In a major breather for filmmaker Karan Johar, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Saturday allowed the release of his “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” — but said all producers who employed Pakistani artists must pay Rs 5 crore each into the Indian Army’s welfare fund as an atonement.

The MNS decision followed Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ direct intervention in the matter — a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Mumbai and two days after he met representatives of Bollywood.

However, MNS President Raj Thackeray said henceforth, all Pakistani artistes — actors, singers, among others — shall be permanently banned from Bollywood.

“Why should Pakistani actors be given the red carpet welcome when our soldiers are being killed on the borders’ Was the Uri attack the first one,” an aggressive Thackeray demanded.

“Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” has been in news for featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

Fadnavis convened a meeting on Saturday which was attended by Thackeray, Karan Johar and Film and Television Producers Guild of India’s President Mukesh Bhatt, among others at his official residence, Varsha, to resolve the imbroglio.

The MNS, however, imposed certain conditions on the release of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, including that the producers making a handsome contribution to the army welfare fund, and slides paying tribute to the brave Indian soldiers are shown before the start of the film in theatres — to which both Bhatt and Johar readily agreed.

The MNS has been agitating for the past fortnight against the film on the ground that it has Fawad in it, and had vowed not to permit its scheduled release on October 28.

The film also stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma.

“We have always raised our voice against Pakistani actors, cricketers coming and working here… This is our victory,” Thackeray asserted, virtually pulling the rug from under his rival, cousin Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.

Interestingly, even the Shiv Sena has been agitating against Pakistani artistes, writers, and cricketers since several decades and is currently a coalition partner with Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra and in the NDA at the Centre.

Raj Thackeray demanded that each producer employing Pakistani artistes must contribute Rs 5 crore to the army welfare funds as ‘atonement’ (Prayashchit) for their actions.

Asking all producers to ensure they (Pakistani artistes) “don’t get entry to Bollywood”, Thackeray said the producers must submit a written undertaking to MNS that they would not employ any Pakistani actors, singers, technicians, among others.

“Producers will discuss the ‘atonement’ amount to be given with Fadnavis and inform us, but from today (Saturday) no more Pakistani artistes shall be hired. We will not tolerate any excuses on this,” Thackeray declared.

Trouble for “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” began when the debate about letting Pakistani artistes working in India was sparked off following the September 18 Uri attack which killed 19 Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. The attack was followed by surgical attacks that India conducted across the LoC.

The subsequent tension between India and Pakistan had a spillover effect on the film industries on both sides of the border.

This is not the first time “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” has been in the news.

The film, which will clash with Ajay Devgn’s “Shivaay” at the box office on October 28, earlier made headlines when the actor-filmmaker alleged that Karan Johar paid controversial actor Kamaal R. Khan Rs 25 lakh to tweet positively about “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” and to give negative reviews to “Shivaay”.

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