ADHM release in jeopardy, Cinema Owners Association bans films with Pakistani artistes

All single screens, and few multiplexes, that fall under Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COWAI) will refrain from screening the film.

Keyur Seta

Earlier this month, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) decided to put a temporary ban on Pakistani artistes working in India till relations improve between the neighbours. The ban came in the wake of the Uri attack in Jammu & Kashmir, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.

Now, in a fresh twist, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COWAI) has decided not to exhibit any films that have Pakistani artistes. All single-screen theatres and a few multiplexes are part of COWAI.

The decision indirectly means that the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is now in jeopardy as the film is just two weeks away from release on 28 October. 

Explaining the decision, Nitin Datar, president of COWAI, told, “Our soldiers are losing their lives because of Pakistan’s antics on the border, in Uri and Pathankot. Even people living in villages near the border are facing problems. Somewhere this has to end. So the members of our association felt we should show solidarity [with our troops].”

He continued, “We have not banned their films. We have only suspended [exhibition]. But Pakistan has already banned our films and television channels. But nobody has spoken out against this, including people from our industry. But when we have taken this decision, people are pointing fingers at us.”

Datar said COWAI had not taken the decision under pressure from any political party. “Some people are saying we are under political pressure," he said. "But this is not true. We have never been afraid of any political pressure and we won’t be in the future as well. We have borne losses in the past because of them.”

He also pointed to the security factor for cinema houses. “The government has never said they won’t provide security. But for how many theatres will they give security? In case there are losses, fire or death, none of the producers or distributors compensate us for them. They have never done that in the past.” 

Films like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil completed their post-production much before the Uri attacks happened. Should the film suffer for events it had no control over? To this, Datar said, “They should wait. They should release their film after things become normalized. It’s up to them. This is our decision. Money is not higher than a country’s honour. We are just going as per people’s wishes.”

If the tension between the countries does not decrease, the film might find itself stuck in limbo, resulting in huge losses. When this was pointed out, Datar said, “We have just taken this decision. Let’s see what happens. We can’t say anything now. We will take further decisions later. For the time being, we won’t release any film [with Pakistani artistes].”

Neither Dharma Productions nor Karan Johar responded to repeated requests from For now, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is expected to release as scheduled on 28 October.