Ever since the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association (COEA) decided not to screen any films starring Pakistani artistes, the call for boycott of all actors from across the border has snowballed into a massive controversy, splitting the entertainment industry down the middle.
The debate is also centred around the release of Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that stars Fawad Khan, who shot for the film before the Uri attacks. Johar has had to concede through a video broadcast that he will not employ any Pakistani actors in the future, a move that many said sets artistic freedom back.
Among the many raised voices on social platforms, one, that of actor Abhay Deol's, rang out with sharp clarity last evening for calling out the hypocrisy of the ban. It's important to note that the government has no plans to revoke visas granted to Pakistani artistes working in Bollywood. The ban imposed by COEA is an independent decision based on "national sentiment."
Aamir Khan, who was lambasted last year for saying there's a wave of rising intolerance in India, sidestepped the issue. But Deol, at the opening of the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) festival, decided to take a head-on approach.
This is what he said.
If you want to ban anything to do with Pakistan, then go the distance. Don't just ban filmmakers. Why are you doing a half-hearted job? Ban the business dealings, the import, the export because when you do half a job no one will take you seriously. I don't take the government seriously because they are only banning us from collaborating with artistes. They are not banning businessmen from making business. So, if you really mean what you say, then go the distance. Then I will take you seriously. Right now it is not looking like you mean it, it just looks like it gets you a lot of publicity and makes a lot of noise. But really what is the point of it? I will support it if you think banning anything to do with Pakistan is going to help our jawans, fine. But I don't see the whole distance. I see one little thing looked at and banned and another part being left. Sounds hypocritical to me.
Director Zoya Akhtar voiced the same sentiments.
Imran Khan, on the other hand made a sardonic comment that spoke volumes, despite its brevity, on the state of debate in India.