Imran Abbas
Bharati Dubey (MID-DAY; May 5, 2017)

The inaugural edition of the Indian Film Festival and Awards of Australia (IFFAA) has been called off, hours after mid-day reported about the Indian diaspora objecting to the participation of Pakistani film stars at the week-long event. Visiting Bollywood celebrities had also expressed apprehension over sharing the stage with artistes from across the border.

Relations between the two countries had suffered a blow last September following a terror attack on the Army base in Uri, Kashmir, killing 17 Indian soldiers. The situation was limping back to normalcy when Pakistani forces killed two Indian soldiers and mutilated their bodies along the Line of Control on May 1.

Festival director Vvikas Paul says, “I have received threats from vested interest groups and was worried about the security of my celebrity guests, myself, sponsors and my team. So, we have decided to defer it.” Outrage on social media with netizens labelling the festival as anti-Indian was also a reason for canceling the event that was to kick off on May 7. “We will hold the festival when relations between the two countries improve.”

Among the Pakistani celebrities expected to attend the event were Humayun Saeed, Imran Abbas, Hareem Farooq, Ali Azmat and former Pakistani Censor Board chief Fakhr Alam. The seven day film festival was planned to showcase films and talent from India, Pakistan and Nepal culminating in a star studded awards night on May 13. The Bollywood guest list included Jeetendra, Randhir Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Ileana D’Cruz, Sonu Nigam, Sonu Sood and a few other celebrities from the Punjab film industry.

Ileana D'Cruz