Dear Karan Johar,
I saw your video a few days ago where you, very clearly, announced your refusal to “engage with Pakistani talent” under the current circumstances.
To anyone watching, that was a pretty straightforward support in favor of the ban. I have no issue whatsoever with you supporting your country and you should be doing that as a public figure of a country that staunchly believes in nationalism. It’s your country and these people are protecting you, and you’re Karan Johar, who am I to question you, as an ordinary citizen from the ‘enemy country’?
But with due respect sir, you’re not just a director, you’re a powerful, respected media professional, when you say something it matters. You probably wouldn’t have been where you are if you had remained silent when someone had criticized your work in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, for example. You did speak up, initially and among all the negativity that was blowing around us, you seemed like a rare sight for sore eyes, searching for sanity. Sadly, seeing you bow down to pressure hurt me.
I am the son of an army officer, his father was also in the armed forces and so was his father, but I was never taught to hate India.
I am not saying we were writing love songs about it and doing a matinee at tea time, either. Yes, there was always this one uncle in front of whom you would switch off Star Plus but those people are always going to exist. We’ve always had Indian songs at our weddings, many from the movies you made. Most of my childhood memories of those weddings are based on Bollywood songs. We all still fondly remember the emotional scene from Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum when Mr. Bachchan asks Shahrukh Khan aka Rahul to stay and mend things. My dad still reminisces Mr. Bachchan’s younger days playing Vijay in Shakti and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was a very dearly awaited film by all and sundry in Pakistan.
Pakistan and India have been fighting since 1947 and we’ve always supported our troops but what has that got to do with the arts?
Isn’t art suppose to be universal and borderless? Your fame and career is a testament to that. This is not just about putting an end to the ban of Pakistani actors in India, but rather what it represents – that come what may Art will not and should not suffer. In fact, art has the ability to rattle us, to make us think, even rethink, our world views. You need to stand up for the sake of art, and the same goes for people of my country.
Sometimes, art (and cinema, of course), is the only thing that keeps us connected in this rocky horror show. It gives us hope of something magical, and I might sound like a couch potato who spends too much in front of the TV but it doesn’t make it not true. It’s the universality of art that gave you your chance to become an ‘international’ celebrity with your movies, and it is this belief that lets a kid watching your movies in Lahore dream to one day work alongside you. I’m sure it’s the magic of cinema and art that made you dream big in the first place.
Now you have the opportunity to let art flourish and to allow children to continue to dream bigger, way bigger than pettiness and intolerance created by a scorned few. I am no one to question or judge you, I am just a fan from the other side requesting you to choose progress in the face of adversity. Also, as your movies love to preach, art is all about love. Right?
A Fan Across The Border