were laid down by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has so far managed to rule only one civic body in the whole of Maharashtra but has made a name for itself by beating up perceived rivals.
Gulping the conditions one after the other were some of the most powerful names in the Indian movie industry.
The deal was midwifed by chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis at his official residence, Varsha, this morning. In attendance were producer Johar, Film and Television Producers’ Guild president Mukesh Bhatt and MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Producers Sidharth Roy Kapur, Sajid Nadiadwala and Vijay Singh of Fox Star Studios, the film’s distributor, were also present.
Raj does not hold any constitutional post. Yet, a chief minister whose party rules not just Maharashtra but the Indian Union found it fit to humour a politician whose party had threatened to beat up film-makers and vandalise theatres for featuring artistes from a country with which India still has diplomatic relations.
Fadnavis denied any arm-twisting, suggesting the producers took the decisions on their own. “I do not think that what Raj Thackeray was demanding and what the producers’ guild voluntarily offered were something different. The producers’ guild had already said that they wholeheartedly supported our armymen and wanted to do something for them,” he said.
Asked why he was a party to the deal, Fadnavis said: “These two stakeholders needed mediation and that’s what I did.”
But former Mumbai police commissioner and BJP MP Satyapal Singh was blunt: “I think the CM could have dealt with this without inviting him (Raj). He (Fadnavis) should have dealt with this situation firmly.”
Fadnavis later responded: “Satyapalji has been police commissioner of Mumbai and as a police officer, this was his way to sort out the issues. Being a neta, it was my way to find an amicable solution.”
The stage for the abject surrender had already been set when Johar issued a grovelling video message on Tuesday, promising not to hire Pakistani artistes. Some commentators had described the clip as a “hostage video”, referring to its craven manner that evoked images of helpless captives parroting what their unseen captors were dictating from the sidelines.
Raj said Johar and the guild had agreed to three conditions set by the MNS so that Ae Dil could release as scheduled on October 28:
• “Every producer, who has so far cast Pakistani actors, should give Rs 5 crore to the army welfare fund as an atonement,” Raj told reporters after the meeting. Although the producers did not specify the amount, Raj said they had agreed to all the conditions. “The producers should hand over the cheque to the defence minister and make the photo public,” he added.
• Before the film is shown, tributes will be paid in the theatres to the soldiers killed in the September 18 militant attack in Uri, which triggered the MNS threat not to allow any film featuring Pakistani artistes to be screened.
• The producers will give a written undertaking not to use any Pakistani artiste from now on for any film or television serial.
Raj, Johar, Bhatt and a few other producers had been closeted with Fadnavis for about an hour, sources in the chief minister’s office said.
Emerging from the meeting, a relieved Bhatt told reporters: “We wish a happy Diwali to the people. The film will be released in theatres and audiences can watch it.”
He said the guild would soon pass a resolution undertaking not to employ any Pakistani artistes.
Raj told reporters that if Pakistan could ban Indian films, “why do we give a red carpet welcome to their artistes here?” Pakistan’s media regulator had this week ordered TV channels to stop carrying Indian movies and shows.
Raj said today’s agreement was a victory for his party, which had always protested against the hiring of Pakistani artistes for Indian films.
The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, which represents single halls, said today’s deal had not yet affected its decision not to screen ADHM. “The final stand will be taken by the executive committee on Monday,” PTI quoted association president Nitin Datar as saying.
Later, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s movie wing said it would not oppose the release of two other films, Raees and Dear Zindagi, that star Pakistani actors.
This article was originally published on http://www.telegraphindia.com/1161023/jsp/frontpage/story_115117.jsp