Keep art out of politics: Celebs on Ghulam Ali imbroglio

The cancellation of Pakistani renowned ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali's performance here has snowballed into a controversy, with celebrities from both the countries criticising the development.

Distinguished Indian personalities like actor Shabana Azmi, designer Wendell Rodricks and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said music knows no boundaries, while Pakistan's censor board chief hoped that the Indian government will handle the issue “responsibly".

Ali, who has been spreading peace and harmony across the border with his music since the past 45 years, was scheduled to perform here and in Pune this week as part of the fourth death anniversary tribute to late singer Jagjit Singh.

But the performance was called off on Wednesday after Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt his live concert here.

Shabana took to Twitter to assert that artists and their performances should not be affected by politics.

“Are we at war with Pakistan? Have we severed diplomatic relations? Have we closed down our Embassies? Then what justification is there to ban Ghulam Ali?" the veteran actress wrote on the micro-blogging site.

“Ghulam Ali was to perform in commemoration of India's beloved Jagjit Singh in gesture of goodwill. Ok to talk tough with Pakistani government not its artists,” she added.

Echoing Shabana's sentiments, Mahesh also criticised the move, saying cultural ties should not be snapped on the basis of any political dialogue between countries.

“It's a familiar nightmare that keeps on recurring in this part of our country... But even if level talks are not taking place, let the civil society be given the right to keep their cultural ties intact through the performing arts,” Bhatt told IANS.

And amidst the growing controversy, the Pakistani censor chief expressed his disappointment and hoped that the Indian government will "rise above people's dietary choices".

“It is extremely sad and disappointing that art, music and sports are being subjected to politics of intolerance, hate and one-upmanship in the 21st century. I hope the Indian government will act responsibly and the world's largest secular democracy will raise itself above people's dietary choices,” Fakhr-e-Alam, chairman of Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC), told IANS.

Ace fashion designer Wendell Rodricks said musical notes “should stay beyond the reach of governments”. He even tendered an apology on behalf of a majority of Indians.

“If tomorrow my fashion show gets cancelled by a group in Pakistan, it is their loss. Same here. Actually worse. The arts should stay beyond the reach of governments and goon groups who cannot hold a musical note. Ghulam Ali, your wonderful voice is beyond all this petty politics. On behalf of a majority of Indians, we apologise. Please forgive them,” a post on Rodricks' Facebook page read.

Vishal Dadlani, of the popular composer duo Vishal-Shekhar, took to Twitter to express his opinion on the issue.

“Ghulam Ali saab and his music are above and beyond politics. If he can't perform it will be our loss, not his. #Shame," he wrote.

Shekhar Ravjiani noted that “Ghulam Ali Saab is our guest. Honour his presence. Music knows no boundaries”.

Indian actor Imran Zahid, who has performed in Pakistan, told IANS: “Music knows no boundaries. Ghulam Ali is as popular in India as Lata Mangeshkar in Pakistan. Mumbai was once a very progressive city with a liberal tradition of cultural exchange, the decline of liberal thought in Mumbai coincides with the rise of the religious right.”

“We, as Indians, were treated so well in Pakistan when we went to stage our plays in Karachi and Lahore. It is sad that Mumbai was rather inhospitable to Pakistani artists,” added Zahid, who visited Karachi to perform in the play "Daddy".

Musician Kailash Kher, who has performed across the globe, told IANS that “Music, art and sports should be kept away from politics”.

“An artist can be the biggest messenger of peace and harmony amongst mankind. The kind of respect that artists are given in India is way more than any other country. Love happens from both sides, because if it is one-sided then it is a game,” Kher said.

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