Om Puri, Piyush Mishra, Vikram Bhatt slam COEAI’s ban on films with Pak artistes

Mumbai: Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, actors Om Puri and Piyush Mishra have said it is unfair to ban the films, starring Pakistani artistes, which are ready for release, after cinema owners association decided to not screen movies with actors from the neighbouring country.

Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) announced that it has decided not to release movies starring actors from Pakistan, in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa.

This has put an uncertainty on the release of filmmaker Karan Johar’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, which stars Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan in a supporting role. It is slated to arrive in theatres this Diwali.

“When you have decided that you won’t work with Pak talent it should apply from now on, it can’t be on something that has been already done in the past when the relationship was not this hard. I don’t think it is right for one producer to pay the price of this decision,” Bhatt said.

A demand for a ban on the Pakistani artistes came up after the Uri attack last month and has been growing, thanks to the support of political parties and people from the film industry.

Mishra said Indian filmmakers should not work with Pakistani artistes till the time ties between India and Pakistan become better, but release of movies, which are already complete, should not be stalled.

“Our relations have not been good but the main cause has started after Uri attacks only. I agree that we should not shoot with Pakistani artistes from now on, but the movie which has already been shot should not be stalled from the release as the film is produced by an Indian only. He has invested a lot of money in that.”

Veteran actor Puri said it is not a decision made by the government and people should wait for the centre to take a step.

“If the government says not only actors but all Pakistanis, who have come here for business or meet their relatives, all must go back to their country and their visas must be cancelled after three days, I am with the government. Let the head of the country decide this and not us.”

In the wake of Uri attack, Fawad, Mahira Khan and other Pakistani actors were targeted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which had issued an ultimatum to them to leave India within 48 hours or be forced out.

The party had also threatened to stall the releases of the Johar-directed movie and superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s film ‘Raees’, starring Mahira as the female lead.

The MNS hailed the move, saying the decision “reflects and respects peoples” sentiments. “I congratulate the Cinema Owners Association for taking this stand. They have supported our boycott of Pakistani artistes through this decision and it reflects and respects the sentiments of people of our country,” MNS general secretary Shalini Thackeray said.

“The Army is fighting for the country. The country comes first and the film industry needs to realise that everything is not normal…there is tension between the two countries and people do not want to see the Pakistani artists on screen,” she said.

Thackeray said the decision would lead to cultural isolation of Pakistan, which according to her was necessary against the backdrop of the rising tension between the two nations.

“There is an opposition and anger against them (Pakistani artistes). So this stand by the theatre owners was required in the backdrop of the rising tension between the two countries. Furthermore, this is a major step forward towards cultural isolation of Pakistan,” she said.