By: Khurram Zia Khan
Pakistan and India are once again passing through tense situations and war mongers on both sides of border are beating the drums of the wars without realizing the fact that war instead of solving our problems will unfortunately compound the misery of people.
After the unfortunate attack at Uri, India following its tradition, started blaming Pakistan for these attacks without any proves.
This senseless blame game leads to a situation where once again cultural activities and artist exchanges come under severe criticism. In India extremist forces ran a campaign to send all artists of Pakistan back home while in Pakistan all cinema houses are ban from showing Indian movies.
Cultural contacts should continue even in crisis as they may help in bringing normalcy to situation rapidly.
Prohibiting cinema houses from showing Indian movies is a cosmetic patriotism and not real patriotism.
The ban on Indian movies will not hurt India’s cinema industry as Bollywood is a big industry which is least bothered about its content being shown in Pakistan or not. In my view this ban will hurt business of cinema houses and also push down the quality of movies produced in Pakistan. Indian actor Om Puri acted in a recently released Pakistani movie while a movie featuring Naseeruddin Shah is also under making. On the contrary the war hysteria prompted director to shelve a Pakistani movie in which famous actor Rishi Kapoor will be acting.
Prominent critic Omair Alavi while expressing his views about the recent ban said
“Jingoism cost the downfall of Pakistan’s cinema Industry between 1965 to 2005 ”
In last few years Pakistan has produced many high quality movies which also tasted box office success. This good production is possible because Pakistan’s film industry instead of competing with each other competed with Indian movies being shown in cinema houses around the country.
Those people who come up with this idea of banning Indian movies from cinemas it seem either unaware of past or are in state of denial.
Ban on showing movies in cinema will not stop people from watching Indian movies. India’s movie stars are the role model and idols of people of Pakistan for decades and we want to emulate them in dressing, in way of talking and in many other ways. Marriage is considered as a religious obligation in our society but even on marriages Indian songs are played and boys and girls dance frantically on the tune of Indian songs.
First time ban on India movies was imposed in 1965. People only accepted that ban because they have no other way of watching Indian movies. After VCR came in Pakistan in late 70s, public once again started watching Indian movies with impunity. In those days families get the VCR on rent for may by Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1,500 per night and from midnight till morning watch 3 to 4 movies in one go. Watching Indian movies on VCR was always an occasion of family gathering and was considered a classy entertainment in that era. The amount mentioned used to be really hefty in late 70s and early 80s as in those days, cost of 10 grams of gold was less then Rs. 800.
Households which owned VCR were considered to be elites of the society. In early 80s some music shops of the area also started keeping cassettes of Indian movies and VCR owners use to rent these movies for Rs. 100 per night. Whenever a new movie was released people would sit outside music shop for hours to rent the cassette of that movie and shopkeeper would often rise the per night rent of movies which were in high demand.
In those days many people of first generation of Pakistan were alive who witnessed and suffered of all atrocities happened at the time of partition but I saw those first generation people also enjoying the Indian movies with their families.
Renting Indian movies was ban by the government of General Zia Ul Haq but still a large number of shops around the country were renting these movies and people flocking these shops to get Indian movie of their choice.
People in those days could not afford VCR manufacture would use special kind of antenna using steel cover of cooking pans and attach it with a device called booster to catch Doordarshan so that they can watch Indian movies.
Love of people of Pakistan for Indian artists and movies can also be gauged from the fact that many people make it a point to watch Indian movie in cinema whenever they visit UK or USA. In my childhood, I watched two movies that is ‘Muqadar ka Sikander’ and ‘Great Gambler’ at a cinema house during my families visit to USA in 1978.
Pakistan love for Indian actors is sheer from the fact that Pakistani national residing overseas go in large numbers whenever a Bollywood star comes to perform in a country where he/she is living.
Many of us considered India as opponent but when it comes to Indian movies, even a frantic opponent of India somehow finds a way to accept them.
I hope someone can rethink this whole strategy of imposing ban on viewing of Indian content. When a government under a strict ruler like Zia Ul Haq failed to implement a complete ban on Indian movies then it is nearly impossible for current regime to implement ban and all these efforts to ban Indian content from cinemas and television screen will only push people more towards them and promote illegal activities in society.
Both sides of border have insane people. One can only hope that people ignore the fanatics and give heed to positive advice given by the likes of Humayun Saeed and Om Puri.
Hope sanity prevails and both countries start exchanges of art & artist again.
Story first published: 10th October 2016