Theatregoers on both sides: Stop blocking the view with your politics!

February 13,2017

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Star-studded panel at KLF session speaks about why India shouldn’t ban
Pakistani actors and why Bollywood movies must be screened across the border

Why allow Indian movies in Pakistani theatres? For our own theatres’ survival, Pakistan TV’s 80s heartthrob Asif Raza Mir simply put it at a session titled ‘Cinema across the Borders’ on Sunday, the third and last day of the Karachi Literature Festival 2017.

“Pakistani films were once at par with Indian ones. Indian films aren’t responsible for our cinema’s decline.

The Indian film industry is lucky that there wasn’t a [General] Zia there [in India],” Mir minced no words after superstars Shabnam and Nadeem Baig, two of the most beautiful and talented people Pakistani cinema ever had and perhaps the country’s best on-screen couple, reminisced about the glory days of the past.

Journalist Umber Khairi, the moderator of the session, kicked off the discussion by mentioning the wave
of hyper-patriotism and hatred both in India and Pakistan triggered by cross-border tensions, following which India had forced Pakistani actors and singers engaged in projects there to leave and Pakistan in response had banned the screening of Indian films in the country.

The ban on Indian films, however, has now been lifted.

Having lost none of her grace and beauty even after almost 40 years since she was the undisputed queen of Pakistani cinema, Shabnam observed that the film industry should not be dragged into politics, whether in Pakistan or in India.

“Artistes spread happiness and there shouldn’t be any boundaries for that,” remarked the Bengali legend, whose mere presence at the session had left the Beach Luxury Hotel’s main garden cramped for space.

Nadeem Baig, a true master of all trades who from his young-and-in-love image in the 70s went on to play more serious roles later in his career and also chipped in with stints on TV and as a producer and director, had a pragmatic solution to the problem.

“There shouldn’t be a ban on Indian movies but at the same time we should be protecting our film industry as well,” he noted. “A good solution is to have barter system through which films from both sides will be screened across the border. This way our films will be promoted too.”

Indian film journalist Priyanka Jha spoke about the popularity of Pakistani actors in India, Fawad Khan in particular. She mentioned how girls had thronged their office back home when Khan was there in connection with his film, Kapoor and Sons, just to catch a glimpse of the strikingly handsome Pakistani actor.

“There shouldn’t be bans on actors and films. If we look at Hollywood, it accepts anyone that fits the role,” she noted.

Jha and Mir then cited the examples of Jackie Chan, Irrfan Khan and several Canadian actors starring in Hollywood films.

Mustafa Qureshi, one of the ultimate baddies of the Pakistani cinema whose presence instantly brings back memories of the menacing Noori Nath holding a gandasa, agreed that artistes belong to a different world altogether regardless of boundaries with a common direction and objective.

However, he passionately decried Pakistanis generating revenue for India through their pockets by screening its movies as that money would be used against them.

“Nothing’s one-sided. Love and peace can’t be one-sided. It will have to be reciprocal,” he added.

To the moderator’s query, Mir said the Pakistani film industry direly needed the sponsorship of local and multinational companies.

Discussing the practical aspects of the main subject, Mir noted that Pakistani theatre owners and distributors had suffered major losses following the ban on Indian films and the country’s own cinema had reached the verge of a grave crisis.

The panellists also noted that Pakistani and Bangladeshi films should be dubbed and screened in each other’s country given that gaps left by the past needed to be bridged between the two.


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