Mumbai/Karachi, June 23: In a jolt to the Indo-Pak cultural ties, lyricist Javed Akhtar was denied visa by Pakistan and the state-owned PTV withdrew sponsorship for an Indian delegation to attend the premiere of magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam tomorrow, leading to cancellation of the event in Karachi.
“I learnt yesterday afternoon that out of the 25-member delegation that was to visit Karachi tomorrow for the premiere of Mughal-e-Azam, I was the only one to have been denied a visa. I am quite surprised at this,” Akhtar said in Mumbai.
However, a spokesman of the Pakistan high commission said in New Delhi that the lyricist has been given visa.
“I don’t understand what kind of a threat I can pose to that country. In fact, we were going for a very noble cause, where a day after the premiere, we were scheduled to participate in a telecon to raise funds for earthquake victims,” Akhtar said.
Major Bollywood stars such as Saif Ali Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Akhtar’s wife and actress Shabana Azmi, Zeenat Aman and Sridevi were to attend the event.
Akhtar said adding the organisers had now decided to postpone the premiere.
At a hurriedly-called press conference in Karachi, distributor of the film, Mr Nadeem Mandviwala said PTV had withdrawn its sponsorship of the Indian stars’ visit but did not give any reason.
“I cannot tell you why PTV has withdrawn its sponsorship. I would like to clarify here that these Indian idols were the guests of PTV who were extended invitations individually,” he said but announced that release of K Asif’s 1960 classic would go ahead as scheduled on June 30. No PTV spokesman was available for comment.
The Indian stars were scheduled to fly to Karachi tomorrow by a chartered aircraft for the premiere of the film starring Dilip Kumar and Madhubala and to appear in a nine-hour PTV telethon for raising funds for relief of victims of last year’s earthquake.
Pakistan had earlier blacklisted actor Feroze Khan after he said earlier this year that the Muslims in India were better off than those in Pakistan.
“After hearing that I have been denied a visa, the organiser Akbar Asif, who is K Asif’s son, called a press conference in Karachi and announced that he was postponing the event until I am granted a visa,” Akhtar said.
Asked if he was hurt at not getting the visa, the lyricist said, “I am, in fact, quite amused at it. I feel they have given me too much importance. The only thing that comes to mind is that I have been too frank for their comfort on sensitive issues and in a society where there is no tradition of having opposition, this is bound to happen.”
Sources close to distributor of the film, Mr Mandviwala said the no-objection certificate was cancelled by Pakistan after some of the Indian stars insisted on carrying their own security staff.
“Some of the Indian film stars had security reservations (in Karachi) and wanted to carry their own security staff. This request was rejected and eventually the NOC was cancelled,” they said.