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Playing a Talibani was tough: Pak actor

Salman Shahid deftly portrays the dilemma of a Pak soldier who is forced to join the Taliban in film Kabul Express.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2006 13:21 IST

Pakistani actor Salman Shahid's performance as a Taliban rebel running for his life in Kabul Express was as moving as the heart wrenching portrayal in the film of the Afghanistan situation.

"It was challenging to play a Taliban, that's what made it fun. Challenging for me politically because it needed a delicate balance, as a character as well as in terms of the point of view vis-à-vis of who started the Taliban - Pakistan or Afghanistan," Salman said.

Salman, who deftly portrayed the dilemma of a Pakistani soldier Imraan who is forced to join the Taliban, partly agrees with the notion that Pakistan is responsible for the Taliban movement.

"It is true that Pakistan supported Taliban at the behest of the US. Pakistanis gave them a script and used them. But the fact of the matter is that Taliban grew out of Afghanistan.

What the film doesn't show is why the Taliban is still so popular. They still have a following in Afghanistan and this aspect is overlooked in the film," said Salman.

"The war has not finished yet as resurgence from the south border has started again," he added.

Commenting upon the culture and status of women in war-torn Afghanistan, Salman said: "It is a segregated world and the cultural difference was partially explained in the film. It is a totally male chauvinistic society. You don't see a single girl in the interiors (of the country).

"When my character Imraan goes to meet his daughter in the movie, it shows just boys playing outside. The reality is almost the same. Even small girls, who are four-five years old, are not allowed to step outside."

But Salman says the situation is a little better in the capital.

"In Kabul you will find young girls moving around, wearing the latest fashion. While at the press conference of Kabul Express I saw a couple of girls holding cameras, but not so in the interiors."

On relations between India and Pakistan, Salman feels that it is not possible for moviemakers to lift the political barrier between the two neighbours though in the past few years some Indian filmmakers have tried to bring cultural unity by transcending the borders.

"The Indian actors and directors collaborate with Pakistani film stars and start goodwill campaigns and open a channel, but you can't expect Bollywood to make political moves.

"This kind of cultural and intellectual exchange has been existing since independence among scholars and writers of both countries.

Even after partition there was a level of understanding among the artistes and intellectuals who found like-minded people across the border.

Even today they read about each other, appreciate each other's works. But nobody gets to know about it because it is not a popular culture, like cinema."

Describing "popular culture", Salman says: "It depends on cultural values and the level of education of masses.

Cinema is a popular culture and whatever films people do, it gets noticed - whether Meera comes here or me, it makes news."

Salamn, a regular visitor to India, says he has met veteran filmmakers like Gulzar and Mrinal Sen at international film festivals.

"This is not my first visit to India. I have friends and I have been coming to India off and on but not as frequently as for this film."

Salman bagged his role in Kaabul Express through a friend in Mumbai.

"I have a friend in Mumbai, Saniya. She knows me and has worked with me in a serial. The director Kabir Khan was looking for someone for the role and Saniya told him about me. I came over, and we met. They already had some idea about my work and then it got going."

Salman is very keen to work in more Indian films.

"I would love to work with Shyam Benegal. I would also like to work with Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah but probably in more sensible films like Kabul Express, which is different from the other commercial films."

Salman said he would also love to make a film on Afghanistan.

The actor was earlier seen with Kirron Kher in Pakistani director Sabiha Sumar's Khamosh Paani.