Amid rumours that Mahira Khan had been replaced in Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees, producer Farhan Akhtar has stepped forward to clarify that the Pakistani actress is still very much a part of the project.
Farhan, who is producing Raees along with Ritesh Sidhwani under the Excel Entertainment banner, pointed out that the film was already complete, and the portions with Mahira had already been shot, so there was no way she could be 'dropped' from the project at this stage.
Raees was initially supposed to have released during Eid 2016 (this July), but Shah Rukh Khan and Excel decided to shift the release date to the Republic Day weekend in January 2017 to avoid a box office clash with Salman Khan's Sultan. Since the other festive weekend release slots (Diwali — Shivaay, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Christmas — Dangal) were already taken, the Raees team moved their dates to the first available slot in 2017 — although, Hrithik Roshan's Kaabil releases alongside.
In delaying their release date back in July 2016, Farhan, Shah Rukh and Ritesh could not possibly have known how much bilateral relations between India and Pakistan would be strained by the end of September, when the Uri attacks took place, leaving 19 of our military personnel dead.
In the time since, there has been a steadily escalating 'war' on cultural ground, with bans and boycotts on artistes and content being declared on both sides of the border. Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — which had a cameo by Fawad Khan — bore most of the brunt of this anti-Pakistan sentiment; although Raees, which is meant to be Mahira Khan's Bollywood debut, has also taken a fair bit of heat.
Ever since, reports of Mahira being replaced in Raees have gained traction.
“What can I say? We’ve completed her shooting. The film is ready for release. If we had shot the film after the recent developments (the deterioration in Indo-Pak relations) we would have certainly not worked with any artiste from Pakistan,” Farhan told Deccan Chronicle in an interview.
Farhan said it was unfair for filmmakers like Johar and himself to pay 'retrospective penalty' for having cast Pakistani artistes at a time when relations between the two countries were not as hostile.
Farhan was recently on the receiving end of threats from the Raj Thackeray-led political outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for refusing to pay the Rs 5 crore contribution to the Army Welfare Fund they 'imposed' on filmmakers who had hired Pakistani artistes/technicians in their projects.
Meanwhile, Army veterans came forward to say that they would not accept these extorted donations to their Fund.