The agitation against Pakistani artists by the cinema wing of the far-right political party from Maharashtra – the Shiv Sena - has gotten filmmakers and Bollywood actors tongue-tied.
The drama began a couple of weeks ago when legendary Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali's concert was cancelled in Mumbai and then the Shiv Sena announced that they will not let actors Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan promote their films in Maharashtra.
The Shiv Sena Chitrapat Sena's General Secretary Akshay Bardapurkar had confirmed to Emirates 247 that they will not allow Mahira and Fawad to promote their films 'Raees' and 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' respectively in Maharashtra.
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In the past, Mahira's Pakistani film 'Bin Roye' was stopped from being released in Mumbai leading to a minor but restricted furore on social media.
The makers of both Mahira and Fawad's films stayed away from making any statement in public. Their social media handles also did not reflect their mood.
Sources informed that they were still trying to speak to the head honchos of the Shiv Sena and ensure a safe passage of the film.
"We do not think that the Shiv Sena will stop at just preventing Fawad and Mahira promoting their films. Last time when SRK (Shah Rukh Khan) who is the hero in 'Raees' and Karan Johar who is the producer of 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' had collaborated and made the Fox Studios backed film 'My Name is Khan', the Shiv Sena had put a ban on the release because Shah Rukh had made a statement against not picking Pakistani cricketers in the IPL. It was sorted later, but the filmmakers feel that any statement they make now could even jeopardize their release," says a source close to the filmmakers.
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But Mahesh Bhatt who has often been at the Kara Film Festival among other events in Pakistan and has the credit of introducing several Pakistanis like Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Meera and Sarah Loren, says that this is not the first time this has happened. "When I made a film called 'Saathi' with Pakistani cricketer turned actor Mohsin Khan, he was asked to go away. The government should act now and not allow people from instilling fear in the minds of cultural ambassadors," he asserts.
Another filmmaker preferred anonymity said, "There is a lot of money being invested in films and music shows as well. This is also disturbing the business of movies and music," he added.
Incidentally, Pakistani actress Mawra Hocane is also working in another Hindi film called 'Sanam Teri Kasam' being directed by Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru.
Mawra Hocane shot to fame when Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor sent her an Instagram video.
Mawra had strongly defended Bollywood movie 'Phantom' when it was banned in Pakistan leading to Pakistani movie star Shaan spewing venom against her.
Now Shaan has grabbed the opportunity and made a comment even as Mahira and Fawad stayed mum, "Now you will know why there are borders and now you will see them clearly."
Fawad is part of another Karan Johar project called 'Kapoor & Sons', which seem to have escaped the Shiv Sena eye.
The Sena ire against Pakistan has been sporadic depending on political needs.
In the aftermath of the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, the Shiv Sena had also asked Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar to return the Nishan-E-Imtiaz, the highest civilian honour from Pakistan bestowed on him in 1997.
The Shiv Sena is a coalition partner in the government in India and is having strained ties with the ruling party the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
Following the cancellation of the Ghulam Ali concert, the Sena went on an overdrive and poured ink on Indian politician Sudheendra Kulkarni when launched former Pakistan minister KM Kasuri’s book 'Neither a Hawk now a Dove' in Mumbai.
The Sena also attacked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office recently in Mumbai when they were discussing a bilateral cricket series with Pakistan.