To sing or not to sing

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 23 February 2018

Should Bollywood give work to Pakistani singers considering the tension between the two countries? The controversy is back in the news

The controversy revolving around Pakistani artists (singers and actors) working in Bollywood is raging again. The debate emerged last week  after it was reported that, following their feud, Salman Khan replaced Arijit Singh’s version from a song titled Ishtehaar in Welcome To New York. Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice was instead used in the song. 

This isn’t the first time that Arijit has hinted about his voice being replaced. Even during the release of Sultan, Arijit said that his voice in Jag Ghoomeya was dropped and replaced with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s. 

Several personalities reacted to the news including BJP minister-singer Babul Supriyo who demanded that the song be banned or have Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice removed. Speaking to media, he said, “I cannot comprehend the need or desire to cross the border for entertainment at a time when war is no longer a remote concept. I am also not sure why Atif got to sing Dil Diya Gallan when Arijit could have done a much better job. The FM stations played the song galore, while news channels announced the name of our soldiers martyred by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.” 

After the controversy, the makers of Welcome To New York, starring Sonakshi Sinha, Diljit Dosanjh, Karan Johar and several others, in a press meet said that they will not work with Pakistani artists as of now. “I have always respected the soldiers. My intention was never to hurt the sentiments but after having spoken to Babulji I promise that we won’t work with Pakistani artists until the relationship between the two countries improve,” said producer Vashu Bhagnani. 

At the same meet, Babul said, “I am not against any Pakistani artist. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sahab is a very accomplished artist. But we believe that currently, given the kind of animosity between India and Pakistan with our soldiers being martyred, it is not appropriate for us to work with Pakistani artists and that is why I asked for the song to be banned.”

While speaking to Sakal Times, Shamir Tandon, who has composed the music of Welcome to NewYork, said that he is feeling a little bit of pain and agony because every week some Pakistani singer or the other keeps releasing his songs in India. “I don’t know why Ishtehaar was targeted when a few months ago there was Mere Rashke Qamar (Baadshaho) and Dil Diyan Gallan (Tiger Zinda Hai). It should be a collective decision and we should all stand by it,” he said. 

He further added that art and politics should not be mixed because art transcends boundaries. “The only thing is that if any kind of art across the border hurts the sentiments of the country, then it should be refrained. Though fundamentally, I believe that art has no boundaries and Maa Saraswati does not differentiate between Indian and Pakistani artists, and we should respect the talent of all artists anywhere in the world including our enemy country. Most Indians love the voices of Pakistani artists. When consumers listen to a song and like it, they don’t ask if it’s an Indian or a Pakistani voice. That said, we will respect the sentiments of the people.”      

Welcome to New York isn’t the only Bollywood film, which is using a Pakistani’s singer’s voice. Sehmi Hai Dhadkan, a soulful track from Sudhir Mishra’s Daas Dev, composed by Vipin Patwa and written by Dr Sagar, has Atif Aslam singing the song. Praising Atif’s voice, Sudhir said, “Because like all great singers he has the capacity to bring out the emotional depth of a song but is never sentimental. The words are articulated so brilliantly but there is a touch of mystery. It has the capacity to mean different things to the listener at different times.”

Lyricist Prashant Ingole, however, said that there is no dearth of talent in India and it should be fully explored. “I feel that there is immense talent in India and we should explore it. Why do we need Pakistani artists when Indian singers and artists can do equal justice to the same song? Every year, fresh talents are emerging out of reality shows, and filmmakers and composers should give them a chance.”  

The debate about Pakistani artists emerged in 2016 after the Uri attack when nationalist party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) sought to oust them from India following the tension between the two countries over Kashmir. Several personalities had shared their unhappiness over Pakistani singers working in Bollywood. Singer Abhijeet even attacked Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan on social media. 

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