Raj Thackeray gives go-ahead to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, wrangles money and a promise to never work with Pak artistes from Producer’s Guild; Fadnavis plays negotiator, wins filmy goodwill and MNS support
Director Karan Johar and Pakistani actor Fawad Khan
Director Karan Johar will finally be able to breathe again. His movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) will now release on time on October 28, despite it having Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in it. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief Raj Thackeray, whose party was at the forefront of protests to not release Bollywood movies starring Pakistani actors, has now given the go-ahead to the film claiming that the demands made by the party have been accepted.
In the backdrop of the Uri attacks, the MNS had come out in protest against Pakistani workers and had given them a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country. It had also said that producers and directors employing Pakistani actors or artistes in their projects would have to face the music, MNS style. But, at a meeting at MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s residence on Saturday, Mukesh Bhatt, chief of the Producers’ Guild, chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Karan Johar came to an understanding. At the press conference later on, Thackeray said, “We are giving the go-ahead to the film for release on three conditions – it will include a message that will salute the Indian Armed forces before it starts; henceforth, no work will be given to Pakistani artistes, singers and technicians; and every producer who has cast Pakistani actors will give R5 crore each to the Army Welfare Fund. A final amount will be decided on after discussing the same with the CM.”
Even though Thackeray walked away with all the credit on Saturday for forcing film producers to ban Pakistani artistes from Bollywood, some think Fadnavis also shot multiple targets at one go — he got into the good books of the film industry, allowed the MNS to get an upper hand over the Shiv Sena in its ‘nationalistic’ approach, avoided a law and order situation in the state, and also catered to the popular mass and political sentiment that the government should act tough when it comes to Pakistan. “The people of this country don’t want films starring Pakistani artistes to release, especially when the Pakistan government has banned our films and television shows,” Fadnavis said at a function on Saturday.
Sources close to the CM said that his decision of calling a meeting of film producers with Thackeray was a calculated move. The Shiv Sena has launched a scathing attack on the BJP ahead of the civic polls across the state, including Mumbai, Thane and Pune. The MNS, the Sena’s estranged offspring, had been lying low in view of its poor show in the Assembly polls. “Giving a lift to the MNS is an attempt to arm it to challenge the Sena in Mumbai, Thane and Nashik,” said a senior BJP leader.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said the CM had insulted the martyred soldiers by forcing the film producers to donate R5 crore each to the Army Welfare Fund. “The BJP has always been providing power to the MNS agitations without logic. Facilitating such settlements do not suit the work profile of the CM,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that the settlement enforced by Fadnavis was illegal. “In fact, banning any foreign nationals from working in our country is the job of the PM. Fadnavis has exceeded his brief. The CM’s primary job is to keep law and order in the state,” he said.
The Producers’ Guild, on their part, agreed to all conditions that were put forth by Thackeray. Mukesh Bhatt confirmed the development. “I have confirmed to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that going forward, the Producer’s Guild will not work with Pakistani artistes,” he said.
Bollywood is upbeat about the release as well. Independent Distributor Girish Wankhede said ADHM will score big on the first day of its release, as it has already garnered eyeballs. “ADHM will get at least Rs 20 crore on the first day of its release and score over Shivaay in Multiplexes. As for Shivaay, it will also open big and will do around Rs 15 crore on the first day of its release.” Distributor and exhibitor Rajesh Thadani said though it is not clear right now, but “Both Shivaay and ADHM will get at least 3,000 screens. Nothing less than Rs 350 crore is at stake this Diwali.”
Small screens won’t budge
Meanwhile, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association continue with their stand of not screening Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. It is learnt that an executive committee meeting of COEAI is going to take place on Monday. President Nitin Datar had said that the sentiments of the public were against Pakistani actors, and Pakistan too has decided not to release Indian films.