Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has characteristically targeted Pakistani actors working in Bollywood. They have a history of distorting the image of both Mumbai and country as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and progressive society. That might work in getting them few votes in local elections. Art, Music and Movies, however, don’t understand the language of petty politics and shallow hate.
It is not because of Karan Johar or Mahesh Bhatt or Shah Rukh Khan, that Pakistani actors are working in Bollywood. The credit goes to an acceptance of these actors largely by people of this country because they don’t judge an actor based on his religion, colour, race or country. It is their choices that have defined the careers of these artists in Bollywood.
All that matters is sheer talent. The fact that so many actors from across the border are able to find work here speaks volumes about Bollywood as a dynamic, fast changing industry, large and successful enough to absorb talent from across the world.
So what is it about Pakistani actors that they have found acceptance in India? Most of these artists were already very successful in Pakistan before foraying into Bollywood. Fawad Khan was a huge star in Pakistan already. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan needed no introduction. It is Bollywood that is lapping on the success of these artists and not the other way round.
Secondly, these actors inadvertently become the ambassadors of Pakistan. People’s perception about Pakistan as a country is largely confined to what they gather from news channels and newspapers. But when one gets to listen to these artists during interviews, film promotions, one sees the other side of Pakistan which is also immensely rich in culture, history and talent.
Fawad fever started with Zindagi Gulzar Hai. This show was an instant hit with the Indian audience. Zindagi Gulzar hai was a breeze of fresh air for Indian television amid a clutter of saas-bahu, regressive dramas. Among other reasons of successes were the common sensibilities, nuances and tastes of societies of both countries. Many people could associate with the old-world charm and use of Urdu language in the show. Other shows like Humsafar, Dastan starring Fawad Khan in lead role became hugely popular. These shows were a window to Pakistan.
Mahira Khan became a well-known face here with Humsafar. The show narrated the story of two lovers entwined with love, longing and heartbreak. This old concept was refreshingly new for Indian television which is quite bold. People loved seeing a couple struggling to hold on to their arranged marriage. Pakistani culture coalesces familiar and alien elements to bring something exotic for people here.
Even before Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, people have had been listening to singers and musicians from Pakistan. The country has a long tradition and history of Sufi music. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Javed Bashir. Shafqat Amanat Ali. Atif Aslam. The list goes on. It gets difficult for someone to imagine Bollywood songs without the presence of these singers.
India is a large and vibrant country. It has got a variety of audiences devoted to different types of music, movies and genre. There is an urgency to see, listen and find something new and fresh. If Pakistan provides artists to this country, what’s wrong in that? There is a string of upcoming Bollywood movies that have inadvertently used the talent from across the border.
Mirzya title song alone involved the blended talents of Sufi singers from India, Pakistan, and Balochistan. Kaari Kaari from recently released Pink has been sung by Pakistani singer Qurat-ul-ain Balouch.