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Why Pakistanis watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan shouldn't worry about India

The country's film industry is in no way a threat to any film industry in terms of its resources.

 |  Tarar Square  |  6-minute read |   25-07-2015
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As my favourite niece tried to get tickets for Bajrangi Bhaijaan during the three-day Eid-ul-Fitr holidays a few days ago, she was told by the harried ticket-seller at the nearby cinema that the multiple shows of the film were booked for days. That is the appeal of an Eid release, mixed with the power of that inimitable dude from India, Salman Khan, and the subject dealing with peace between the hostile Pakistan and India. Running parallel is the most-awaited Pakistani film in a long time, the Mahira Khan-Humayun Saeed starrer, Bin Roye. And that, my dear readers, is the film that has been banned, bin dekhe, in certain parts of India. Not a very Eid-spirit type of a gesture, I would say.

bin-roye_072515113532.jpg A still from Humayun Saeed-Maahira Khan starrer, Bin Roye.

As per the Express Tribune, Pakistan, quoting India Today, India, "… 'The movie has run into trouble in Maharashtra, with the nationalist party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatening to conduct 'MNS style' protests if cinema owners screen it,' reported India Today. Following news about how B4U cinemas, Bin Roye's Indian distributor, had decided to pull the film out of cinemas in Maharashtra, reports surfaced that Pakistani distributors and exhibitors would retaliate by refusing to screen Bajrangi Bhaijaan in local theatres." Oh well. Our cinema distributors managed to exhibit maturity - and business acumen - and the bhaijaan's film has done record business in Pakistan, affecting many as the commercial flick that happens to speak to many on an emotional level, in reiteration of how political and military realities are not always expressive of the sentiments of people on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).

The Pakistani film industry is in no way a threat to any film industry in terms of its resources. Or accessibility. After going through an almost annihilation with only regional, substandard, and a once-in-a-blue-moon Khuda ke Liye, Waar and Bol, the recent releases, and especially Bin Roye, has been heralded as the breakthrough film to accelerate the revival Pakistan cinema needs more than the MNS needs to take a chill pill. Come on, guys, a film is a film is a film. Hindi mein ho ya Urdu mein. Indeed, the things at the LoC could be much better, or completely peaceful in an ideal world, but until bullets are being exchanged I see Pakistan and India in perpetuation of their singular narrative: you are the aggressor - one saying to the other. And while the foreign secretaries, DGMOs, NSA advisers and ministers exchange verbal banalities and stilted rhetoric, mithai is being rejected, biryani mocked, and shawls discredited. O the cul de sac of that thing called love, or in Pakistan-India case, a dialogue to start a dialogue that would be different than the dialogues that never happened.

A family film about love that shouldn't be, about marriages that are not meant to be, of heartache that is to be hidden, of a love triangle that is more complex than the Bermuda one, of pain that is relatable, Bin Roye is a very well-made film by some very well-known names of Pakistan television industry. The female protagonist is the very lovely Mahira Khan, of the Humsafar fame - yes, Humsafar that made Fawad Khan the hearthrob of millions in Pakistan, soon to be replicated in India. I would ask readers to be kind to the handsome Khan (not Imran) after that tragedy-of-a-comedy Khoobsurat, and remember him as the bloke who broke Mahira's heart in Humsafar. Yep, the same Mahira who's in the 2016 Shah Rukh Khan starrer, Raees, and whom the super-superstar SRK yo-baby'ed in one of his tweets about the film, breaking many, many hearts, increasing the sale of Burnol on both sides of the border. Now the same Mahira is allowed to work in India with one of India's biggest stars, stay in Mumbai and other places for the shooting spells, but the Pakistani film that has her as the protagonist cannot be shown in Mumbai. Errr, kinda naive? No?

The jingoistic brigade huffs and puffs: say no to all things Pakistani until there is peace at the LoC. I wait for that day with utmost sincerity, and a heartfelt prayer for all the lives lost on both sides, but just a tiny reminder. Peace is not a concrete phenomenon; it comes in bits, in sputters, in leaps, in gestures, in words, and in actions, all marked with positivity, goodwill and a willingness to change the transient perceptions, festering reality and bleak prospects. Until then, call it clichéd, aman ki aasha, the melodramatic rhetoric of the "mombatti" brigade, band-aiding of bleeding wounds, the sentimental Pakistan-is-not-always-the-villain, Main Hoon Na, the filmy love-forever of Pakistani-Muslim Zaara for Indian-Hindu Veer… all of that is needed, with the reiteration of dil maange more. Each column, each people-to-people interaction, each Track II meeting, each Pakistani player in the Indian Kabbadi League, each Rahat Fateh Ali Khan serenading about love, each Fawad wooing the heroine - and the audience, and each Mahira making you fall in love… it all matters. Call me sentimental, or myopic, or whatever, I believe in the power of good, and I believe each thing Pakistani in India helps break the stereotype of the "evil-Pakistan", one dosti, one song, one kabbadi game, one love connection, and one gorgeous Mahira-Fawad smile at a time.

Money talks and bullsh*t walks, as some Wall Street jacka*s would have you believe, not to mention how more business interactions between Pakistan and India would help reshape the narrative that remains immune to the paapi-jhappis of the peaceniks. Nations prosper on the stability of their economies, no rocket science there. And two nations that are closer in geographical and societal ethos than the brothers separated in childhood in a Manmohan Desai's blockbuster could have an active trade and business dynamic, which, in my view, would be more substantial than any cheesy drama of bonhomie, which has more than once turned out to be shallower than the mwah-mwah of two social butterflies. Of Lahore or Delhi.

Having said that, in the time of the macho Bajrangi Bhaijaan, there is no fear of the dainty Bin Roye to topple the mass popularity and monetary monopoly of the former in any part of India. But… Surely there is curiosity to see a cool Pakistani film that has an artist who enjoys considerable popularity in India? Surely there is curiosity to watch certain Pakistani sensibilities presented in celluloid sensitivity that permeates borders? Surely there is the tiniest feeling of showing reciprocity for a Pakistani Bin Roye in Indian cinemas when Bajrangi Bhaijaan is running in packed auditoriums in Pakistan? Surely a good film could be seen as merely a good film without the tag of Pakistani and Indian? No?

Writer

Mehr Tarar Mehr Tarar @mehrtarar

A former op-ed editor of Daily Times, Pakistan, and a freelance columnist.

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