Bordering on Fame

Bordering on Fame

Art,especially music,has a unique ability to blur boundaries—political and religious.

Pakistani artistes feel at home in India despite attempts to oust them

Art,especially music,has a unique ability to blur boundaries—political and religious. This factor has helped me pursue my passion for music and acting in India as well as Pakistan,simultaneously,” says Ali Zafar. A Pakistani artiste,Zafar made his musical debut in India in 2004,but received widespread recognition for playing the lead in 2010’s sleeper hit,Tere Bin Laden. He followed this up with his music album Jhoom,which had a worldwide release under Yash Raj Films’ YRF Records. However,he may truly arrive as a pop icon of the sub-continent with YRF’s Mere Brother Ki Dulhan,a film that features two of Bollywood’s top young actors,Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan.

In Zafar’s words,artistes such as Adnan Sami and,above all,the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have garnered appreciation irrespective of their nationality. Today,more than ever,India has a bevy of artistes and performers from Pakistan who have a parallel career in India.

Apart from international collaborations and shows in their home country,Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Aatif Aslam have bagged plenty of film awards for lending their voices to Bollywood films. Aslam will also soon make his acting debut in Pakistani filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor’s film Bol,which will also have an Indian release. Stand-up comedian Shakeel Siddiqui,too,had become a nearly permanent member of Comedy Circus on Sony Entertainment Television until a few threats made him return to his home country.


Pakistan’s latest export,actress Veena Malik,has already bagged two films and an item number after her Indian debut on Bigg Boss

last season.

Most of these names are already popular in Pakistan. The desire to cross the boundary stems from the platform and recognition that Indian entertainment industry,especially Bollywood,provides. “The television industry in India and Bollywood offer an opportunity to reach out to more people,within the subcontinent and beyond,” points out Aslam. Malik adds that their acceptability in the Indian audience acts as a huge attraction. “What else can explain my long stay in the Bigg Boss house despite being nominated by my housemates seven times? It’s the audience that voted for me to stay,” she says. Similarly,Chhote Ustad in 2010 had Pakistani boy Rouhan Abbas win the contest.

Despite these comforting words,it has not been an easy journey for every artiste from across the border. Actress Meera could not make a mark in Bollywood even though she did two films under Mukesh Bhatt’s banner. Pakistani cross-dressing stand-up comedian Begum Nawazish Ali,who also made an Indian debut with Bigg Boss alongside Malik,could not gain much from her stay. Sami’s ex-wife Zeba Bakhtiar and Salma Agha,after superhits such as Heena (1991) and Nikaah (1982) respectively,met a similar fate. Commenting on them,Malik says,“We are constantly competing against homegrown talent.”

The turbulent relationship the two countries share plays a part too. The paperwork alone can be stressful,explains Malik,who spends long time arranging the visa every time she wants to visit India. “It’s easier to get the US visa. And I cannot stay here for more than 45 days in one go,” she rues. In 2010,Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was denied the Indian visa despite being a prominent artiste in India. Actor Sonya Jehan of Pakistani descent could not pursue her Bollywood dream after visa issues resulted in her missing out on the shoot schedules.

Besides,every now and then,

filmmakers and channels face pressure to oust Pakistani artistes. In fact,prominent musicians such as Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh opposed their stay after the 26/11 attacks. But both Malik and Zafar

feel danger lurks everywhere,and such acts of violence are existent in their very own country too. Ironically,these artistes sometimes face backlash even in their own country. “You can’t keep everyone happy.” Aslam shrugs.

The diplomatic relationship between India and Pakistan may not have improved over these years but this cultural exchange is rising now more than ever before. Shalini Sethi,Programming Head at UTV Bindass,feels there is a strong need to look beyond the possible inconveniences of working with talent from across the border.

What keeps these artistes going despite trouble is the audience adulation. “People who love us far outnumber those who wish us away,” says Sami,who is currently fighting a legal battle on the allegedly illegal assets that he owns in India.

“I have spent so much time in India that I feel I belong here. And Indians have never made me feel otherwise,” he adds.