Of Pakistan’s continued obsession with good, bad and ugly of Bollywood

The welcome news of ancestral homes in Peshawar belonging to Bollywood legends Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor being restored to eventually become tourist attractions in Pakistan seems to have helped in the yearend realisation of the common cultural heritage of both countries, despite their perennial political antagonisms and military rivalies

Mahendra Ved Dec 31, 2020
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The welcome news of ancestral homes in Peshawar belonging to Bollywood legends Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor being restored to eventually become tourist attractions in Pakistan seems to have helped in the yearend realisation of the common cultural heritage of both countries, despite their perennial political antagonisms and military rivalies. 

It has helped to keep in focus not only the Bollywood Khans and Kapoors but also Khannas and Chopras who may, or may not, have their roots in what is today Pakistan.

Dilip Kumar and his Pakistani roots
 
Pakistan regularly celebrates Dilip Kumar, the man with Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar roots, as “one of the greatest actors that India has ever produced. His 98th birthday, on December 11, attracted comments both sweet, sad, and sour. “It was a bit saddening to note that in this age of social media, only (legendary singer) Lata Mangeshkar, (Bollywood icons) Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan sent their love to the legend,” wrote a Dawn report (December 20).

“But what SRK wrote on his Twitter handle pretty much made up for others’ lack of attention. “Happy Birthday. I cherish and remember every time we’ve met in vivid detail, and you have always loved me like your own. Love you too much.”

What it added was interesting. “Well, SRK, you do kinda act like you are one of his own. Not saying you copy him but….”

Bollywood Khans

Whatever the popular mood, however, the three reigning Bollywood Khans remain popular in Pakistan. Read this Dawn (December 1, 2020) report titled "The Khans Together." "Aamir Khan is known for essaying difficult characters. This time round, in the upcoming film Laal Singh Chaddha, he is playing the Indian version of Forrest Gump. News is that he has managed to convince Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan to appear in their iconic roles of Raj (from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and Prem (from Maine Pyar Kiya) respectively for a brief sequence in the story, which is set in the late ’80s. Wow! How cool is that!

“However, it’s been more than two decades since the two Khans played those parts; they aren’t young anymore. We hope that they don’t fluff their lines, otherwise, Aamir K might have to add a couple of words to the title of the film: Ghussey Se Laal Singh Chaddha.”  

Deepika Padukone: A hero

And yet, precisely a year ago, Deepika Padukone (no Punjab-Pakistan roots) was praised by Pakistan’s only Oscar-winning film-maker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, after the two met at the World Economic Forum 2020.  

Chinoy had called Deepika "a hero" and declared that her conversation with her was the best she had at Davos. Chinoy shared a beautiful photograph of the two from the event, and gave a tribute to the Bollywood actress movie ‘Chappak’, saying “I hope Chappak changes the way we see women in pain.” Deepika’s performance in ‘Chhapaak,’ a woman-oriented film about an acid attack survivor, was then the toast of the cinema critics and glitterati alike.

Chenoy had summed it up by saying: "... Deepika Padukone, you are a hero!"

But in the changed mood, a piece in Dawn newspaper (December 20) about Deepika attracted the solitary comment: why are Pakistanis so obsessed with India and Bollywood? Don’t they have their own stars?”

It is difficult to discern from the writer’s assumed name if it was from a dejected Pakistani or a sarcastic Indian. Given mutual acrimony often invading the cultural world, both these categories of readers’ responses are rising.  The latter category forms the ‘vigilante’ squad out to save India’s ‘honour’ in Pakistani media.  

Irrfan Khan

One Bollywood Khan (no Punjab-Pakistan roots, he was from Rajasthan) who has received immense respect since he passed away last year is Irrfan Khan.  Judged from one write-up, film viewers in Pakistan are awaiting as eagerly as Indians, and Bollywood followers elsewhere, Irrfan’s swan song, titled “Song of Scorpions” is gearing up for release.

With his “last film of his career before his unfortunate demise,” legendary Irrfan is here to steal audience's hearts,” a report said as the year ends.

Mrs. Funnybones

Among the Khans and Kapoors, an occasional Khanna or Chopra does come in for a dig.

Author and famously called Mrs. Funnybones, Twinkle Khanna, a newspaper report notes, “left acting more than a decade ago and became an author. Fine. Since she’s the daughter of two formidable actors (Dimple Kapadia and Rajesh Khanna) and married to actor Akshay Kumar, the Indian media feels she might still make a comeback to the silver screen.

“No, not happening. Talking to a journo, the gal, known for her outspokenness, has said, ‘It’s just a space I’ve left far behind. The spotlight gives me a bit of a heatstroke, to be honest.’ To be honest, Twinkle K, we think that your acting skills also gave us a bit of a headache. So, thank you.”

Pakistan’s love-hate with Priyanka Chopra

A long, full-page write up in Dawn (October 22) on her forthcoming memoirs, ‘Unfinished,” would  have gladdened Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who has now moved to the US, having added Jonas to her name after marrying Nick Jonas, the American singer and actor.

She poses as "a small-town girl who wasn’t allowed to dream big," said the article. It continued: “From a small-town girl in Bareilly to Miss World 2000, Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women, her own music album and a career in both, Bollywood and Hollywood, Priyanka Chopra Jonas also just finished writing her memoir.”

But the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra came under intense criticism and was trolled for a tweet cheering the Indian armed forces following the Balakot strike in Pakistan on February 26 last year. Online petitions calling for her ouster from the ambassadorship were launched soon after, with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari demanding her removal as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Digging up a year-old controversy, a reader wrote in the Dawn article that featured Priyanka Chopra: "That is a lot of venting for someone who silences other people from doing the same while promoting conflict between nations."

(The writer is President, Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA). The views expressed are personal.  He can be contacted at mahendraved07@gmail.com)

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