Bollywood film set to open in India after Pakistani actor ban

Deal to ban Pakistani actors from Indian films in future leads Hindu nationalist party to call off threat to cinemas

A top Bollywood film mired in controversy for featuring a Pakistani actor will open as scheduled in India during the festival of Diwali, after an industry body agreed to ban actors from across the border in future.

A hardline Hindu-nationalist party had threatened to attack cinemas that showed prominent Indian director Karan Johars film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, as tensions run high between New Delhi and Islamabad.

The Film and Television Producers Guild of India has now promised to bar Pakistani actors in future under a deal brokered between the sides on Saturday.

The film, starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, is set for release next weekend, two days before the Hindu Diwali festival of lights, an important holiday in India.

In the larger interest of the sentiments of the people and the soldiers and the entire country, we will not work with any Pakistani artist in the future, the guilds president, Mukesh Bhatt, told reporters after the meeting.

Bollywood is the latest battleground for heightened tensions between the nuclear-armed arch-rivals India and Pakistan, sparked by a deadly attack last month on an Indian army base blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

In a series of tit-for-tat moves in the entertainment industry, Pakistan has suspended screening all Indian films until tensions calm, while Hindu nationalists in India have threatened violence at cinemas showing films featuring Pakistani actors.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Under the deal, Johar and his colleagues have agreed to contribute 50 million rupees ($747,220) to the Indian army as penance for using a Pakistani actor.

They have also agreed to run a tribute to the soldiers who were killed, according to Raj Thackeray, head of the far-right regional party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

The firebrand leader said protests against the film have now been called off, but it was unclear whether agreement was reached on his wider demand for all film-makers to pay a penance if they had previously cast a Pakistani actor.

The deal was struck at a meeting between Johar, the guild and Thackeray and brokered by Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra state. The state capital, Mumbai, is the home of Bollywood.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (This Heart is Complicated), which stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor, will open in Indian cinemas on Friday.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/23/bollywood-film-set-to-open-in-india-after-pakistani-actor-ban