Shaan and Ali Zafar face-off

Actors voice their conflicting opinions about Pakistani artistes crossing the border to work in Bollywood.

Rafay Mahmood May 01, 2014
While the audience was taken aback by Shaan’s comments, it was Ali who offered him a rebuttal. PHOTO: FILE


Over the course of time, actor Shaan Shahid has received many film offers from Bollywood and has been equally vocal about refusing them. The most popular of the offers being when he was asked to play the villain in Aamir Khan’s Ghajini (2008).

Recently, at a film awards show, Shaan openly criticised Pakistani artistes who cross the border to be a part of Bollywood ventures, calling them “cheap sell-outs.” At the occasion, where he also unveiled the first look of his upcoming film Arth 2, he blamed local celebrities for making Bollywood a stairway to their success.

While the audience, which included stars such as Javed Sheikh and Zeba Bakhtiar, was taken aback by Shaan’s comments, it was singer-actor Ali Zafar who offered him a rebuttal.

When Ali went on stage to receive his award for the ‘International Icon of the Year’, he said in his acceptance speech, “Hum doosri cheezon ka sahaara letay hain apni khaamion ko chupane ke liye, patriotism ke naam pae, doosri cheezon ke naam pae...” (We make excuses to hide our weaknesses, sometimes, in the name of patriotism, sometimes, in the name of other things.)

“I think we should be honest. Humain sach bolna chahiye aur woh waqt agaya hai ke anay walay logon se sach bola jaaye,” he added. (We should speak the truth and the time has come when the new generation should be told the truth.)

Ali also mentioned how it was disrespectful of Shaan to blame the artistes as sell-outs. He mentioned a list of artistes who have worked in Bollywood, including Bade Ghulam Ali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mohsin Khan, Zeba Bakhtiar, Salma Agha, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Atif Aslam. He said that these stars have made their mark in India through their work and have received tremendous appreciation for it.

He encouraged newcomers to not let anything deter them from going where they want to; he gave himself as an example as he was told by many people that he could never make it big internationally.

Ali’s words were followed by a huge round of applause, which not only showed that the audience endorsed his point of view, but also that Shaan is not the only driving force behind Pakistani cinema – Ali’s perspective also holds great value in the local film industry.

With more than 450 films under his belt, actor Shaan Shahid epitomises the true potential of Pakistani cinema. His dedication to the industry is nothing less than appreciable. In fact, it’s exemplary for other actors, who don’t take Lollywood as seriously as they take other filmdoms.

However, it’s unseemly for an artiste of Shaan’s stature to be critical of others who haven’t chosen to walk the same path as him. But the exchange of words between the two well-known actors is a positive sign for the industry as it shows the polarised perspectives that exist in it.

Ali represents the fresh generation of actors who opt for a more holistic, globalised view of things instead of indulging in needless jingoism, which has often resulted in the ban of Indian films in Pakistan. It’s time that the film industry takes up a more progressive approach towards international collaborations, which many young actors advocate. As Allama Iqbal says, “Jawanon ko Peeron ka ustad kar.” (Make the young mentors of the old.)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2014.

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Sajida Tahmeed | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend

Majority who voted for Ali Zafar has proved the two nation theory wrong. And maybe that is the reason why people like Ali Zafar are moving to better places like bollywood instead of investing their talent for betterment of our own industry. If Madam Noor Jehan can comprehensively compete Lata Mangeshkar's popularity by staying and giving her talents to the Pakistani Music and Film Industry, why cant Ali Zafar stay here and compete with Indian Musicians. If we praise the art of Bollywood actors, why cant we work here and make Indian Fans praise the abilities of our actors. Are we afraid of reviving and rebuilding the corrupted structure of our industry? Why are we reluctant to work hard and re-establish our own industry?

A | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend

I respect and endorse Shaan's perspective. He's a man of principles. I am not against working with individuals from across the border; however, it's become clear that there are far too many artists who do not recognize their own value and merit. For instance, there are so many great Pakistani artists who have worked in Bollywood, ie: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam, etc, however, they've never been recognized once by juries or at award ceremonies in Bollywood. As a matter of fact, they've contributed, but have not received anything in return. In fact, some of them have been criticized and degraded on so many levels. Take for instance, Atif Aslam who has contributed to Bollywood and because of his contribution, so many movies became popular and sold records mainly due to the song and in spite of that, he was hated on by so many artists in Bollywood who are keen on criticizing him. And regardless of what anyone says, Bollywood is a much easier way to fame. That much is clear to everyone. As I said, I'm not against working across borders, but it should be a two-way thing. Our artists will never receive the appreciation they deserve in Bollywood and I'm not saying this blindly, but we can look at their history of contributions and assess that. In addition, Bollywood has never supported our industry, they do not play our films; hence, we should unite as artists and a community and allow our industry to flourish instead of running to the other side.

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