The Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) has gotten the ball rolling for cross-border collaboration, or at least it appears to be that way at the moment. Never has Pakistan seen so many Indian and Pakistani screenwriters, producers, actors and directors all under the same roof after the days of Kara Film Festival, discussing the possibilities of the door between the countries opening again.
In a session titled “Collaborations across borders: Possibilities and Future Directors”, Asim Raza (Director of Ho Mann Jahaan), Anjum Rajabali (Screenwriter of Rajneeti), Vishaal Bhardwaaj (Director of Omkara), Nandita Das and Sajal Ali amongst others were present to discuss the current situation between the two countries and how best to resolve the matter.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Indian filmmakers want to work with Pakistani talent and that there should be much more collaboration between both neighbours,” shared Anjum, while Vishaal spoke about how he keeps hoping for opportunities to arise, just to get a chance to visit Pakistan. “I’ve always been fascinated with Pakistan, especially when I fell in love with Marina Khan after watching Dhoop Kinarey.”
At first, the air in the room was filled with love and optimism but eventually, as the panelists started discussing the very real consequences of the two nations to be closer to each other, the atmosphere suddenly became pensive.
“Working with the legend, Sridevi was a dream come true and I became very close to her and her daughters especially when my mother passed away. However, it’s tragic that I couldn’t be there for Jhanvi (Kapoor) when Sri ma’am recently passed away,” shared Sajal who shared the screen with Sridevi in Mom. She also lamented the loss of not being able to promote her own film anywhere because of the ban on Pakistani actors in India.
A valid point was raised during the conversation: Why doesn’t Bollywood then take a stand for Pakistani actors, considering that Indian content is almost celebrated on all Pakistani mediums, such as TV, cinema screens, and even the radio, whereas India has banned all Pakistani actors from working with Indians. They have even banned Pakistani TV serials from airing on Indian TV channels. Sultana Siddiqui and Javed Jabbar, responsible for organizing PIFF, brought to the attention of the panelists that they had the full support of the government in bringing this event together and that there is no embargo from Pakistan’s side.
“I think we’re all shying away from tackling this question,” spoke Nandita, referring to the backlash that the artists might face after returning to India. Nandita also revealed how she’s considered ‘anti-nationalist’ for wanting to work with Pakistani artists.
“We have some limitations. Of course when the political scenario is such, then there isn’t much we can do. But Bollywood did take a stand for Karan Johar’s film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil when Fawad Khan’s role in the film was being protested against. And it’s not just Pakistani actors that the current political situation is against. Take a look at what happened to Padmavat, that film didn’t have any Pakistani actors in it. So the things are a little difficult right now,” shared Anjum.
Asim finally stepped in and suggested that nobody should point any fingers because Vishaal, Anjum and others had already taken a big step by visiting Pakistan for this platform and that must be appreciated.
The promising part of the entire session was the fact that a South Asian film forum was proposed by musician Harsh Narayan, who suggested that filmmakers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh should all be a part of it so that the entertainment industry could at least communicate with one another without the fear of any political backlash.