Mr. Soumyadipta Banerjee,
An open letter of yours to the ‘endless’ Pakistani artists (and to Fawad Khan in specific) working in India has been circulating a lot in the media lately. Perhaps for the first time something you have written has gained you considerable recognition on both sides of the border, of course because of the celebrity you have targeted in your letter.
Nevertheless, after going through your letter, it seemed to me as a piece of self-mockery only. Thankfully, I am not the only one to feel so. Many sane minds of your own country have spoken against your attempt of idiocy. Reasons are hereby explained clearly:
In your letter, you said;
“We made you [Fawad Khan] act in great movies, we helped you endorse brands. And hey, we also made you a bigger star in Pakistan.”
Here you have made claims that are only hilarious to say the least. When you talk about making Fawad Khan act in ‘great movies’, you definitely seem unaware of the fact that it is not only in India that he started acting in movies. He has successfully been part of Pakistani cinema before appearing in Bollywood. Same goes about endorsing brands. And, when you say ‘we made you a bigger star in Pakistan’ whom are you really trying to fool? If you have not known Fawad Khan before his film Khoobsurat, it does not mean nobody knew him. He has been one of the most popular artists in his country even before you got to know about him. Same is true about Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar or Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (the names highlighted in your open letter). And hey, don’t tell me you are unaware of the super-hit Pakistani serial Humsafar – starring Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan – which was a big hit in India as well.
You think Pakistan ‘continues to ban your cinema’ when the reality is that Pakistanis get to watch more Bollywood films than their own home productions. Claims like these reaffirm my belief that you really don’t know the facts and your letter is piece of pure bigotry. Either you have made a deliberate attempt to spread lies by writing such things in an open letter or you simply live in a fool’s paradise. And if you support your claim by referring to those handful of films like Phantom that did not make their way to the Pakistani screens, then I would only like to ask, if Pakistan made some film like Kashmir Banega Pakistan, would you in any way let it run in your cinema houses?
It’s just funny. All you want is for the Pakistani artists to speak against their country’s state policies, basically asking them to drag politics into their work of entertainment. Last I remember, when Shahid Afridi only dared to thank his Kashmiri fans at Mohali stadium, there was huge outcry by people like you in India for it was termed as ‘dragging politics into sports.’
Beware of what you expect from the Pakistani stars, because if they raised their voice on all sorts of injustice by rising ‘above boundaries’ as you suggested, then they might also talk about the recent Kashmir killings that is already bringing global shame to India’s claim of being world’s largest secular democracy. Also, if they are supposed to rise above boundaries and condemn hostilities then it is not going to be limited to criticism over Pakistan only. If India has a huge list of things to accuse Pakistan of, things aren’t any different in their native country either. You will then have to be tolerant enough to hear their views and condemnations on India’s policies towards Pakistan as well. Are you ready for that?
Ignoring political disturbances by the artists is favorable for both the countries. It has nothing to do with ‘lack of courage’. Many artists from India visit Pakistan from time to time but Pakistan has never asked any of your artists to go back only because they belong to a hostile country. I, as a Pakistani, take immense pride in this fact.
What you are asking in your letter is akin to Pakistan expecting Shilpa Rao, who recently performed in the very popular Pakistani Coke Studio, to condemn the nefarious activities of the caught Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadev inside Pakistan. Or it would be like asking Om Puri who was part of the film ‘Actor-in-Law’ – a recent hit of Pakistani cinema – to speak on the atrocities of Indian Army in Kashmir. You cannot say, our problems are your problems but your problems are not ours.
How can you ignore the fact that if Pakistani artists are making money in India by doing ‘great’ projects, at the same time, entire teams of those projects are earning huge amounts by well presenting the Pakistani talent and quite often the Pakistani beauty as well. It was Fawad Khan who made Bollywood’s film Khoobsurat look a lot more ‘Khoobsurat’. Why don’t you simply accept the fact that Pakistani artists have brought a refreshing change in your entertainment industry? If that wasn’t true, they wouldn’t be having a fan following in India.
If your country chooses to have ‘Pakistani import’ as you call them, then you must also know that the option to import is considered by countries only when there is a dearth of something and the demand needs to be met. It is the basic concept of trade.
I am, hereby, not only addressing you but also those far-rightists who are unfortunately devoid of sensibility and as I’m writing all this, they are all busy trending #KickOutPakis on social media. Dancing to the same tunes, your BCCI chief, Mr. Anurag Thakur, has declared, “There’s no need to have any sports ties [with Pakistan].” Perhaps he sees a terrorist in every Pakistani cricketer. Ironically, Mr. Thakur is the same guy who was quite furious over Afridi when he uttered the word ‘Kashmir’ to merely thank his fans from the valley.
I end this letter by a call for letting sanity prevail. Artists should be kept at bay from any sort of political debate. If anything, these people are more of peace ambassadors in neighboring countries presenting a softer image of their homelands, be it a Pakistani artist or an Indian. By writing illogical letters, threatening artists, ‘kicking them out’ of your land and spewing venom against them because of those policies that you do agree to, you are only telling the world how radicalized, intolerant society you are which will only harm the image of those people of your own country who do not approve of your approach. And all this happening in the wake of the Uri incident which has not even been proved to be Pakistan-backed, is highly absurd. Maybe you can learn a bit more hospitality from your tiny neighbor Pakistan that is smaller in geographical size but definitely has a bigger heart which can be validated by the fact that no matter how much your actor-politician Ms. Ramya was forced to apologize, she did not do so on saying “Pakistan is not hell”.
This post originally appeared in Pakistan Today