Filmmaker Karan Johar received a major breather when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Saturday allowed the release of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” but with a rider — all the producers who employed Pakistani artists, must pay Rs 5 crore each into the Indian Army’s welfare fund as an atonement. Distributors and cinema owners have also come forward in support of the film.

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.

Fadnavis convened a meeting on Saturday which was attended by MNS President Raj 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.

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

Thackeray said henceforth, all Pakistani artistes, including actors, singers and directors 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,” Thackeray said.

The MNS also 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 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, 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.

The decision by MNS and Fadnavis was later criticised by various other political party leaders.

Opposition Congress termed the ‘settlement (mandavli)’ as “shocking and unconstitutional”.

“It is the prerogative of the central government to impose a ban on Pakistani artistes, the CM’s duty is to only ensure law and order in the state… The CM could have made a request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it’s a matter concerning foreign affairs. Fadnavis has interfered in Modi’s domain,” Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said.

Maharashtra Samajwadi Party President Abu Asim Azmi termed it as “a publicity stunt of MNS ending in a ‘settlement’ as was expected by all”.

“This country believes in law and order… In future, the state government must tackle such ‘threats’ by implementing the law and teach such elements a lesson,” Azmi urged.

Not only political leaders, filmmaker and social activist Ashoke Pandit also took to Twitter to condemn MNS’ demand and said that they are asking for “extortion”.

“Producers who have Pakistan actors in their films to donate Rs 5 crore is unreasonable. Donation has to be from the heart. When forced, it’s extortion,” Pandit tweeted.

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.

Earlier, while MNS issued an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to quit India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association passed a resolution asking producers to avoid working with talent from Pakistan.

Then, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India announced single screen theatres in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat won’t screen “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”. MNS has been open about condemning the idea of releasing of the movie

However, theatre chain owners have now come forward in support of the film.

Anil Thadani, owner of distribution house AA Films, Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd and Arvind Chapalka, owner of City Pride multiplexes in Pune, among others are all supporting the release of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” and ready to screen it.

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 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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