Beyond borders: Bollywood's soulful connections with Pakistan
Bollywood's rich past includes some strong connections with Pakistan. As Dilip Kumar's home in Peshawar is declared a national heritage, we take a misty-eyed look at some of them...
The import of Pakistani talents by the Hindi film industry often leads to divisive opinion with one group hailing the influx while another highlighting its redundancy. However, actors and singers hailing from our neighbour on the west have continued to entertain us. What’s worth noting is that this cultural exchange isn’t a newfound phenomenon. Several of the Indian stars have their ancestral roots in Pakistan. And with the Pakistani government recently declaring Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar's family house in Peshawar as a heritage site, hitlist can’t help turning nostalgic while pointing out few of the cross-border background of our beloved stars and artistes...
One of the staunch votaries of Indo-Pak peace, Dilipsaab was born into a (local language) Hindko-speaking family of 12 kids in Peshawar. His family eventually relocated to Bombay in the late '30s.
In 1998, Dilip Kumar was awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award conferred by the government of Pakistan. He is the second Indian, after ex-PM Morarji Desai, to receive the honour.
Around 1940, Dilipsaab left home for Pune where he started his career as a dry fruit supplier before embarking on an unforgettable film journey.
Shah Rukh Khan
King Khan’s Pathan lineage is said to have nodes on the other side of border as well. After all, Pakistan’s current Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam happens to be the nephew of Indian National Army hero Shah Nawaz Khan. SRK’s late mother Lateef Fatima was the adopted daughter of Shah Nawaz Khan.
Saif Ali Khan
While the Indian Pataudi lineage opted for cricket and politics — and eventually movies, thanks to Saif — the Pataudis of Pakistan pursued a career in the army. So much so Saif’s uncle, Major General Isfandiyar Ali Khan Pataudi from the Pakistan Army, was in the running for the post of ISI chief (which eventually went to Zahir-ul-Islam).
The celebrated lyricist-filmmaker was born in Jhelum district of modern-day Pakistan. And throughout his career, he has maintained a nostalgic bond with his birthplace, especially through his poems. In fact, the 77-year-old veteran has been vocal about promoting peace initiatives between the two countries through art and culture.
Saadat Hasan Manto
Before leaving Bombay for Lahore after Partition, this legendary writer had scripted films like Chal Chal Re Naujawan (1944), Aath Din (1946), and Mirza Ghalib (1954). He was so popular that his friends — including directors and actors — tried to stop him from migrating to Pakistan. Later, he extensively regretted his move in his writing.
When this screen idol passed away in 2012, condolences flew in from Pakistan too. He was being hailed for his subcontinental — not just Indian — reach by his Pakistani fans. After all, Khanna was not only born in Burewala (which falls in present-day Punjab province) but also spent his early childhood there before migrating to Bombay.
Raj Kapoor was born in Peshawar in a mansion that belonged to Prithviraj Kapoor’s father. That house has now been converted into a museum. The top three storeys of the house have been demolished as they were crumbling after an earthquake hit the city. The Kapoors vacated the house and moved to India after the 1947 partition.
Cross-border story in Veer-Zaara (2004) certainly had its nostalgia rooted in the film director’s own past. Chopra was born and largely brought up in a house in Lahore. For higher education, Chopra moved to Punjab. He wanted to pursue a career in engineering in Ludhiana but his passion for filmmaking ultimately landed him in Bombay.
Sunil Dutt was born in Jhelum in present-day Pakistan. When he was 18, the Partition of India began inciting Hindu-Muslim violence across the country. Escaping to India, his family resettled in a small village on the bank of river Yamuna in Haryana. He eventually moved to Bombay and dabbled in theatre before earning bigger roles in films.
Born in his ancestral home in Rawalpindi, his family left it so as to migrate to India post-Partition. The 16-year-old Bakshi carried only photographs with him to Bombay. When his father scolded him about not carrying valuables like the rest of the family, he responded: “I will earn money in my lifetime, but the pictures are irreplaceable.”
Thespian Dilip Kumar’s wish is to convert a certain portion of his ancestral house in Pakistan into a library.
Dilip Kumar's ancestral house in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar
Speaking to mid-day, his wife, yesteryear actress Saira, said, “Dilipsaab has been a voracious reader and is very fond of book so wants a certain area of the house to be converted into a library for people to come there and read.” Furthermore, she feels the place should be converted into a museum.
“If they need photographs and other stuff that traces Dilipsaab’s journey, we’ll be more than happy to send it to them.”
Even Prithviraj Kapoor’s ancestral home in Peshawar has also been preserved by the Pakistani government and there are ongoing plans on doing the same with Shah Rukh Khan’s family home.
— Bharati Dubey