Mumbai, Oct 20: Filmmaker Karan Johar on Tuesday expressed his hurt on being labelled “anti-national” ahead of the release of his directorial “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” (ADHM), which stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan and said he would not engage with talent from Pakistan “in the circumstance”.

After his longstanding silence, Karan opened up in a video statement issued on his behalf on Tuesday. His statement promising not to work with Pakistani actors in the future has gone viral in India (see below).

However, he also appealed that the efforts of his 300-member Indian crew must be considered before hindering the release of the love saga, which faces a vandalism threats amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

Threats have been issued to attack cinemas screening the latest movie starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

While the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issued an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to quit India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association passed a resolution asking producers to avoid working with talent from Pakistan.

Just last week, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India announced single screen theatres in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat won’t screen Karan’s ADHM.

And the film is already facing threats from the MNS.

In the video, Karan said: “Remained silent because of deep sense of hurt that I felt, that there are a few people who actually believe that I am being anti-national. I need to say this and I say this with strength that for me this country comes first,” Karan said.

“Nothing else matters to me but my country. I have always felt that the best way to express your patriotism is to spread love and that is all I have done through my work.”

He added: “When I shot my film ADHM in September to December the last year, the climate was completely different… There were efforts made by our government for the peaceful relationship between the nations…”

“Going forward, I would like to say that I will not engage with the talent from the neighbouring country in the circumstance… ”

His film has become the first target of those who are against inclusion of Pakistani artistes in Indian films after the September 18 Uri attack which killed 19 Indian soldiers, while they were sleeping off-duty, in Jammu and Kashmir.

The attack was followed by surgical attacks that India conducted on terror camps in Pakistan.

The subsequent bilateral unrest between India and Pakistan had a spill over in film industries on both sides of the border.

There has been a lot of pressure on Bollywood to stop working with Pakistani actors in order to “prove their patriotism” after India blamed Pakistan of masterminding the deadly Kashmir attack.

Many stars including Salman Khan have spoken out against the movement to drop Pakistani actors.

Director-Choreographer Farah Khan said: Karan Johar is “stressed out”, reacting to Karan Johar’s video message clarifying his stand on Pakistani artistes working in India.

“Karan will never do anything that is not patriotic. All of us feel like that. The statement has finally arrived and it says it all. Now matter should be put to rest,” she added.

Vijay Singh, CEO Fox Star Studios, which is distributing ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, said in a statement: “Karan Johar is a proud, emotional and patriotic Indian like all of us and his nationalism cannot be questioned. Fox Star Studios, India, whole-heartedly stands by him at this time.”

Earlier on Tuesday, filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt, President of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, met a Mumbai police representative to ensure that the city’s theatres which will screen ADHM remain safe and secure.

Mumbai police have promised protection.

Karan, who spearheads Dharma Productions — one of the leading movie production banners of the Hindi film industry – said he respects the Indian Army for “everything they do to protect us and our environment”.

“I say I condemn any form of terrorism. I just hope you understand exactly the circumstance and situation that we are in and respect the fact that we love and respect our country over and above anything else,” he added.

Social media is divided over Johar’s statement and what it says about India.

However many other social media users criticised Johar and his decision to use Khan in the movie.

ADHM, which also stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma in key roles, is releasing on October 28, two days before Diwali.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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