Ayan Mukerji’s ambitious project Brahmastra- reportedly the most expensive Hindi film ever made, is due to release this week. The film is already making headlines even before its launch since has been facing flak from social media users after its trailer released in June showed the lead actor, Ranbir Kapoor, entering a temple wearing footwear. A series of controversies and conspiracy theories around the film’s cast and crew soon followed. Produced by Karan Johar, the Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor starrer has hogged headlines for the whopping Rs 410 crore budget and is being touted as India’s own Marvel series.
In this backdrop, a screenshot of an alleged report by Koimoi.com titled “When Karan Johar’s 5 Crore Donation Was Rejected By Indian Army For Letting Pakistani Actor Fawad Khan Work In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil [Reports],” is going viral on social media platforms. The subhead of the report reads, “In the past several actors from the neighbouring country have worked in Bollywood here including names like Fawad, Mahira Khan, Ali Zafar and Saba Qamar.” Newschecker found that though the website did publish the article, the headline is misleading and does not tell the entire story.
Several Twitter users shared the screenshot claiming it to be a “tight slap” on Brahmastra’s producer Karan Johar’s face.
We spotted “koimoi.com” written at the top centre of the viral image and looked up the keywords “Karan Johar,” “Donation,” and “Indian Army” on the official website of the entertainment news portal, which led us to a report published on June 17, 2022.
On comparing the mobile version of the article with the viral image, we found them to be identical. We could thus conclude that Koimoi did publish an article titled, “When Karan Johar’s 5 Crore Donation Was Rejected By Indian Army For Letting Pakistani Actor Fawad Khan Work In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil [Reports].”
Newschecker further went through the entire article to comprehend the matter. The lead paragraph of the report states, “Back in 2016, Karan Johar reportedly offered to pay a hefty fine of Rs 5 crore for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in his directorial Ae Dil Hai Mushkil as it was announced by MNS chief Raj Thackeray that Indian filmmakers will not cast actors from across the border. Also, reports were abuzz that the Indian Army too had refused to accept donations from Johar asking him to avoid involving the soldiers in the local politics. Scroll below to read the scoop.”
Taking the directive, we scrolled “below to read the scoop.”
The article reads, “Reportedly, Raj Thackeray and ex-Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis then had a meeting to resolve the issue and asked Johar to pay a fine of Rs 5 crore. Reportedly, the donation was supposed to go to the Indian Army, which they refused to take, as reported by the Indian Express.”
Notably, neither the headline nor the sub-head of the article mentions the context as to why Johar offered a donation to the army or why it was refused. The MNS hook has been introduced later in the story.
The website has omitted crucial information about the Thackeray-Fandavis-Johar meeting in the headline and subhead, giving an impression that the Indian Army had refused to accept Johar’s donation “for letting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan” work in his film.
The closing paragraph of the article adds that a leading news channel’s close source revealed, “Army will not accept the donation of Rs 5 crore offered by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions ahead of ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ release.”
Newschecker continued the investigation to find out the“ leading news channel” cited in Koimoi’s report and looked up the complete quote on Google. This led us to a tweet by NDTV, dated October 24, 2016, stating “Army will not accept donation of Rs 5 crore offered by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions ahead of ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ release: sources.”
Following this, we searched for “army Karan Johar donation” on the official website of NDTV to access the full report, which led us to an article dated October 24, 2016 (the same day the above-mentioned tweet was made), titled, “Thanks, But No Thanks. Military Won’t Accept Karan Johar’s Donation, Sources Say.”
The report cited sources in the Defence Ministry saying that Johar’s Rs 5 crore donation to the military welfare fund, described as “penance” by Maharashtra politician Raj Thackeray for the use of a Pakistani actor in his movie “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, will not be accepted.
NDTV added that the (defence) ministry is working on new rules that will ban “coerced donations”. Officials say, the article noted, such a contribution is against the very spirit of the gesture.
It further quoted an official as saying, “We face an unprecedented situation because such a situation was never envisaged when the Battle Casualty Welfare fund was set up.” Adding, “On the larger issue of unwanted money being donated, several options are being discussed.”
The remarks by an official quoted by NDTV reflect that the Army did not refuse the donation because Johar had cast a Pakistani actor in his movie -as suggested in the headline of Koimoi’s article, rather they were not convinced in the manner the Dharma production chief was asked to pay the sum.
What Was The Controversy?
Karan Johar’s multi-starrer Ae Dil Hai Mushkil stirred up a controversy and witnessed several protests over the casting of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, weeks ahead of its release in October 2016. MNS demanded that Khan be edited out of the movie, following the September 2016 attack on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri that killed 19 soldiers. They also threatened to vandalise cinemas and block the film as it features Khan.
To pacify the situation Karan Johar along with the then-Producers’ Guild President Mukesh Bhatt met former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. Following the meeting, Thackeray said, “All the producers who have Pakistani artistes in their film will as penance have to pay some money. I suggested Rs 5 crore per film… and give the money to the army welfare fund.” Consequently directing Johar to pay a donation of the said amount to the army.
The terms of the deal between Thackeray and Johar were highly criticised by army officials, veterans and ministers, who cited that the donation should be a voluntary act and no one should be coerced to do the same.
Notably, the then-Defence Minister, the late Manohar Parrikar had said, “The concept is voluntary donation and not catching neck of someone [sic]. We don’t appreciate it.” He had added, “There will be a scheme managed by MoD with assistance from Adjutant General Branch concerned. It is a voluntary donation and therefore we are not concerned with anyone demanding something to be donated to that.”
“All contributions (to the welfare fund) are voluntary. Extortion is not allowed. We would want people to contribute on their own rather than under any coercion,” a senior army official was quoted in a report by Firstpost.
A Hindustan Times report, dated October 23, 2016, quoted former northern army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal as saying, “The army doesn’t go around begging for funds. If a film producer wants to donate, he can do it like any other Indian citizen. But it’s unacceptable in such a manner.”
Jaswal added the government should have the last word if the matter is too sensitive. “Let’s keep the army out of politics. We have stayed that way and would like to stay that way.”
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd) said that if the issue is as small as release of a film, the government’s order should prevail. “Drawing the armed forces into this and forcing someone to donate to army’s welfare fund as yardstick for releasing a film is absolutely incorrect,” he said.
“That was a wrong proposal. We don’t agree with their proposal. The Maharashtra Chief Minister has also clarified that he was not a part of the proposal that was made by some other party…,” said M Venkaiah Naidu, then Information and Broadcasting Minister.
Newschecker can thus conclude that army officials, veterans and ministers had an objection to Johar’s donation over Thackeray’s demand to pay money in lieu of casting a Pakistani actor, and not because Fawad Khan was cast in the movie.
The viral headline of Koimoi’s article stating that the Indian army rejected Karan Johar’s 5 Crore Donation “For Letting Pakistani Actor Fawad Khan Work In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” is misleading.
Result: Missing Context
Report By Firstpost, Dated October 25, 2016
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