The Ban on Pakistani Actors: Does it Make Sense?

I love watching Fawad Khan , getting lost in his dreamy eyes and look at his smile. Songs churned out by Coke Studio Pakistan are as soulful as the ones by the Indian counterpart. But does it make sense to ban all Pakistani actors and other ancillary working professionals? Now we know that the Film Industry in Mumbai bowed to the pressure of the MNS, their hooliganism and their threats of shutting down and vandalizing movie halls that will showcase movies that have Pakistani actors in them. One also needs to note that in this post, I am in no way being a Pakistan apologetic but just trying to rationalize the ban.

The idea behind the ban being that it will act as an extra-political pressure on Pakistan and a punishment to the actors and others who did not condemn the attacks in Uri. In this post in the Indian express, the author highlights the cost of banning these actors will have on Bollywood and the loss of revenue because even Pakistan in retaliation has decided to ban Indian content from their TV and radio channels. But of course, when the pride of the nation hangs in balance, money and the livelihoods of people being affected by this act does not matter. The makers of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil have promised to feature an homage to the martyrs. While their contribution in any way cannot be negated and one’s heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones, but a tribute that is forced out of the makers so that they can ensure their movie is allowed to be released is nothing but an insult to the martyrs.

While the fight between the two nations was understood to be majorly political, but over the years we see that it had seeped into other areas like cricket and now the cinema. Now my knowledge of cricket is limited and frankly not very reliable but if I remember correctly, we have banned any cricket matched with Pakistan and the ban has been in force for many years now. But even now every time the countries have faced in the World Cups, it has been an affair to remember. My personal favorite was the 2007 T20 World Cup final (I am surprised that I remember this), it was nail biting.

I for some reason am not able to convince myself that the ban is correct. Can art be put in boundaries and divided by religion? Movies are the place where one goes to escape the vagaries of daily life and just enjoy. It doesn’t matter whether the hero on screen is from India or from Pakistan, as long as he can convey the emotion the way it should be. India and Pakistan share cultural bonds that go way back. And this in no way reflects that my respect for my nation has gone down in any way. We forget to separate the nation from the State. And the ban, I feel is an action of the State and should be definitely questioned.

Another problem with the whole debate that I have is the fact that what are the actors are being questioned on their silence on the Uri attacks. Now firstly, I want to understand that are they being asked to condemn only the Uri Attacks or under the veil of it, do they want the actors to condemn their own country. If it is the latter, then I don’t think you can really ask them to do that. If it is the former then, again can they be asked to make comments that are definitely going to have ramifications back home? At the end of the day, that is where they have to live. Their social media feeds clearly show that at least they do not support terrorism as they condemned attacks in Paris and others.

Another point, many writers are making is that such a ban makes sense if we are cutting off all ties with Pakistan else it is just a selective targeting of public figures. Again, does it make sense to cut off all ties with Pakistan? Cutting off all ties with Pakistan will never work and history has been a witness to it. We cannot possibly do that, Pakistan is our neighbor and a steady relationship between the two of these countries is very important to the peace of the region. Failure of SAARC as a regional body has been majorly attributed to the strained relationship between the countries. The recent cancellation of the SAARC meeting is just another example of it.

Lastly, and the biggest issue I have is something that I started off with, I love watching these actors and listening to their songs and MNS has held the entire Bollywood to ransom for its own political motives. This is a classic case of heckler’s veto.

In a country that believes in equality, for some reason the voice of certain political parties has counted more than citizens like me who want to watch and listen to content irrespective of its nationality.

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