In the wake of the February 14 terrorist attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir in Pulwama district, India has been active in unreasonably pointing fingers at Pakistan. It all started with bans on artistes and films and later moved on to sports. After Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar backing out from the Kaifi Azmi Festival in Karachi, some of the Bollywood stars also voiced extreme opinions; one of them was Kangana Ranaut.
Later, The All Indian Cine Workers Association issued a blanket ban on all Pakistani artists working in the Indian film industry. We also witnessed how T-series removed Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s recently released songs from their YouTube channel.
If this wasn’t an excessive and uncalled for reaction, many others have blindly followed the narrative of the Indian politicians and media. Ajay Devgn announced that they would not be releasing their upcoming film Total Dhamaal in Pakistan. Moreover, Salman Khan has removed a song from his film Notebook which was recorded in Atif Aslam’s voice and is having it performed by an Indian artist.
In light of the current situation the team of Total Dhamaal has decided to not release the film in Pakistan.
— Ajay Devgn (@ajaydevgn) February 18, 2019
Disappointingly, even sports isn’t being spared. Hindu extremist parties have demanded that Sania Mirza, who is the wife of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, must be removed as the brand ambassador for the state of Telangana. Photographs of Pakistani cricketers have also been removed from the Mohali Stadium. The matters are worsening with India demanding Pakistan be removed from playing in the upcoming Cricket World Cup of 2019.
All of these actions reflect the pro-Modi narrative, which is largely anti-Pakistan, and has been deliberately propagated before Indian General Elections. Although we support cross-border love and believe that art has no boundaries, the sheer hatred and despise from all quarters has left many thinking what should be our discourse?
The best way our entertainment industry can deal with the current uproar is to talk about peace, yes, but also avail the chance and sensibly streamline our dependence on Indian content. Thank heavens that we no longer suffer from mind-numbing Indian TV soaps, but it’s high time that our advertisement agencies and brands realize that Pakistani stars also have massive fan following. Featuring Sonam Kapoor in a cooking oil ad, Kareena Kapoor in a tea whitener commercial or any Bollywood bigwig in a cellphone ad is not the best way to sell our products.
We are thankful to the makers and producers of Total Dhamaal who took a wise step and cancelled its release in Pakistan. We are just as happy that Gully Boy did release here. Let’s be clear, we’re not talking blanket bans but filters and streamlines. We have, after all, censored certain Indian movies from releasing in Pakistan so we need to just continue to pick and choose. Kangana Ranaut movies, for example, are not welcome right now.
In addition to silver screen and celluloid, it is also a wake-up call for our local fashion industry. The platitudinal practice of using Bollywood actresses as faces for lawn campaigns has become one of the oldest tricks of the fashion trade. It would be a welcome change if our designers steer clear of it now onwards.
We have witnessed that Indian artistes resort to prohibitions and censorship at the drop of a hat. A knee jerk reaction to that will bear no fruit in our benefit and art should ideally have no borders. But this is in fact a great chance to filter out dedicated commercial content (like ads and campaigns) as well as bad content. Beyond that, the front-runners of our local television, film and fashion arenas should focus more on building their respective industries from the inside out.