Not a ban, it’s a request: Theatre owners’ body say

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The Cine Owners’ and Exhibitors Association (COEA) on Friday announced they will not screen any film featuring Pakistani artists or technicians.

Does that mean there will be a nationwide ban on movies like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees? Nitin Datar, vice president of the COEA, who made the announcement on Friday, seems to backtracking on his own statements.

A day after he told ANI, “After Pakistan banned our content, we decided to boycott Paki actors, technicians etc in India,” Nitin has said in an interview, “There is no ban, it is a request”.

The highly anticipated movie starring Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Fawad Khan and Anushka Sharma was slated for a Diwali release but has been in trouble since bilateral ties plummeted with Pakistan.

Nitin told Indian Express in an interview on Saturday, “There is no ban. We have only suspended the release of films where Pakistani artists or technicians are connected. Our decision is that we will not screen or release the movies in our cinemas. This is a request to all our members to not screen the film keeping in mind the sentiments of the Indian public. It’s been happening for the last one month in the wake of the Uri attacks and cross-border firing. The sentiments of public are against Pakistani films. Pakistan has already banned our Hindi content on satellite. We haven’t done that. We have taken the decision to suspend films featuring Pakistani actors, given patriotic sentiments of our public. The public will be happy that the association took such a decision.”

On Friday, the COEA had taken a hardline approach to Pakistani artistes.

“Starting today, no films with any association with Pakistan – actors, directors, music director or technicians – will be released in our theatres. This will continue till the situation improves. We cannot really give a date for when the ban ends,” treasurer of the association RP Anand had told HT on Friday.

Nitin also said his association does not have the power to “ban” a film but added that it has a choice on whether they want to screen a particular movie.

When told that stopping the screening will affect an Indian (filmmakers and producers like Karan Johar), Nitin told the daily, “Are we are not suffering losses? Aren’t the exhibitors suffering losses? What will happen if theatres are damaged? Is Karan Johar going to compensate? Who will compensate the damages done?”