Sentiments Vs Fanhood

Debarati Palit Singh
Sunday, 1 September 2019

The tension between India and Pakistan is not new and for years, the strained ties hardly affected the movie industry of both the countries.

The tension between India and Pakistan is not new and for years, the strained ties hardly affected the movie industry of both the countries. Many Pakistani actors worked in Bollywood and some of them became quite popular in here (not forgetting the handsome Fawad Khan). Bollywood actors too have a huge fan following in Pakistan and some of our Hindi films have done good business there, while some films were also banned. 

But as the tension between both the countries is at its peak, it is no more only about entertainment but it has become a sentimental issue for the film industry and audience of both the countries. Pakistani actors are banned from working here and so are Indian artists. Celebrities are being trolled, films are not being released there and we can clearly see the effects.  Earlier this month, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who is a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF found herself in midst of controversies while attending the Beautycon Los Angeles. A Pakistani woman, Ayesha Malik, questioned Priyanka on supporting the Indian Air Force after the February 2019 strike against a terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistan. She said, “As a Goodwill Ambassador, you are encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan. People like me have supported you in your business. 

On that Priyanka said, “War is not something I’m really fond of but I am patriotic, so I’m sorry if I hurt sentiments of people. But I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk on. Just like you probably do as well. The way you came at me right now... girl, don’t yell. We’re all here for love.” On that Malik tweeted, “Hi, I’m the girl that ‘yelled’ at Priyanka Chopra. It was hard listening to her say ‘we should be neighbours and love each other’ - swing that advice over to your PM. India and Pakistan were in danger. And instead, she tweeted out in favour of nuclear war. 

Soon, a Pakistani minister and several users on social media demanded her removal as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF. But UN on Saturday issued a statement saying that they uphold her right to have personal views. Upon being asked about Priyanka’s stance and it’s veracity, Stephane Dujarric, on behalf of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “When UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors speak in their personal capacity, they retain the right to speak about issues that interest or concern them. Their personal views or actions do not necessarily reflect those of UNICEF.” Priyanka got huge support from Ayushmann Khurrana, Kangana Ranaut, Milind Deora, Anupriya Goenka and others. 

Last week, real-life couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone clicked pictures with Pakistani born British boxer Amir Khan in London. The boxer had posted photographs on Instagram captioning it, “Lovely meeting the power couple of India Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh.” But that did not go well with fans of both the countries and the couple was trolled on social media. 

Sonam Kapoor too recently was aggressively trolled after an interview of her became viral on the internet in which she said that she felt heartbroken as her critically acclaimed film Neerja did not release in Pakistan. She also said that her roots are from Pakistan. “As an artiste, you want to be represented everywhere and you want your work to be shown everywhere. Neerja wasn’t shown in Pakistan even though it was a true story, because the plane landed and hijacked in Karachi. It did not in any way show Pakistan in a negative light at all, but the fact that they didn’t show the film there was really heartbreaking for me,” she had said, adding, “I have a huge Pakistani following and my two best friends are Muslim and half-Pakistani. I am half-Sindhi and half-Peshawari. So, it’s heartbreaking to see that part of my culture is something that I can’t explore as well because of that.” 

From calling her anti-national to questioning her for not living in Pakistani, her comments had irked netizens. Many would argue that it is not fair for social media users to go troll celebrities for taking a stance on something they believe.  

The Federation of Western India Cine Employees had banned singer Mika Singh from working in India, following his recent performance in Pakistan. It was only after he issued an open apology, ban was lifted. He had even promised to never perform in Pakistan. “This was a commitment signed long back. The timing was wrong that I went there because the decision on Article 370 has just been taken. I called the federation apologise for the mistake and I won’t repeat it again. I got a visa, so I went (to Pakistan). If you get a visa, you will go, too,” Mika said.

Singer Adnan Sami who has been regularly trolled on social media was recently asked by a user on Twitter, “You get so much flak from the Pakistanis. How do you cope?” Sami replied, “My dear, it’s okay; they’re basically helpless, misguided and frustrated about their own lives and are taking it out on me since they know I moved on. I forgive them and pray that God improves their lives. They are actually victims. Hugs.”

For years, filmmakers have portrayed Pakistan and it’s army as a villain in Indian films including Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi and Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike, based on the 2016 Uri attack and others. Since most of these films have gone on to make moolah at the box-office, so it is not a bad idea after all.   

After the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched an airstrike and destroyed the biggest Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province early this year, Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry declared a total ban on Indian films. He also said that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been instructed to crack down on ‘Made in India advertisements’. The ban was also in response to India’s total and complete ban on Pakistani actors and artistes from working in India.
 
So what does it mean to the movie business in both the countries? For the Indian industry, it means nothing considerable. Even though Indian films have released in Pakistan over the years, it has not added much to the movie business. But Pakistan has lost 70 per cent of its revenue. It is a known fact that Bollywood actors, especially the biggest superstars like Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have a huge fan following there. Expert says that Indian films earn few crores through their distribution in Pakistan. Films like Haider, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Phantom, Ek Tha Tiger and many others were not allowed to be released there. 

What we really missed is the content driven TV serials which were aired on Zindagi channel. There is no denying that these serials had huge followers here. 

As far as Pakistani films are concerned, Khuda Ke Liya was the first film to release in India after 40 years in 2008. After that, none of the Pakistani film released in India.  

However, Bollywood has definitely given work opportunity to several Pakistani actors. Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Imran Abbas, Mawra Hocane, Ali Zafar, Veena Mallik and many others, who not only took huge paychecks but also fame because of their work in Indian film and television industry. 

Indian actors both from TV and films including Naseeruddin Shah, Kirron Kher, Sara Khan, Shweta Tiwari, have worked across the border.  Even the film industry is divided when it comes to taking a stand on the ban of Bollywood. While actors like Ajay Devgn, Nana Patekar, John Abraham, Ritiesh Deshmukh, Randeep Hooda and others had welcomed the decision to ban Pakistani artistes, actors like Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Radhika Apte believed that artistes are not terrorists so they should be allowed to work. 

Many would think the ban was not justified, but from the audience perspective, we aren’t missing anything substantial. Pakistani artistes except for Fawad and Ali, who played pivotal roles in Bollywood films,  played forgetful characters. And Patekar had said, “Actors don’t matter. The country does.” Indian audience stands united when it comes to banning both, artistes and films.

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