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Cross border concern: Bollywood films caught in the crossfire

Even though there are chances of India-Pakistan relationship improving, Bollywood filmmakers still seem sceptical about inviting Pakistani talent from across the border...

Pakistani singer Mustafa Zahid and the Pakistani band Soch may have sung for Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain but they will be conspicuous by their absence at the film’s live music concert that is being held in Mumbai on Wednesday.

A still from Mohit Suri’s 'Ek Villain'. Pakistani singers may have sung for the film, but they will be conspicuous by their absence at the film’s live music concert that is being held in Mumbai on Wednesday
A still from Mohit Suri’s 'Ek Villain'. Pakistani singers may have sung for the film, but they will be conspicuous by their absence at the film’s live music concert that is being held in Mumbai on Wednesday

While Indian musicians Mithoon, Mohammed Irfan and Arijit Singh will be performing live at the film’s Mumbai launch, it has emerged that Zahid and Adnan Dhool and Rabi Ahmed of Soch have not been invited to the event.

Not long ago, the Mumbai launch of Pakistani pop rock band Jal’s album was cancelled at the last minute
Not long ago, the Mumbai launch of Pakistani pop rock band Jal’s album was cancelled at the last minute

Interestingly, Zahid, a Lahore-based rock artiste, has lent his voice to several Bollywood hits, including songs for Aashiqui-2, Murder-3 and Ragini MMS-2. A source says, “Their performances are being kept out of the Mumbai concert as a precautionary measure. The production company does not want to invite unnecessary trouble from political activists, especially given the recent election results.”

Earlier this year, the Mekaal Hasan band was attacked by Shiv Sena workers while they were talking about their new album at Mumbai’s  Press Club
Earlier this year, the Mekaal Hasan band was attacked by Shiv Sena workers while they were talking about their new album at Mumbai’s Press Club

Looks like Pakistani PM Nawaz Shariff’s recent visit to India has not added to the film industry’s confidence; skepticism is clearly still prevalent in the industry.

Mustafa Zahid, a Lahore-based rock artiste, has lent his voice to several Bollywood hits, including songs for 'Aashiqui-2'
Mustafa Zahid, a Lahore-based rock artiste, has lent his voice to several Bollywood hits, including songs for 'Aashiqui-2'

When contacted, Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures, was reluctant to comment. But after some prodding, he said, "We have Mohit (Suri), Shraddha (Nigam), Riteish (Deshmukh), Sidharth Malhotra and Mithoon, among others on stage. That’s a lot of star power for the media and the audience. We will, of course, miss our other friends from Pakistan, but it’s better to be safe and invite them to other cities.”

Atif Aslam
Atif Aslam

It may be noted here that fearing violent reactions from some political parties in Maharashtra, Anil Kapoor’s production has still not officially announced that Fawad Khan, one of the top Pakistani stars, will be playing a role in their film, Khubsoorat. The film is said to be entirely shot in Rajasthan.

Ali Zafar
Ali Zafar

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who has been promoting Pakistani talent in India, says, “We need to ask our government to clearly spell out its position on this issue. Our PM has been very brave in demonstrating that he wants India to have friendly ties with Pakistan. But with elections in Maharashtra round the corner, one fears that the hate-Pakistan rhetoric will once again find voice. I hope that people from the film industry who have been elected to the Parliament now play a key role in sorting out this issue.’’

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

In the past
Earlier this year, the Mekaal Hasan band was attacked by Shiv Sena workers while they were talking about their new album at Mumbai’s Press Club.

Not long ago, the Mumbai launch of Pakistani pop rock band Jal’s album was cancelled at the last minute. Goher Mumtaz, the lead singer of the band, had said at that time that the cancellation could have been done because of their nationality.

Zeb and Haniya
Zeb and Haniya

Still positive
Pakistani actor Imran Abbas, who is shooting with Muzzaffar Ali for his film, Raqs, however, is not worried. He says, “I am positive about this government since they seem to be really serious about improving conditions in the country. They realise that they need to strengthen their relations with neighbouring countries.”

Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan
Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan

Rehmat Fazli, a film distributor from Pakistan, says that people are buoyant about the new regime in India. “I am sure this will prove to be a turning point in our cross border relationship and I foresee a lot of progress in the next five years. Pakistan is an emerging market, but it cannot achieve optimum level without India’s support in providing software and hardware,” he says.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who has been trying to get permission to enter India since the last three years and who might not be able to attend the launch of his new album in Mumbai, says, “I truly believe that the new Indian government will turn a new leaf in the relations between our countries. I am looking forward to returning to India this October and I am not apprehensive about anything as I am coming from one home to another. I have received a lot of love and admiration from India,” he says. Pakistani filmmaker Sevy Ali says that Bollywood filmmakers are still very apprehensive about promoting Pak artistes fearing threats by Shiv Sena and Company. “They need to realise that Pakistani artistes are working here legally with the consent of the Indian government that has issued them a visa,” Ali says.

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