Whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all grown up with Bollywood. Due to a similar language, the Indian Film Industry has had a lot of cultural impact in Pakistan. From the famous dialogues of ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ to songs we’ve all danced to at some mehndi or the other; Bollywood has been a part of us.
Pakistan, in general, has had an interesting relationship with Bollywood, sometimes we love it, and sometimes in the name of our own film industry, we decide to shun it. I personally have always been of the opinion that both industries can exist together; Bollywood can give you mindless comedy and a serious film here or there, and Pakistani cinema is constantly growing and giving you something new to experience.
The past few weeks have been a tense time between India and Pakistan, and as usual, the exchange of content between the two countries has been blocked off.
Every time India and Pakistan have had tense relations there have been a few voices that come up against Pakistan, and Pakistani talent, however, this time, we saw more than a just a few voices speak up. This time, following the attack in Pulwama and the strike in Balakot, Bollywood seemed unified in their support of the war narrative being pushed by the Modi government.
Artists and actors are people who perform a special task, they bring people together through their work, and their craft.
Art and culture aren’t even meant to be used for war, they’re meant to help spread love and peace. Indian actors don’t exist within a bubble, they know that. They work with Pakistani talent, have songs sung by Pakistani singers, filmed on them, and they have a massive Pakistani fan base. Their work doesn’t just reside within India, it resides in Pakistan and the rest of the world too. Actors on both sides of the border bridge the gap between India and Pakistan like no politician can ever do.
Various Indian actors expressed their pride in being Indian, which is fine but in the same sentence chose to belittle and insult Pakistan entirely is problematic
There’s a difference between being patriotic/ nationalistic, but there’s a very fine line between that and being jingoistic or even warmongering. Some would say that they didn’t explicitly say anything like this, but in situations like this, even the slightest bit of silence amounts to compliance.
As the hate piled on against us, a lot of people explained this behavior by saying that they didn’t really have a choice.
This argument does have some merit to it if you consider the public outcry and rage people like Sidhu, Kapil Sharma, and Sonam Kapoor had to face following pro-Pakistan and pro-peace statements. As tensions between India and Pakistan rose, there was definitely a lot of pressure from within India on celebrities to say something, and that something had to be pro-India.
However, the counter to this is in a recent scandal which involved Bollywood celebrities like Vivek Oberoi and Sunny Leone willing to take money in return for social media posts that were aligned to certain party stances. Although this expose had nothing to do with the current political situation, it definitely does cast a shadow of doubt over posts that were made during this time.
Pakistani artists, in contrast, were tweeting for peace between the two countries.
Apart from a few people, most Pakistani celebrities stood with their government in a call for peace and sanity to prevail in the two countries. Naysayers claimed that they only made these statements so as to not spoil their chances of working in India in the future. However, in the face of the hate being thrown from India, they could have very well retorted, but they chose to stand their ground and stand up for peace over all.
Clearly, the dynamic of Indo-Pak relations are never stable and never constant- things keep changing. Of late, Bollywood and Bollywood celebrities have been used as weapons against Pakistan. Far too often, when matters cool down between India and Pakistan, we forgive, forget and move on. We let them back into our lives because it is so hard to remove them for our pop culture. However, this time, the question for all of us needs to be, are we going to do that again?
Before I pose questions to you, the reader, I must ask myself what I’m doing.
I don’t think I could fully boycott Bollywood movies right away, mostly because, well, I’m sort of addicted to it. But one thing is for sure, I will be more careful about choosing what movie if at all any, I would watch. In any case, it’s not like I was watching Ajay Devgn movies, so that’s one lot of films I won’t have to worry about. I think another thing I would do is separate the art from the artist. By this, I mean that I look at a film holistically (see what it’s about, the storyline and the direction) rather than watching films purely based on who’s in it. Now, since a lot of the fandom since fizzled out, this would be a better way of establishing whether or not a film is worth watching.
In a time where everyone has an opinion and a platform to voice that opinion, we need to hold celebrities and people with public influence to a higher standard. These celebrities have massive followings and this following lends them the ability to mold public opinion and thought. This power cannot be sold, threatened and it can definitely NOT be coerced.
Our assumptions about what forced an Indian actor to make the statements they did are exactly that, assumptions. Their intentions are hard to speak for. Regardless, the fact is that Indian actors contributed to the hate against Pakistanis post-Pulwama, and chose to side with hate, rather than stand with peace. We might have been quick to forgive Bollywood in the past, but this time, it doesn’t seem so.
Cover Photo Courtesy: ndtv.com and ibttimes.com