The fact that Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan were subjected to complete intolerance and blacked out in India, whereas other artistes from Pakistan have received praise as well as acknowledgement for their roles in Indian films, has baffled the wisest of us. Although there was no official/state-imposed ban on Pakistani actors post Uri attacks, a section of the Indian public and political Hindu hardliners protested so strongly that at one point, it appeared Fawad’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) and Mahira’s Raees won’t see the light of day. The movies were eventually released but only after assurances by Indian filmmakers that they won’t work with Pakistani actors again and also after a considerable chunk of Fawad and Mahira’s screen time was removed from these movies.
Recently though, films like Hindi Medium featuring Saba Qamar, Dear Maya featuring Madiha Imam and Mom starring Sajal Aly and Adnan Siddiqui were released without any trouble. Indian writer Shobhaa De reflects on the situation in an article she wrote for Mumbai Mirror, published this morning.
“I watched Mom, which features two competent actors from across the border — Adnan Siddiqui playing Sridevi’s husband, and Sajal Ali as her teenage step-daughter,” she writes, adding, “I had also watched and thoroughly enjoyed Hindi Medium, which starred the gorgeous Saba Qamar from Pakistan as Irfan Khan’s wife. After enjoying all three films and noting with relief that zero fuss had been made around the presence of these talented stars from our neighbouring country, I wondered why there was such outrage over the casting of super dishy Pakistani superstar Fawad Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. And, why was the beauteous Mahira Khan, playing SRK’s love interest in Raees, not allowed to come to India to promote her film? What sort of discrimination is this?”
“What is hard to understand is the acceptance of a few select Pakistani performers and the hostile rejection of others. If there is a strict policy in place, it should apply uniformly to all. It cannot be ad hoc and arbitrary. What is the official position? Does anybody know?”
The writer, who has been a regular visitor of literature and film festivals such as the Karachi Literature Festival in Pakistan, went on to commend Fawad Khan and call him the next ‘Big Khan in Bollywood’, “He was on innumerable magazine covers in India, and the recipient of several prestigious awards. It was obvious by his growing popularity that he was poised to become the Next Big Khan in Bollywood.”
Shobhaa then goes on to write, “If there is a strict policy in place, it should apply uniformly to all. It cannot be ad hoc and arbitrary. What is the official position? Does anybody know? Can someone clarify?”
She has raised valid questions in her article. We wish we had the answers.