Throwing Away Soft Power

India has chosen its enemy and become like it.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published:October 29, 2016 12:52 am
pakistani actors ban, Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, shah rukh khan, ae dil hai mushkil, anushka sharma, karan johar, ms dhoni movie, ali zafar, dear zindagi movie, ali zafar dear zindagi, pakistani actors controversy, karan johar pakistani actors, karan johar fawad khan, fawad khan images, mahira khan images, entertainment photos, indian express, indiane express news Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Indian movies were creating good bilateral vibes while offering entertainment that Pakistani movies couldn’t provide. (File)

India’s street has decreed that Pakistani actors will not act in Indian movies. In reaction, Pakistan has taken down all the Indian movies and the cinema halls are getting ready to become shopping plazas once again.

Warmongers are happy in Pakistan. Indian movies were creating good bilateral vibes while offering entertainment that Pakistani movies couldn’t provide. There’s nothing to moan about the decline of film-making in Pakistan. Globalisation tends to squeeze less efficient markets. Decades ago, Hollywood made European film-making redundant by importing European actors, just like India.

What Indian mobs and government are killing is the “soft power” of India. The Indian film industry was India’s power because Mumbai saw Pakistan not as an enemy state but as a market and made flicks that won the hearts and minds of Pakistan. Absent the market, Indian movies will go back to pandering to nationalism and lose in quality.

After the cinema halls vanish in Pakistan, hard Islam will make it even more dangerous for India.

The book to read on this is Filming the Line of Control: The Indo-Pak Relationship through the Cinematic Lens, edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Nirmal Kumar (Routledge 2008). The movies not allowed into Pakistan but watched on smuggled video cassettes featured Indian commandos defeating the Pakistan army and carrying away Muslim beauties helplessly in love with their derring-do. The content made you hate India. Veer Zaara (2004) was friendly but contained the insult that no Pakistani could have missed: A Hindu hero (Shah Rukh Khan) ensnares a Muslim beauty (Preity Zinta). It recalled Henna (1991) which had caused Pakistan’s state-owned TV to react, which produced something containing the fervent attraction of Hindu beauties to the charms of Lashkar-e-Taiba warriors who despise them till suddenly everything changes upon the heroine seeing the light of Islam and converting to “the only true faith”.

In 2002, Pakistan was traumatised when the ruling clerical alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, closed down its cinema houses. All musicians and makers of musical instruments — for centuries a part of the Pushtun culture — either accepted their pauperised new state or ran down to Punjab.

Pakistan TV stepped into the vacuum, its war dramas showing the routine nubile Kashmiri Hindu girl smitten with the mujahideen-type Pakistani warrior who shows sexual restraint contrasting starkly with the base cunning of her “bodi”-sporting Brahmin father. Pakistani films too did this including one in which veteran actor Yusuf Khan slaughters hundreds of Hindus and covers the screen with gore. Result? Pakistani film went down in the 1980s and never got up again.

The conversation on TV channels on both sides threatens to overtake the cinema. As the book says: “Right wing politics has always seen mass media as propagating conservative ideas of nationalism and patriotism. And Pratibha Advani, daughter of BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, did produce the documentary, Ananya Bharati, stressing the role of Hindi films in promoting patriotism.”

In Pakistan, the feature film can’t make a comeback because of the tightening of the ideological noose, not so much by the state as by the aggressive clergy and their non-state killers. Pakistani actors fired by India will not find a niche back home because the cinema-houses will convert to plazas. With loudspeakers blaring the latest doomsday warning from the clergy, people will claw at entertainment and find only contraband CDs of dubious content.

India has chosen its enemy and has become like him. By throwing away its soft power in favour of religion and nationalism it has lost something that the BJP’s man in the street can’t realise. The consequences have been spelled out by many good Indians who can foresee the coming spiritual blight. Democracy and India’s constitution will finally suggest self-correction; Pakistan is feeling the bite of correction administered by global reaction. Maybe the good days will return.

Shekhar Gupta in Business Standard mourned India’s old “soft power”: “The night before Atal Bihari Vajpayee was to leave for Lahore in February 1999, his office was frantic. How to reach film star Dev Anand in the middle of the night? Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif was a pucca Dev Anand fan. Anyway, another Dev Saab fan was roused to reach him and ask if he could reach in time to travel with Vajpayee on the bus, which he cheerfully did. Sure enough, his arrival became the highlight of that visit. The showman charmed politicians, elites, common Pakistani media, and took TV cameras to the exact spot in his college where he (supposedly) kissed a girl for the first time: in the conservative early-1940s, of course.”


The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan

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  1. A
    Oct 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm
    I have always admired and supported your views Mr. Khaled. But not this one. We have exercised the soft power repeatedly and we have been gifted with Kargil, Parliament attack, IC814, 26/11, Pathankot and recently Uri. And you really think, if we continued to exercise this so called soft power, we would not be getting any more of this treatment from stan. Their disdain for us has been shown repeatedly and hunger for Indian blood has been on proud display again when they dismembered body of an Indian soldier yesterday. You are saying, soft power will work with this country? As for the other countries, lip service and shedding crocodile tears for us after every terrorist attack follows. That is the only gain India as had. I am an ardent reader of stan dailies and follow TV news. There is no hint of introspection. Even if there is, they are labeled as RAW sponsored. Even your opposing stani readers label you as a RAW agent and you know that. You know, you will be torn apart if you are caught by these people. For you to say, India has to reverse the aggressive posture and revert back to being soft, is as good as suggesting to surrender. You show the way Mr. Khaled. go to stan and surrender and live among the hungry tigers who will understand the language of soft power and reciprocate appropriately. Then if you survive that, please come back and write this same article again. This is my challenge to you. Prove me wrong.
    1. A
      Oct 29, 2016 at 4:20 am
      Good and evil cannot co-exist peacefully, side by side. India says "We are good, that is secular, liberal and will allow artists from stan to work and realize success through Bollywood. stan says " We are (evil), we do not believe in secularism and will keep cancelling visas of Indian artists let alone provide any tangible platform to them". An evil wants good to stay good and not turn evil. Nope. That is a no brainer.
      1. V
        Oct 29, 2016 at 3:28 am
        There is nothing like soft when it comes to power. Soft power, if at all existed, clearly failed in past 70 years. Orelse situation would not have been what it is today.
        1. P
          Oct 29, 2016 at 3:54 am
          We have had non-congress govt earlier too. During tenure of ABV both nations cane closer to war. This time, though, hate s and stan is more intense. Probably because country is being run for the first time by Nationalist Patriots NPs !!!!
          1. J
            Jaideep Ahuja
            Oct 29, 2016 at 5:50 am
            A very well written and timely article. The so called patriots do not realise what they would lose by losing India's soft power.
            1. J
              Jaideep Ahuja
              Oct 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm
              This is exactly what the writer is talking about. By emulating the stanis we may become like them. That is a scary thought when people are scared to voice their opinion for fear of death. stan has come to such a p as their govt did not put down the religious zealots when they were raising their head. Today these religious zealots have become terrorists that are trying to takeover stan. If we do not tame our religious zealots we also might face the same consequence.
              1. A
                Agrippa -
                Oct 30, 2016 at 11:28 am
                Khaled Ahmed is a very reputed stani journalist who is showing you a mirror - how much stani like you (India) have become .lt;br/gt;India has chosen its enemy and become like;br/gt;Read and understand the article.
                1. A
                  Oct 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm
                  India has chosen its enemy and become like it- Ahmed is wrong. An eye for eye will make world blind but if in first place you do not allow s or Chinis to make you blind. No need for world to go blind. If you STOP criminal than you do not become criminal. If you turn other cheek then you get butchered, that's what Lord Krishna said to Arjun.STOP;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Hindus can never be murderous;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Why muslas want Hindus to be cowards for ever and tell PM Modi to be Pruthviraj Chauhan? If Pruthviraj would not have been this dangerous ic ignoble than there would not have been stan Banglistan nd millions of muslas in;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Stupid fallacious logic is destructive to Hindus. Stay on course BJP.
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