“Jo dhandhe ke liye sahi, woh sahi. Jo dhandhe ke liye galat, woh galat. Isse zyaada kabhi socha nahi” (What is right for business is right. What is wrong for business is wrong. Never thought beyond this). This one-liner from the trailer of Shah Rukh Khan’s forthcoming release Raees seemed uncomfortably apt after the actor called on Raj Thackeray, the chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, or MNS, at his residence, Krishnakunj, in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Dadar on the evening of 11 December.
News channels showed the two hugging each other as the Bollywood star, who is also one of the film’s producers, prepared to leave Krishnakunj. Raj told the news agency ANI that Shah Rukh “had come to inform that rumours about Mahira Khan promoting Raees are false.” Mahira is a Pakistani actor, who stars opposite Shah Rukh in the film. Newspapers reported that Shah Rukh also assured Raj that he would not work with Pakistani actors in the future. The meeting seemed to clear the way for the smooth release of Raees, on 25 January 2017.
The MNS first called for a ban on films featuring Pakistani actors after extremists suspected of belonging to the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked an Indian army base in Uri, Kashmir, in September, killing 19 soldiers. The attack led to an increase in tensions between the two countries, and heightened displays of chest-thumping nationalism from political parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Seeking to join the fray, the MNS issued an ultimatum to Pakistani actors, singers and technicians working in the Indian film and entertainment business to leave the country before 25 September, or face dire consequences.