Director and entertainer Karan Johar on Tuesday said he felt like there was a gun pressed to his head when he recorded the the October 18, 2016 video in which he promised not to work with Pakistani talent. In a column for NDTV, the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil director said he hated “having to sit there and declare my ‘nationalism’ and what should constitute it”.
“You find yourself feeling coerced and compromised in your morality, your ethics, your principles,” Johar said. “Brought to my knees with a hostage video.” The director said that while he loved being in the limelight and the attention that came with it, “being threatened by a political party” was not his “favourite kind”. “I’ve been criticised for going on the record and people have called my statement a hostage video.”
The director also wondered if he had “set a precedent” because of the video. “When a fellow filmmaker gets humiliated, you wonder if you have set a precedent that he is paying the price for?” Johar asked in an apparent reference to director Sanjay Leela Bhansali being attacked by Karni Sena members, who alleged that his upcoming movie Padmavati distorted historical facts and insulted Rajput sentiments.
In the video, Johar said the situation in India had been entirely different when he had shot the film. “Our government had made efforts to foster peaceful relationships with the neighbouring country, and I respected those efforts then.” He had added that he respected the prevailing sentiments in the country. “For me my country comes first, nothing else matters to me but my country,” Johar said.
His statement came days after the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India announced that it had asked its members to not screen movies featuring Pakistani, singers or musicians. Earlier, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association had banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working on projects in India. Political groups including Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had told Pakistani actors to leave India.