“A lot of talk about animosity between India and Pakistan is just that. Most Indians are secular-minded. If you visit India, they will welcome you,” said Om Puri, Indian actor and director, on Thursday.
He was addressing a press conference ahead of the fourth International Film Festival.
“There are nearly 220 million Muslims in India. Whoever stands against them should be jailed,” Puri said. “Those in India who say that it is wrong to eat beef are hypocrites because India exports beef,” Puri said. He said that people across the world ate beef.
“One cannot force their beliefs on others,” he said. “Will you fight everyone who eats beef?” he said.
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Puri also called out extremism in Pakistan. “I implore these people to stop their atrocities in the name of religion. No religion in the world allows killing of innocents,” he said.
He said intolerance in Pakistan had impacted India in the form of attacks on its parliament and the attack on Mumbai’s Taj Hotel.
“Bombs went off in India as a result of intolerance in Pakistan,” he said.
Puri said the two countries shared the blame for poor relations. He said greater efforts were needed to cultivate peace.
“We are brothers. We must learn to coexist,” he said.
He said Lahore was the hub of culture and art. “If partition had not taken place, Lahore would be the centre of cinema not Mumbai,” he added.
The film My Son the Fanatic was shown on the first day of the festival. The film, released in 1997, tells the story of Puri, a Pakistani man who drives a cab in north England, struggling to build a better life for his family. However, his son gets influenced by some Islamic fundamentalists.
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar told the press conference this was his first visit to Pakistan and he was thrilled. He said that he had been planning to come to Pakistan for quite some time.
“Whenever I met Pakistanis they would always ask me when I was coming here. Over time, my resolve to visit this country became stronger,” he said.
A panel discussion was also held where possibilities of collaboration between filmmakers of India and Pakistan were discussed. Bhandarkar said the biggest problem for film makers who wished to collaborate with Pakistani artists was obtaining a visa and clearance.
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“When I wanted Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to sing in Heroine, I had to go to Dubai for the recording,” he said. Bhandarkar proposed that a committee of filmmakers be set up on both sides of the border to lobby for these issues.
He proposed a one-window system for filmmakers where they would not have to go to different offices and ministries to obtain permits to shoot movies.
Usman Peerzada, an actor, said before partition there had been one cinema industry. He said this was especially true for cinema in the north India and Pakistan, where there was still a lot of room for collaboration.
He said because of the similarity between Urdu and Hindi, the language would make films from the north accessible in both countries. He added that the Indian film industry had huge potential in Pakistan, since Urdu was understood in all corners of the country.
Actor Salman Shahid said that pirated Indian movies had been available in the Pakistani market for the longest time. He said showing these movies in cinemas made them legally available to the Pakistani audience, enabling them to enjoy the full experience of watching a movie.
Bhandarkar presented Award
A ceremony was also held for Bhandarkar who received a Rafi Peer Award for excellence in direction.
It was presented by Zeba Bakhtiar. Speaking on the occasion she said that films from India should be screened in Pakistan, provided that Pakistani movies were shown in India.
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The three day festival will exhibit full-length feature films, documentaries and short films. More than 70 films will be showcased at the festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2015.
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