Could films starring Pakistani artistes — such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dear Zindagi and Raees — be refused screens in India?
A report by Catch News suggests that this may be a possibility, with the Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India contemplating a ban on screening films that have Pakistani artistes as part of the cast.
The Times of India stated that members of COEAI will hold a meeting on Friday, October 7, and a decision regarding the ban will be taken then.
TOI quoted Nitin Datar, COEAI's president, as saying, "The members will be meeting on Friday and we'll decide on the matter. But one thing is for certain — the decision will be taken keeping the wishes and the sentiment of the public. We won't go against them."
Just last week, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers' Association had passed a resolution banning all Pakistani artistes technicians from working in India until bilateral tensions ease. Datar said that he supported IMPPA's action, adding, "They are looking at the bigger picture and taking steps for the future".
Meanwhile, distributors that Catch News spoke with had mixed views on the ban.
Leading exhibitor Akshaye Rathi for instance, said he would support the ban if it was passed by COEAI, although films that had been made before the situation between India and Pakistan escalated, due to the Uri attacks and the subsequent surgical strike across the Line of Control by the Indian Army, should be exempted.
"Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Raees and Dear Zindagi, they started at a time when our Prime Ministers were visiting each other. So to now punish filmmakers retrospectively would be a little unfair," Rathi said, pointing out that IMPPA had also made similar provisions in its resolution, and that its ban on Pakistani artistes applied to new projects, not previously completed/ongoing ones.
Rathi also said that depending on the outcome of Friday's meeting, he would stand by the COEAI's decision. "As a mark of our protest, if our exhibitors and producers decide to impose a ban from here on, I think it is a very fair ban. I will respect that ban and I will stand by it," he told Catch News.
Distributor Harsh Jain, however, said COEAI could not impose a decision on all Indian exhibitors, and that banning film screenings would adversely impact revenues.