LOLLYWOOD LOSES PLOT
India’s craftsmanship and Pakistan’s talent should work in tandem. That’s when creativity will flourish.
Itake great pride in being instrumental in breaking a 35- year- old ban on Indian films in Pakistan, with my film Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story ( 2005). I had written to the then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, that neither the Pakistani, nor the Indian government could deny that when the Taj was built, it was in a united Hindustan. Jahangir is buried in Lahore, his son Shah Jahan in Agra, Noor Jahan in Lahore and her niece Mumtaz Mahal in Agra. Cinema is the best means of connectivity and love, and it shouldn’t be stopped by any means.
At that time the film was also shown to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The Prime Minister said it should be shown to Pakistan for its message of love. I told him I had already written to Pakistan’s president. We got the permission to show our film, and the ban on Indian films was lifted. A huge delegation, led by then minister of tourism and culture Ambika Soni, flew over at Pakistan’s invitation, and we got the kind of welcome reserved for heads of state. Mahesh Bhatt followed with Nazar ( 2005), and that opened the gate for Indian films.
Pakistan has great talent— writers, poets, singers and actors. But they lack in technology and expertise. They do make a few lovely films. I rate director Shoaib Mansoor as world class. His film Khuda Kay Liye ( 2007) was brilliant. I feel Shaan Shahid is a brilliant actor. I have always wanted to make a film with him, and feel he has the potential to be a superstar in India. Ali Zafar is another talented actor and singer. Pakistani TV had once captured Indian audiences in a big way. There was a huge demand for serials like Mausam, Talaash, Uraan. Their writing, acting, music and lyrics were all top notch, and people here were addicted to them.
Umrao Jaan Ada ( 1972) is one Pakistani film I remember. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see many good Pakistani films till Bol ( 2011). Ali Haider is a good performer, Abdul Rashid Qadri was a great actor and Noor Jehan was amazing. Her’s was the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. She was acting in films when we were still one, and belongs to us both, as does Suraiya.
When Taj Mahal released in Pakistan, cinema halls that had shut down were reopened and renovated. I feel it is time for a merger of the two industries in the distribution network, which will ensure simultaneous release of films across the border. If our films get proper releases in Pakistan, their distributors will earn money that they can reinvest in their industry. Artists shouldn’t face any problem while working across the border. Pakistan has good writers we can use, and they can use Indian directors and technicians to improve the quality of their films. We hire Pakistani talent, and so can they.
Punjabi films, essentially loud comedies, have had a long run in Pakistan. They didn’t need the latest technology, which, along with paucity of funds, hindered their development. Pakistan needs to open technical schools for teaching direction, cinematography and sound design.
Noteworthy films from the subcontinent were products of a unified Hindustan. After Partition, Pakistani cinema has never really had a great phase, while the Indian film industry kept growing. Even when they do make good films, we rarely get to see them. Filmmakers there are happy with a limited audience. Bringing their films to India will earn them acclaim, and go a long way in presenting them to the world.
WITH MADHUBALA AND DILIP KUMAR
The author is a well known Bollywood filmmaker