India: Karan Johar pledge not to use Pakistan actors goes viral

Karan Johar Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many have said Karan Johar is being bullied

A statement by popular Bollywood director Karan Johar promising not to work with Pakistani actors in the future has gone viral in India.

It came after a right-wing group threatened to attack cinemas screening his latest movie starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

Anti-Pakistan sentiment has grown after a militant attack killed 18 soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir last month.

Social media is divided over Johar's statement and what it says about India.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a regional right-wing party, has vowed that it will not allow the movie to be screened.

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The cadres of the party have traditionally resorted to violence to fulfil their demands, and have threatened other actors in the past, including Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

A number of small cinema hall owners fear violence and have said that they will not screen Johar's new film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Difficulties of the heart).

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Image caption The film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, stars Pakistani actor Fawad Khan

Johar appealed to the MNS to allow the film to be released, and said, "for me my country comes first. Nothing else matters but my country. I always felt that the best way to express your patriotism is through love and that's all I always tried to do through my work, and my cinema."

He added that "over 300 Indian people in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and I don't think it is fair to them to face any kind of turbulence on account of other fellow Indians".

The video statement has caused a lot of chatter on social media and in the Indian media, with many condemning the pressure put on Johar and pointing out that it signalled a worrying trend in India to wear your nationalism on your sleeve.

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However many other social media users criticised Johar and his decision to use Khan in the movie.

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There has been a lot of pressure on Bollywood to stop working with Pakistani actors in order to "prove their patriotism" after India blamed Pakistan of masterminding the deadly Kashmir attack, a charge Pakistan has denied.

Later, the Indian government said it had carried out "surgical strikes" across the Line of Control, the de facto border between Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Johar had initially responded by saying that banning Pakistani actors "would not stop terrorism".

Other stars including Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra as well as director Anurag Kashyap have all spoken out against the movement to drop Pakistani actors.