Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is staring at a virtual boycott - thanks to a threat from the MNS, which has taken it upon itself to ensure that no movie starring a Pakistani actor is released in Maharashtra.
Single screen owners in the western circuit - which also includes theatres in Karnataka and Gujarat - have decided to not release the movie fearing violence from the MNS and other right-wing groups. Veiled threats have also been issued to multiplexes if they dare to violate the MNS diktat and screen the film.
The MNS is upset about Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan being given a role in the movie, and has decided to ignore the fact that the film also stars Ranbir Kapoor in the lead along with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma.
Be it patriotism or the threat of violence, big names in the Hindi film industry are being forced to issue conciliatory statements for the benefit of those who are upset with Pakistani actors being cast in big Bollywood ventures.
Karan Johar even went to the extent of promising that he would not engage with actors from across the border in the future - a promise that's clearly been made under duress and is against the ethos the industry has worked by for decades.
Today, the film industry may be feeling cornered because of MNS goons flexing their muscles outside its doorstep, but Bollywood has had a long history of association with Pakistani stars.
|Nazia Hassan became the first Pakistani singer to win the Filmfare Award.|
With her incredibly haunting voice, Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan became an instant sensation in India in the year 1980. 'Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi Mein Aye' from the film Qurbaani, featuring a sultry Zeenat Aman, had millions swooning to Nazia's nasal melody.
Hassan even went on to win a Filmfare Award for best playback singer for the number, becoming the first Pakistani singer to do so. The title song from her 1981 album Disco Deewane has been remixed several times by Indian artists and was last used in Karan Johar's 2012 production Student of the Year.
1982 saw a light-eyed beauty from Pakistan gracing the silver screen in BR Chopra's Nikah - Salma Agha became an instant hit thanks to the heart-breaking song 'Dil Ke Armaan Aansuyon Mein Beh Gaye' from Hasrat Mohani, to which she lent her voice.
Agha won a Filmfare Award for best female playback singer for this number. The 1982 blockbuster also saw popular Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali make his Bollywood debut with the heart rendering 'Chupke Chupke Raat Din'. Agha went on to act in a couple of other Bollywood movies as well, but none had the same impact as Nikah.
1989 saw Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Hasan Khan opening his innings in Bollywood with JP Dutta's Batwara. Khan married Reena Roy and settled in Mumbai for a short period where he worked in several films. His biggest hit was the crime thriller Saathi, directed by Mahesh Bhatt in 1991. After his divorce, Khan moved back to Karachi in the mid 1990s.
|Zeba Bakhtiyaar was picked by Raj Kapoor for the title role in Henna.|
The early 1990s also saw another Pakistani actress hit the headlines with a spectacular debut in bollywood. Zeba Bakhtiyaar was picked by Raj Kapoor for the title role in Henna. The veteran filmmaker passed away during the shooting of the film, making the 1991 production his last project.
The film was a runaway success and Bakhtiyaar won millions of hearts with her beauty and charm. Subsequently, she worked in several other movies including Deshwasi the same year, Mohabbat ki Arzoo, Stuntman and Jai Vikraanta - but with little success.
In 1991, Pakistani teenager Somy Ali moved to Mumbai from Florida to try her luck in Bollywood. After a couple of modelling assignments she was offered the female lead in Bulund in 1992 opposite Salman Khan. Unfortunately the movie was shelved mid-way.
Her first film to hit theatres was the action thriller Anth opposite Suneil Shetty in 1994. She acted in several other movies like Krishna Avataar, Yaar Gaddar, Teesra Kaun and Aao Pyar Karein but instead of her acting skills, she made headlines for her link-up with Salman Khan. The duo reportedly parted ways in 1999 after which she moved back to the US.
The next Pakistani to take Bollywood by storm was a man with the magical voice - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Already a well established ghazal singer in Pakistan, his rustic tones in 'Koi Jane Koi Na Jane' in Aur Pyar Ho Gaya in 1997 made him an instant hit in India. A couple of chartbusters later, Indian fans were hooked - but Khan’s sudden death in 1997 abruptly ended his love affair with Bollywood.
After a brief lull, the vacuum left behind by Khan was filled by his nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan whose voice, though different from his uncle’s, had the same addictive magical quality.
|Ali Zafar’s success in Bollywood encouraged filmmakers to explore more talent across the border.|
After his debut with the song 'Mann Ki Lagan' in Paap in 2003, Rahat Fateh was flooded with offers.The talented singer delivered hits after hits, and not surprisingly rendered a couple of top home-grown singers jobless.
The deliciously captivating 'Dil Toh Bachha Hai Ji' from the 2010 production Ishqiya won Rahet Ali a Filmfare Award, and the rest is history. He is currently one of the most sought-after singers in Bollywood and my guess is, also one of the best paid.
2005 saw another singing sensation from Pakistan making waves in India. Atif Aslam was approached by filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who asked for the song 'Woh Lamhe' from Aslam's album to be included in his film Zeher. The song became an instant hit, and Atif, like Rahat Fateh, had filmmakers queuing up for dates.
An established actor and singer in Pakistan, Aslam is today known as a hit machine in Bollywood. He’s carved out a niche for himself and there’s no denying the fact that he’s contributed immensely to the success of many Indian albums and movies.
The Shiv Sena and the MNS have time and again blocked concerts by Pakistani artists and forced organisers to cancel events, but there’s no denying their popularity in India. Pakistani stars have certainty benefited from Bollywood, but hasn’t the Hindi film industry also become richer by this association?
Can you imagine 'Dil Ke Armaan' being sung by anyone other than Salma Agha? Isn’t the beautifully nasal song etched in our memory because it sounded so different from anything else we’d heard in India? Have Rahat Ali Khan and Atif Aslam not made our Bollywood experience richer?
Here’s a look at some other Pakistani stars who tried their luck in the Mumbai film industry.
|Women of all age groups are proclaiming their undying love for Fawad Khan.|
With his deep baritone, authoritative presence and years of experience, Javed Sheikh managed to cross over into Bollywood as an impressive father figure in the late 2000s. Among his first Hindi film projects was the 2007 hit Namaste London, followed by the blockbuster Om Shanti Om. Since then, he has featured in several Bollywood flicks including Tamasha in 2015 and more recently Happy Bhag Jayegi.
His effortless portrayal of a struggling journalist in search of a big scoop had us rolling on the floor in the 2010 Pakistani production Tere Bin Laden. The movie was an international success and Ali Zafar landed himself a plum role in Yash Raj’s Mere Brother in Dulhan the following year. Ali Zafar’s success in Bollywood encouraged filmmakers to explore more talent across the border.
Pakistani actress and model Sara Loren made her Bollywood debut in 2010 opposite Himesh Reshammiya in Pooja Bhatt’s romantic thriller Kajraare. It was, however, her second outing as seductress Nisha in Murder-3, opposite Randeep Hooda in 2013, that made fans sit up and notice her.
Loren reportedly has three Bollywood projects in the pipeline. Apart from her, other Pakistani beauties such as the bold Veena Malik and the charming Humaima also have projects under production.
It was his charming and heart warming portrayal of Zarroon in Pakistani TV serial Zindagi Gulzar Hai, coupled with his drop-dead good looks, that shot Fawad Khan to fame in India in mid-2014. Fawad became an instant hit with women of all age groups proclaiming their undying love for the Pakistani star.
The success of the tele-series on Zee Zindagi was followed by Humsafar, starring Fawad and Mahira Khan, which was again lapped up by Indian fans. It was because of his exploding fan base that Fawad was picked up by Anil and Sidharth Roy Kapoor for Khoobsurat.
Soon after Fawad’s successful debut, Mahira was approached by Red Chillies Entertainment. The Pakistani stunner bagged the lead role opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Raees, which is slated to hit theatres later this year.
As MNS goons target Ae Dil Hai Mushkil because of Fawad, they are also threatening to snap the ties that artists from India and Pakistan have formed and nurtured over decades. Right-wing organisations claim public sentiment is against Pakistani artists, which is why they shouldn’t be allowed to work in India.
But what about projects that were shot and completed before the animosity started? Shouldn’t we let the public decide whether they want to see the movie or give it a miss?