NEW DELHI: Celebrities from the Indian film world have condemned the recent bloodbath that took place in the Army Public School in Peshawar, which has a strong connection to Bollywood.
Celebrities ranging from Prithiviraj Kapoor to Dilip Kumar to Shah Rukh Khan all have their roots in the city that is mourning the death of 148 people, mostly children, slaughtered by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
For years, Pakistan has loved the glitz and glamour of the Indian film industry, but Bollywood’s relationship with Peshawar, as well as some other cities, is far more organic, given the fact that several of its noted icons hail from them.
Prithviraj Kapoor, considered a pioneer of the Indian film and theatre world and whose family has continued to entertain global audiences through cinema till date, came to India from Peshawar — which houses the famous Kapoor haveli.
It is there that the actor, Prithviraj’s son Raj Kapoor, who went on to become of India’s youngest and most successful actor-directors, was born.
In the same neighbourhood in Peshawar, another Bollywood legend, Dilip Kumar who was born Yusuf Khan, came into the world and spent his early years.
In his autobiography Dilip Kumar – The Substance And The Shadow, the 92-year-old recounts: “We were living in undivided India at the time and there was a sizeable Hindu population. Men as well as women mingled freely with Muslims in the market square, wishing each other and exchanging pleasantries ever so cheerfully.
“Aghaji (my father), had many Hindu friends, and one of them was Basheshwarnathji, who held an important job in the civil services. His elder son came to our house with him a few times and he stunned the ladies with his handsome appearances. That was Raj Kapoor’s father Prithviraj Kapoor.”
Film historian S M M Ausaja says “the greatest of stars in Bollywood” have roots in what is now Pakistan.
“Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor are both Peshawari Pathans. Then, Dev Anand, who was born in a part of Gurdaspur now in Pakistan, studied at the Lahore University. Rajesh Khanna’s parents belonged to Burewala (of the then Multan district) and Amitabh Bachchan’s mother Teji Bachchan spent her early years at Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) and Lahore before marrying Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan,” Ausaja told IANS.
“Shah Rukh Khan’s paternal family also belongs to Peshawar. The Bollywood connection is too pronounced to be ignored,” he said.
Bollywood arch villain Pran also started his career in the Lahore film industry before locating to Bombay in the wake of the partition.
Past reports suggest that the homes of the three legends — Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan — are just a few minutes apart on foot in Peshawar.
SRK’s father Taj Mohammad Mir was born and brought up in Peshawar, and had a business in Qissa Khwani Bazaar, which is still a major market in Peshawar, the latter’s close associate Trilochan Singh had once told IANS.
Just about a year back, the superstar had shared fond memories of visiting Peshawar as a teenager with his father, and had said that he harbours a hope to take his three children to visit his family’s hometown.
During a conference in India, former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar had asked Shahrukh about visiting her country, to which he responded: “I’d love to! My family is from Peshawar, and few of them still live there. I would love to come to Peshawar and bring my children over because my father took me when I was 15 or 16.
“I still have some of the greatest memories of the time I spent with my father in Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore.”
However, the once culturally rich city of Peshawar became a scene of shock and despair when a usual day at an army-run school turned gory with its floor and staircases strewn with the blood of innocent children. The walls were filled with bullet marks and the glasses of window panes broken — much like the hopes of the several parents who lost their offspring in the massacre.
Indian film celebrities outpoured their agony and disgust at the episode in the city, from where more names like Anil Kapoor’s father and film producer Surinder Kapoor, Indian cinema’s ‘Venus’ Madhubala, and Bollywood’s ‘Gabbar Singh’ Amjad Khan, belong to.
Bollywood itself has had a lasting impact on the country.
“Indian films have a loyal following since the partition, as most Hindi/Urdu films were made in India, specifically in Bombay. Lahore had a film industry too. Since most stars remained in Bombay, the fan following continued to thrive in Pakistan,” veteran film writer-filmmaker-lyricist Amit Khanna, told IANS.
“Until recently, Pakistani films were terrible and illicit DVDs and TV channels ensured Bollywood popularity. For a few years now, about 25 Hindi films are released (there) every year. The market is growing and can fetch Rs2 crore to Rs3 crore for a big film,” Khanna added.
Khanna, who worked closely with the legendary Dev Anand, told IANS that latter and his elder brother Chetan Anand studied in the Government College, Lahore.
“Balraj Sahni, who hailed from Rawalpindi, and B R Chopra were also alumnis of the same college.”