Clearly the rabble-rousing jingoism of recent times has been replaced by a more tolerant and empathetic attitude towards Pakistan, an attitude that perhaps augurs well for Indo-Pak relations in the future.
Clearly Meghna Gulzar’s “Raazi” is a new chapter in Bollywood’s uneasy relationship with Pakistan. Meghna has gone on record to state she refused to demonize the other side, that loving one’e country doesn’t mean you hate the country on the other side of the border. This is a bold stance to adopt at a time when whipping up a frenzy of hatred against Pakistan is seen to be politically correct.
I am not surprised at Meghna taking a pacifist perception on the Pakistan issue. Her father Gulzar and her father’s close associate Vishal Bhardwaj have been intermittently visiting Pakistan and coming back to India with warm thoughts. Well, this is a family that won’t fall for Pak-bashing no matter how much the provocation.
Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating at lightning speed. In 2016-2017 we saw an unofficial ban on Pakistani artistes when during the release of Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil hai Mushkil” and Rahul Dholakia’s “Raees” Pakistan’s Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan were made to feel unwelcome in India.
Sonam Kapoor at the Cannes film Festival this week made it known that the climate of hostility is changing when she hugged Mahira on the red carpet as the saffron brigade fumed.
The days of banning Pakistan from Bollywood are nearing an end, no matter how intense the hostility between the two countries.
Shatrughan Sinha, who has constantly championed an atmosphere of “cultural perestroika” between the two countries, says hate-mongering does not amount to desh bhakti. “I refuse to believe that if I love India I’ve to hate Pakistanis,” he adds.
Shatrughan also advises caution, restraint and moderation in responding to provocation from across the border. He continues to maintain warm relations in Pakistan on a non-political level. Former Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq’s daughter Zian is Shatrughan’s soul sister. He even attended Zian’s son’s marriage in Islamabad.
“Zian is my muh-boli behen. My relations with Zia-ul-Haq’s family have nothing to do with politics. Compared with earlier times the civilians in Pakistan are very pro-India today. Some years ago I was there in Lahore when India won and Pakistan lost the cricket match. There was no hungama after that. Over here everyone in politics is trying to show his loyalty to India by shouting the loudest against Pakistan,” says Shatrughan adding that progressive-thinking people on both sides wanted peace; so dialogue between the two countries must continue uninterrupted.
The process of cultural thawing may have started in right earnest.
Nandita Das, who recently visited Pakistan, says: “I have come back fully knowing that all that warmth, delicious food, and affection that we all got, will quickly fade as the trolls begin to call us anti-national and media will question our intent. While it may be true that the Government of Pakistan has harbored or at the very least is soft on terrorists, their own people have suffered grievously too from this.”
She asks whether vilifying the people of another country was the only way to feel nationalistic. “Is my love for my country proportionate to how much I can hate another country? Yes, there are some real and some imagined conflicts that we all are locked in. But while that reality — history, geopolitics, and terrorism — is unlikely to change any time soon, I still believe that small bridges could and should be built. And perhaps one day these small efforts will create a more peaceful and saner world,” she says.
In fact Meghna Gulzar’s “Raazi” emblematizes the spirit of bridge-building that Nandita speaks about. “Raazi” is not the first film to humanise Pakistanis. In Yash Chopra’s “Veer Zara”, an Indo-Pak romance was woven into the message of peace between the two countries.
It’s time to let Pakistan in again. We should not forget how guests have traditionally been treated in this country.
Interestingly, though “Raazi” gives a benign picture of the other side, the film has nevertheless been banned in Pakistan. Does it mean there is no initiative to normalise relations from the other end?
There is, of course, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, all set to give a global version of Lata Mangeshkar’s Allah Tero Naam.
We should build on whatever little we have.
(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at [email protected])