News of the cancellation of scheduled concerts by Ali Zafar and classical singer Javed Bashir in India in the wake of cross-border tension has sparked fury online.
One commenter on The Express Tribune website called Pakistani artists who work in India “shameless” for wanting to perform across the border after being “humiliated”; another felt that Pakistan should retaliate by banning Indian films and products at home. On Wednesday, however, Ali Zafar took to Twitter with a message for his fans: “Some will keep advocating love and peace, some hate and destruction. It’s been happening since the beginning. Decide which side you [are] on. Don’t be confused.” Another Delhi-based musician Kabir Taneja posted another rational thought: “More collaborations and more power to music,” he wrote. “Can’t put a border between notes.”
Since the 1947 partition, art has been a common chain connecting the two countries. Despite the lines that states draw and erase, a common heritage makes Pakistan one of the most significant markets for Indian entertainment and vice versa. Singers like Ali Haider and Sajjad Ali and recent imports such as Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shafqat Amanat Ali, have been welcomed and celebrated by Bollywood with open arms. Ali Zafar, Sara Loren, Humaima Malik, Meera and Veena Malik have also managed to sign Bollywood films, with Ali Zafar sharing screen space with B-town names such as Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan.
The important question to ask, however, is who is benefitting from these collaborations. Is Bollywood better off thanks to our artists, or do our artists have no hope for fame and money if they don’t take the B-town route?
Judging by the dismal shape of our entertainment industry, it is quite evident that India remains a promising platform for our artists. If things continue to gradually decline for us, perhaps India will be the only way for our talented artists to gain substantial recognition.
But our entertainment industry was not always a failing and suffering entity; in the golden days of the PTV era, Bollywood was yet to grow into the booming industry it is today. Sadly, today our cinema industry is dying and aiming for revival; age-old record labels have stopped producing good music in the form of albums and the local TV industry is competing with foreign content.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam made Pakistan proud when they made waves in the music scene across the border. They gained a fair amount of mainstream recognition, with popular new films featuring songs sung by them, a proof of India’s reliance on our artists.
As far as the actors are concerned, Indian director Madhur Bhandarkar tells The Express Tribune, “Frankly, I don’t care much about Veena, Meera, and Mona Lizza or for that matter any Pakistani actor. But in an industry like Bollywood, everyone should get a fair chance to show their talent and shine, be it from Pakistan or any other country.”
The Indian industry does give opportunities to artists who promise returns on investment. Ali Zafar and Sarah Loren have already entered the market. Keeping Humaima Malik’s appearance and acting skills in mind, she could be the next Pakistani feather in a cap that India is wearing.
Naysayers and critics who frown upon local artists for leaving their country should know that there is no other way out for them, other than to go to a country where there is respect and return for creative interests.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2013.
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