Ever since calls for banning Pakistani actors broke out, an issue has been rankling in my mind. Why exactly are Pakistani actors silent and not offering their sympathies and prayers at the loss of Indian lives in Uri? Have they never reacted at the loss of innocent foreign lives in terror attacks? A look at the Twitter timelines of three prominent Pakistani actors in Bollywood currently – Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan and Ali Zafar – reveal otherwise. All three were quick to denounce Paris terror attacks. Fawad tweeted, “Shocked and saddened; praying for Paris, praying for humanity #Parisattacks.”
Ali Zafar wrote, “#PrayForParis #PrayForPeace. No words.
And Mahira Khan expressed her sorrow by saying, “Heartbreaking. What a world we live in, no words. #ParisAttacks.
After the Orlando shooting episode, Mahira tweeted a picture with a message, “Sad!!Disgusting! Prayers for the families that have lost their loved ones. #OrlandoNightclubShooting.”
My simple question is why has the Uri killings not moved them yet? Didn’t Fawad once say, “Whenever I have come here, I have experienced tremendous love and hospitality in India and all Indians people have given me a lovely and warm welcome. Last time too and even this year, it feels like family here in India and where ever I have gone in this country it has always been an amazing experience.”
Why is Fawad maintaining a pin-drop silence then when the country that has given him so much love is bleeding because of the terrorist acts originating from his native country?
While I believe most calls for bans are politically motivated, the one point all these parties universally harp upon is the deafening silence of Pakistani actors when India is attacked. And they do have a point. Why don’t Pakistani actors condemn these terror attacks unleashed on India? Do they fear that reacting to it will earn them a huge backlash and make them unpopular back home in Pakistan? It’s got more to do with the fact that unlike a Paris attack, denouncing a terror attack on Indians through Twitter will have far reaching political ramifications back in Pakistan, something that none of these Pakistani actors want to embroil themselves in.
I remember asking Fawad at the trailer launch of Kapoor and Sons as to how he reacted as an actor every time political relations between both countries went haywire and the actor said, “I am a politically illiterate person and I don’t keep up with current affairs. So for me to get involved in these matters doesn’t seem right.”
I guess that’s the reason behind their silence and that reason doesn’t really cut ice this time especially in the aftermath of a dastardly terror attack orchestrated by elements in Pakistan.
We have the MNS asking producers to stop working with Pakistani actors. It remains to be seen what steps the Raj Thackeray led party will take once their 48-hour deadline ends and what counter-steps the government will take to prevent anyone from taking law into their own hands.
But is it right to call for a ban of Pakistani actors? Art and culture shouldn’t be restricted by boundaries and India, as a democracy, has always welcomed talent from all across the world. Many earn their name, fame and money here and we have only celebrated their success. One of the biggest commercially successful actresses of our industry today is a foreign import-Katrina Kaif. The most googled person in India is again a foreign import-Sunny Leone.
A Lakme Fashion Week’s recent audition saw only foreign models getting shortlisted to walk at the prestigious fashion event in Mumbai and no one complained. We are extremely tolerant when it comes to providing a platform to foreign talents and allowing them the freedom to flourish and that privilege has been accorded to Pakistanis as well.
The bone of contention arises each and every time terrorists from Pakistan intrude our land and kill our citizens prompting a knee-jerk reaction. “‘Haven’t we always extended a hand of friendship and promoted art, culture and sports only to be betrayed every single time? Can art and cultural exchange continue while terrorism thrives with impunity,” asked Amey Khopkar of the MNS. To continue or discontinue cultural exchanges with Pakistan is something that only the government can decide and I am sure filmmakers will abide by the rules if any set by the center.
Now to address the last question in frame- How important is Fawad Khan to Bollywood?
Fawad Khan is undoubtedly the most successful Pakistani export to India. Others before him have faded away into oblivion. The one still hanging around is Ali Zafar but he hasn’t had much success in Bollywood to boast about unless his next, Dear Zindagi works spectacularly well for him. Mahira is still untested and one will only get to see her true prowess after Raees releases. Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan cease to have the sway that they once held for it is the Arijit Singh show now in Bollywood. That leaves us with Fawad. The actor apparently charges a crore and a half as his fee in films. Talking commercially, Fawad is not exactly a Salman or SRK that his absence will hurt huge financial interests. He is yet to helm a solo lead film (I consider Khoobsurat a Sonam Kapoor movie). For the moment, his only unreleased film is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in which he plays a cameo and an important one we believe, something that Karan Johar wouldn’t be able to delete. His other projects especially the one with Katrina Kaif is yet to go on floors. In the eventuality of him not being able to work in India anymore, he will be promptly replaced by other suitable stars. Fawad’s pull lies majorly in his good looks and that is what producers and directors look to encash on. Is it morally right to continue encashing on the same while terrorist acts continue to kill our brave jawans? Perhaps not. Just like cricket diplomacy, it’s time to give film diplomacy with Pakistan a break. And ofcourse, Bollywood stands nothing to lose by not promoting Pakistani actors in our films.