When the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) decided to ban Pakistani actors from working in India, Pakistan banned the release of Bollywood movies in their country.
When art and politics are mixed together, it goes without saying that the outcome of it is just counter-productive. India and Pakistan share a complex political relationship due to the shared history. Terrorism has always been a thorn in the side for India and the recent attacks in Uri (Jammu and Kashmir) led to the ban on Pakistani actors woking in India.
A week ago, Pakistani exhibitors requested the Pakistani Government and censor board to lift the ban on the Bollywood movies. Many in India are hailing Pakistan for taking this step and kick-starting the cultural exchange. While the move is being appreciated by some in Pakistan, most are unhappy with this decision.
“Running Indian movies in Pakistan is fine as we like watching Indian movies with nice stories but at the same time being a patriot, I also feel that if the Indian government is not cooperating and Indians are against Pakistanis working there, then why should only our government compromise everytime? It’s odd to see as only Pakistani actors are banned in India but actors from all over the globe are welcome to work there. They call themselves the largest democracy in the world, but people there are so narrow-minded that they support such kind of discrimination. I personally think that Pakistan’s government shouldn’t have lifted this ban,” says Umaima, a biochemist from Karachi, Pakistan.
She also expressed how disappointed she is with the Pakistani government, “It’s also upsetting to see how the Pakistani government is not ready to support the local entertainment industry as India supports its own industry. Bollywood is a big name. This move is only from the business point of view.”
Saba Khan* who is connected to the Pakistani television industry believes that India doesn’t want peace and harmony.“I have been a part of the Pakistani television industry and it is good that Pakistan is taking this initiative. But the only problem I have is that why should we always take the first step? Why should Pakistan be concerned about peace when India doesn’t want the same thing? It’s wrong that our artists are banned when they have contributed to Bollywood in their way. Indians have punished them for things that they are not even responsible for,” says Saba.
Political analyst and columnist, Jadeesh Ahuja from Pakistan supports the decision taken on lifting the ban of screening Indian movies in Pakistani Cinemas however he also states that it is necessary that India reciprocates as well. “But alas! India of Modi and America of Trump have just started to walk on the Pakistani path of Late General Zia-ul-Haq who destroyed the good in society including the good cinema culture. And the end result is quite clear for us: destruction, destruction, destruction. May sanity prevail on both sides of borders.”
Pakistanis love Bollywood movies and they look forward to the movies starring the Khans of Bollywood. But after India banned Pakistani artistes, this action created immense hatred and loathe among the Pakistanis for India. “I think the country’s integrity comes first and being a Pakistani, I strongly oppose this decision being taken. I condemn this act. The theatres owners have taken this decision because they are facing losses but in my opinion country’s honour comes first, our actors are still banned in India. I would rather call this an absolute and selfish decision,” states Dr Sahar Asim from Pakistan.
The whole tit-for-tat attitude and banning art for political reasons ruins the entire notion of cultural exchange. No matter what happens, we, the citizens, should never give up the cultural space due to the political pressure and become part of the ongoing agenda that serves no real purpose. Films and art are forms through which people connect, invest, and exchange views peacefully. Amid the constant political tension between the two countries, cultural exchange helps in bringing people of two countries closer through the art of cinema. When such exchanges are banned, it affects the decades old cultural relationship between people of these countries. Bans such as the one on Pakistani actors in India and on Indian movies in Pakistan, affects people on both sides economically and they are deprived of the one thing that connects us – cinema.
* Names changed on request