Mahesh Bhatt is not the kind of man you label as only a film-maker. Over the years, he has been involved in various aspects of film-making, including screen-writing, direction and production of some of the biggest Bollywood hits. But that’s not where it ends — Bhatt has also used his charisma and popularity to promote peace between India and Pakistan. He was recently in Lahore for a three-day tour, as part of an 11-member delegation, which included prominent author and activist Kuldip Nayar, in order to celebrate activist and revolutionary, Bhagat Singh’s death anniversary.
When it comes to films, the 63-year-old director’s career started in 1970 with the film Sakat, and over the years, he has developed an impressive resume of commercial films. Most of these films have challenged societal norms and have kept a balance between art and commercial viability. As an author, he has written two biographies: U.G. Krishnamurti: A Life and A Taste of Life: The Last Days of U.G. Krishnam. As an important figure in the Indian film industry, he has also been one of the most vocal supporters for betterment of ties between India and Pakistan.
“In 2003, I received a lot of flak in India for saying that the centre of music in the subcontinent was Karachi. Even today, the statement rings true,” said Bhatt at Ajoka’s commemoration ceremony of Bhagat Singh Day held at the Gaddafi Stadium Punjabi Complex. “Although Pakistan is going through a dark period, it can still take South Asian culture forward.”
Love for Lahore
When it comes to his fondness for Lahore, the film-maker said, “Every time I come to Lahore, I feel like an old nawab. Comparatively, life in Mumbai seems much faster. So whenever I visit Lahore, I am charmed by the serene way of life, as the city is not just historically relevant but relaxing too.”
Prospects of co-production with Pakistan
Bhatt explained that the slain governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who was posthumously conferred Nishan-e-Imtiaz recently, had reached an agreement with Bhatt that co-production would take place in which the Pakistani film industry would play a leading role. But following Taseer’s assassination, plans have been put on hold.
“I would like to call it a ‘delay’ or a ‘pause’. Admittedly, the process has not gone as smoothly as imagined but at least it started,” said Bhatt who envisions creating films that will be shot in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. “I want to create a film in which 70 per cent of the technical team is from Pakistan, only then will the film be profitable for the Pakistani film industry.”
Bhagat Singh’s importance
Bhatt explained that the importance of the revolutionary Bhagat Singh could not be explained by tributes and mimicry. “The reason why Singh’s message was strong and powerful because he had a greater understanding of humanity. The thing that has taken place recently is the complete erosion of empathy. I think it’s time we ignited empathy into our daily lives,” said Bhatt. “In its most basic sense, it means how one treats neighbours and this is most applicable to the relationship between India and Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ