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Music and movies: The peace formula

The line that history drew across a northern chunk of the Indian subcontinent may have taken its toll elsewhere. It never however managed to divide hearts. Armed with those twin weapons of mass attraction, movies and music, cultural activists on both sides of the border have consistently transcended the wedge that runs through the political landscape of the region.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2004 10:55 IST

When the Indian cricket team last toured Pakistan more than a decade ago, a placard held up by a spectator in the stands said it all: "Give us Madhuri, keep Kashmir." Well, a resolution of the simmering Indo-Pak tensions may not be quite that easy because distrust and animosity between the two neighbours runs too deep to be wished away, but that appeal wasn't just a stray thought. The power that Hindi cinema and its stars wield on the minds and souls of common Pakistanis has never been in doubt.

The line that history drew across a northern chunk of the Indian subcontinent may have taken its toll elsewhere. It never however managed to divide hearts. Armed with those twin weapons of mass attraction, movies and music, cultural activists on both sides of the border have consistently transcended the wedge that runs through the political landscape of the region.

Robust exchange

It isn't, and has never been, one-way traffic. While Bollywood megastars like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan are household names in Pakistan despite Islamabad's official ban on Indian movies that has been in place since the 1965 war, luminaries of the musical firmament such as Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali, Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to name only a few, draw spontaneous adulation in India.

Make no mistake. The climate is changing surely and steadily. With their outright rejection of Anil Sharma's jingoistic spy thriller, The Hero, earlier this year, India's movie going masses indicated exactly what they feel about Pak-bashing on the big screen.

The current Indo-Pak peace offensive has only bolstered this process of continuing and natural cultural give-and-take.



An array of Indian showbiz personalities - crooners like Anup Jalota, Hariharan and Pankaj Udhas, actors like Urmila Matondkar, Sunil Shetty and Pooja Bhatt and filmmakers like Saawan Kumar Tak, Prahlad Kakkar and Mukesh Bhatt - have stepped forward and decided to give Indo-Pak cultural collaborations a whole new spin.



Karachi Film Festival


The latest in the series of "unofficial" cultural initiatives was visible at the recent Kara Film Festival, an annual event organized in Karachi by a committed band of Pakistani filmmakers. Last year, the festival had premiered Jagmohan Mundhra's Bawander with lead actress Nandita Das in attendance. This year, the organizers have gone several steps forward by rustling up an entire package of Indian films, both features and documentaries.



Apart from premiering a fresh-from-the-oven mainstream Hindi film, Pooja Bhatt's directorial debut,

Paap

, the 2003 Kara Film Festival also officially screened, for the first time ever in Pakistan, a whole complement of Bollywood films - Mahesh Bhatt's Zakhm, Somnath Sen's Leela and Nagesh Kukunoor's

Teen Deewarein

.



Pooja Bhatt, whose film has a number by Ali Azmat, the frontman of the Pakistan band

Junoon,

and her filmmaker-father Mahesh Bhatt, who has been planning an Indo-Pak co-production for some time now, were in Karachi during the festival to lend support to the endeavour.



No place for jingoism



Also on show in Karachi were as many as 21 Indian documentaries, including Anand Patwardhan's controversial contemplation on Pokhran and its aftermath, War and Peace, and Subhradeep Chakraborty's

Godhra Tak

- The Terror Trail

.


Is this a sign of the thaw that Track Two diplomats had been waiting for all these years?



Is the Pakistani film industry finally ready to repay Bollywood, which has freely adopted performers from the other side of the border (notably Zeba Bakhtiar, heroine of Raj Kapoor's

Henna

, and Adnan Sami, who is now believed to be looking for screen roles in Mumbai) as its own, in kind?



Make no mistake. The climate is changing surely and steadily. With their outright rejection of Anil Sharma's jingoistic spy thriller, The Hero, earlier this year, India's movie going masses indicated exactly what they feel about Pak-bashing on the big screen.

Gadar - Ek Prem Katha

is a thing of the past, as is the Kargil conflict, a bloody skirmish that director Sharma exploited to the hilt to deliver one of Hindi cinema's biggest ever hits.