A Pakistani Fan’s Open Letter to Bollywood

Posted on Sep 4 2016 - 5:30pm
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A Pakistani Fan's Open Letter to Bollywood lyrics, song mp3 download, family, wedding pictures, age, height, weight, biography

Bollywood’s popularity transcends boundaries. Despite the sniggers that our song-and-dance format and often absurd plotlines evoke among serious cinephiles, it can’t be denied that Hindi cinema wins fans across borders. But there is one thing that Bollywood seldom gets right – facts. Things like details and accuracy are sacrificed at the altar of entertainment! Shoaib Sultan, a Bollywood fan from Pakistan, has a bone to pick with the way his country is portrayed in Hindi films. Here is his open letter ‘educating’ our filmmakers on what Pakistan is all about. Are the Chopras, Khans, Kapoors and Hiranis listening?  

Respected Sir(s),

First of all, I’d like to mention that like many Pakistanis, I am a hugeeeeeeeee fan of Hindi cinema. And it is a well known fact that Hindi movies are very popular in Pakistan. In fact, I believe that outside of India, Indian fim industry and its stars have the biggest fan following in Pakistan than in any other part of the world. The reason is simple: we understand and identify with each other particularly well in many aspects.

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Portraying Pakistan or Pakistanis is not new to Hindi cinema. I clearly remember as a child when I, for the very first time, saw Pakistanis in a Hindi film. It was Randhir Kapoor’s Henna, a mainstream Bollywood film that was loved by both Pakistan and India. After this, Pakistan mostly came into picture through stories based on Partition such as 1947 Earth, Pinjar, Train to Pakistan, Gadar as well as typical movies where Pakistan was depicted as an enemy (Sarfarosh or JP Datta’s war sagas, for instance).

THE POPULARITY OF BOLLYWOOD   

The Pakistan that was showcased by the master of romance, the late Yash Chopra, in Veer Zaara changed Hindi cinema’s perspective on Pakistan and Pakistanis. Ever since, we have seen a lot of stories revolving around Pakistan, especially in the past few years. These include the blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan and others such as Welcome to Karachi, Sarbjit, Tere Bin Laden, Phantom, Agent Vinod, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Ek Tha Tiger, Neerja, Main Hoon Na, D-Day, Kabul Express and the recently released Happy Bhaag Jayegi. 

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Pakistanis too have had access to Hindi films, now in the theatres and earlier via video cassettes. Back then, the only reason to buy a VCR in the house was to watch Hindi movies! Eventually, the VCR was replaced by CD players and then DVD players, yet the craze remains the same; in fact,  it has multiplied! Moving on to the reason I am writing this letter, which is neither about the love-hate relationship between the two countries showcased in movies nor its impact, but is more about the creative aspect of portraying Pakistan and Pakistanis. This question first arose in my mind when I watched Veer Zaara. Having seen numerous portrayals of Pakistanis in Hindi movies, here are some of my pressing concerns:

Dialogues:

We are well aware of the differences in Hindi and Urdu. Most Hindi movies do not follow shuddh Hindi (pure Hindi). Filmy Hindi is more of a combination of Hindi, English and Urdu. But whenever a scriptwriter wants to represent a Pakistani character in Hindi films, most dialogues are linked to or start with words like ‘Bhaijaan’ or ‘Janaab’. I assume a scriptwriter feels that by adding these two words in any dialogue, they will make it sound like Urdu, which is NOT accurate. Moreover, this is an old usage, we have stopped using these words in our day-to-day language. ‘Janaab’ is mostly used as a replacement of ‘Sir’ in some government offices. And I haven’t heard anyone saying ‘Bhaijaan’ during any casual conversation! We do use it at times but just for the sake of saying it. An example of this is to be found in Bajrangi Bhaijaan in which the lead character is mostly addressed to as ‘Bhaijaan’ in Pakistan several times. Urdu is seriously much more than ‘Bhaijaan’ and ‘Janaab’! 

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Characters’ Appearances:

Pakistani dramas are very popular in India. So why don’t the creative minds who take a final call on costumes, hairdos and make-up of the characters watch these shows at least once to get an idea of the overall look of Pakistanis? Most Indian movies identify a Pakistani man with a beard. I would like to point out that those types of beards are not from Pakistan but from Afghanistan and the Arab world! I have not encountered any man in the past 20 years who wears kajal in his eyes. Kajal is used by men belonging to a specific section of society. Showing all Pakistani as deeply religious people wearing kajal is quite inaccurate. As far as costumes are concerned, Pakistani men’s shalwar kameez is quite different from what we see in Hindi movies. We do have such pockets, loose shalwar, colour, style, fabric, etc, but the styling of shalwar kameezes has changed a lot. Most Pakistani men wear jeans, T-shirts, shirts. Similarly, Pakistani women’s clothing has gone beyond a lehenga or a sharara. For reference, you can watch Pakistani TV shows or movies like Bol or Khuda Ke Liye.

Not every Pakistani man wears a shalwar all the time

Logistics:

When it comes to mobility, we have seen Pakistani cars, trucks and rickshaws. Cars and jeeps have had strangely written number plates, trucks and rickshaws are shown with beautiful truck art, but just painting any vehicle to resemble truck art is not right. To depict an accurate image, one must use the right kind of truck or rickshaw! For instance, the kind of motor bikes used in Bajrangi Bhaijaan are rarely seen in Pakistan!

The real Pakistani truck art

Locations/Sets:

Locations are another sore point. Our provinces like Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP have different landscapes like any other country. Recreating them shouldn’t be difficult as Pakistani Punjab is very similar to Indian Punjab, Delhi is like Lahore and Karachi is similar to Mumbai. I do not understand why the ambience is merely created by showing graffiti, posters, sign boards and flags.

Here I need to emphasise that whenever a set designer wants to show a Pakistani street, they use a combination of small red and green flags. In Pakistan, we have never ever adorned red flags; in fact, I have never seen those kinds of flags in my whole life! We generally use small Pakistani flags and that too on Independence Day. On signboards, besides Urdu, you often see Arabic words. We rarely have signboards in Arabic in Pakistan. There is a huge difference between Arabic and Urdu. Here I would like to refer to a scene from Sarbjit where Aishwarya Rai Bachchan  is making a speech on a street and the banners behind her are written in Arabic instead of Urdu – these are two different languages and cultures altogether!

Other Issues:

There is a lot more to be highlighted. For instance, in Veer Zaara, Zaara is shown to travel in a bus to visit India. No such bus service ever existed between the two countries during that time. The bus travels from Lahore through hilly areas and reaches Indian Punjab. I have travelled from Lahore to Delhi by bus, I never saw hills during my journey! In Welcome to Karachi, a scene shows embassy guards firing at each other, including an Israeli guard. But there is no Israeli embassy in Pakistan. I don’t mean to be critical for the heck of it; I merely want to shed light on these inacuuracies. As huge fans of the Hindi cinema, we expect a genuine, a more accurate  representation of Pakistan. It is hurtful to see that such talented and acclaimed production houses keep failing us with their inauthentic depiction of their neighbouring country. Such blunders can be easily rectified with a bit of fact-checking. 

SUGGESTION

Hindi cinema has spent a lot of money on their movies and their outreach is huge. We are proud when our singers, musicians and actors collaborate with Bollywood as it is one of the biggest film industries in the world. Therefore, I believe it is time to make an effort, and spend some money on research. How about consulting Pakistani writers, production designers and creative directors whenever you are representing Pakistan in Hindi films? It will make a huge difference in the quality, and discerning viewers will be satisfied too. 

With much love from 

Shoaib Sultan, a Hindi movie buff from Lahore, Pakistan 

(Shoaib Sultan is a theatre and an event management professional. He has also been an RJ)

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A Pakistani Fan’s Open Letter to Bollywood was last modified: September 4th, 2016 by greendecker

This article was originally published on http://www.masala.com/a-pakistani-fans-open-letter-to-bollywood-223551.html