Two years ago, Ali Zafar’s Bollywood debut, Tere Bin Laden (2010) that the Pakistani singer-actor was co-distributing in Pakistan, was banned three days before its release in the country for fear that Islamist extremists could use it as a pretext for terror attacks. The ban followed even after the producers had decided to drop the word Laden from the title, and release it as Tere Bin (Without You) in Pakistan. Despite widespread protests and an appeal for a review, the film didn’t get an official release across the border.
Ali is confident it won’t happen this time with his forthcoming release, London Paris New York. “There’s a huge buzz, people are looking forward to it,” he asserts. “In fact, we’re planning a big, red carpet premiere in Karachi on March 8 if we can get the requisite permission.”
Ali has been promoting the film extensively on Pakistan’s biggest TV network, Geo TV, which will be releasing the film there. “During interactions, people were really interested to know how I was being treated in India and happy to learn that there’s no bias or negativity,” he says, pointing out that recently, he was even presented with the Superstar Of Tomorrow Award.
Rationalising that so far no Pakistani actor has made it big in Bollywood commercially, Ali insists that his success is being seen as an encouraging sign back home, that the barriers are breaking and the markets on both sides are finally opening up. He says, “Earlier, it seemed impossible, but I’ve proved that if you are willing to work hard and your intentions are good, there’s room for anyone, anywhere, and there’s hope all around.”
London Paris New York is his first love story, and there’s been plenty of talk about intimate scenes and even a kiss. Won’t this create problems in back home? Ali insists it won’t: “The scenes have been tastefully done, there’s nothing shocking. Besides, times are changing with more exposure to the West. Anyway, I exercise self-censorship and would never cross the line.”