Filmmaker Karan Johar on Tuesday said he had always tried to express his patriotism through his movies. Referring to the controversy that his upcoming movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has been embroiled in, he said the situation in the country had been entirely different when he had shot the film in September-December.

“The climate was completely different, the circumstances were different,” Johar said in a video statement, referring the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan then. “Our government had made efforts to foster peaceful relationships with the neighbouring country, and I respected those efforts then.”

The producer further said that he had remained silent amid the growing calls for boycotting Fawad Khan-starrer Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which is slated for release on October 28, and other movies featuring Pakistani actors because of the “deep sense of pain I felt that a few people would believe I am being anti-national”. He added that he respected the prevailing sentiments in the country, referring to India’s deteriorating relations with Pakistan since the militant attack on the Indian Army camp in Kashmir’s Uri sector. “For me my country comes first, nothing else matters to me but my country,” Johar said.

“I’d like say that of course, I’ll not engage with talent from the neighbouring country given the circumstance, but with same energy I beseech you to know that more than 300 Indians in my crew have put their blood, sweat and tears into Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” the filmmaker said.

Johar’s statement comes 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. The ban is applicable to single-screen theatres in the four states of Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Earlier, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association had banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working on projects in India. On September 23, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had said Pakistani actors had 48 hours to leave the country.