Mumbai, Oct 14: Indo-Pak tensions today rocked Bollywood when a Cinema Owners' body refused to screen movies starring Pakistani artistes in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa, dealing a blow to Karan Johar's upcoming Diwali blockbuster "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" that features Fawad Khan.
The decision, taken by the Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) at its meeting here, mainly covers single screen theatres and has been slammed by various personalities, including Censor Board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani.
It comes amidst tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of Uri terror attack last month. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma play lead roles in "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil".
Datar said the decision was not taken due to any political pressure and that the Association was keeping "patriotic feelings" of people in mind.
"The COEAI has decided that keeping in mind the patriotic feelings and the national interest of our country all our members and exhibitors will refrain from screening movies which have involvement of any Pakistani artiste, technicians, directors, music directors etc," the Association president Nitin Datar told reporters.
"Under our association we have several members including single screen theatres and few multiplexes. Our members are based in Maharashtra, Gujarat and parts of Goa and Karnataka," he said, adding, "the decision stands until things(Indo-Pak relations) get normal."
The release of "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" faced trouble last month when Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issued an ultimatum to Pakistani actors to leave India and also sought a ban on them.
The party had threatened to stall the releases of "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" and "Raees", starring another Pakistani actor Mahira in the lead role. Subsequently, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) passed a motion to ban artistes from across the border from working in the industry till Indo-Pak relations are normalised.
The body, however, has criticised COEAI's decision, saying the films which have already completed production should not be targeted.
"We stick to our stand, We feel films that are completed shouldn't be banned," TP Aggarwal, IMPPA President, told PTI. Datar said that while the decision not to screen certain films would cause monetary losses for the theatre owners, there might have been greater damage if their screens were vandalised.
The decision drew criticism from the film fraternity but it was welcomed by the MNS. "I congratulate all the members of COEAI... I think multiplexes haven't taken any stand yet but we are firm on our stand that we won't allow any movie which features Pakistani artistes to release in Maharashtra," MNS leader Amay Khopkar said. Censor Board chairman Nihalani said the decision is wrong as the film mostly features Indian actors.