Mum­bai film fest opens amid protests over Pak­istani tal­ent

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

In­dia’s glitzi­est film fes­ti­val opened this week to fan­fare and fury, as In­di­ans protested the in­clu­sion of Pak­istani artists. With a cer­e­mony in Mum­bai’s iconic and newly re­fur­bished Royal Opera House, the cel­e­bra­tion of Bol­ly­wood and in­ter­na­tional film kicked off Thurs­day amid the sober an­nounce­ment that at least one screen­ing was can­celed. The Pak­istani clas­sic “Jago Hua Sav­era,” or “Awake, It’s Dawn,” was dropped from the Mum­bai Film Fes­ti­val sched­ule af­ter a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion claimed it would cause pub­lic out­rage. Even a pub­lic plea from Bol­ly­wood film­maker Karan Jo­har could not stem the calm. Jo­har re­leased a video mes­sage ask­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ist pro­test­ers to not dis­rupt the Oct. 28 re­lease of his big-bud­get ro­man­tic drama “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” or “Dif­fi­cul­ties of the Heart,” which fea­tures Pak­istani ac­tor Fawad Khan in a small role.

“I be­seech you to know one thing, that over 300 In­dian peo­ple in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears into my film,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to them to face any kind of tur­bu­lence.” Jo­har pledged to avoid us­ing Pak­istani ac­tors or crew­men in fu­ture movies. Ten­sions be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia es­ca­lated last month af­ter a deadly rebel at­tack on an In­dian mil­i­tary base. In­dia blamed Islamabad for back­ing the sep­a­ratist rebels and pro­vid­ing them with train­ing and arms. Pak­istan de­nied the al­le­ga­tion, say­ing it of­fers only moral sup­port to the rebels fight­ing for Kash­mir’s independence or merger with Pak­istan. As the two gov­ern­ments trade in­creas­ingly ac­ri­mo­nious barbs, peo­ple in both film-crazy coun­tries have moved to boy­cott each other’s films.

Vi­o­lent protests

Pak­istani cin­ema’s stopped show­ing Bol­ly­wood fare in their the­aters weeks ago. And a blan­ket ban against show­ing In­dian con­tent on Pak­istani tele­vi­sion net­works and ra­dio sta­tions took ef­fect yes­ter­day. In­dia’s gov­ern­ment has not is­sued a blan­ket ban but said it would make such de­ci­sions on a case-by-case ba­sis.The Mum­bai fes­ti­val or­ga­niz­ers this week said they dropped the Pak­istani black-and-white clas­sic “Awake” due to “the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.” Mean­while, the re­gional po­lit­i­cal party Ma­ha­rash­tra Navnir­man Samiti threat­ened to dis­turb any at­tempts to screen any film in­volv­ing Pak­istani tal­ent. Many of the Bol­ly­wood glit­terati at­tend­ing the fes­ti­val crit­i­cized the out­rage and said protests were not the so­lu­tion. “Of course you have to stand by the na­tion, but when it comes to a movie ... there are so many In­dian ac­tors who have al­ready put their blood and sweat into it, I think they ( pro­test­ers ) should think about it,” Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Riteish Deshmukh said. Film di­rec­tor Zoya Akhtar called out the hypocrisy of pro­test­ers shut­ting down films while ig­nor­ing the on­go­ing cricket matches in­volv­ing teams from both coun­tries. Bol­ly­wood su­per­star Aamir Khan also said the ruckus was “un­nec­es­sary,” and that film au­di­ences should be free to de­cide what they want to see. “Peo­ple will see the film and de­cide for them­selves, thank you very much,” Khan told re­porters. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s po­lit­i­cal party along with state au­thor­i­ties in Ma­ha­rash­tra, of which Mum­bai is the cap­i­tal, have is­sued state­ments as­sur­ing that vi­o­lent protests would not be tol­er­ated. Mean­while, the week­long film fest was screen­ing some 175 films, doc­u­men­taries and short films from more than 50 coun­tries at venues across west-coast city. — AP

— AP

In this file photo, Bol­ly­wood film maker Karan Jo­har poses for pho­tog­ra­phers at the In­ter­na­tional In­dian Film Acad­emy (IIFA) Rocks Green Car­pet for the 17th Edition of IIFA Week­end and Awards in Madrid, Spain.

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