The MNS insists on making Mumbai a no-go area for Pakistani artistes
Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party is adamant that Pakistanis will not be allowed to work in Mumbai – and makes true on his threat as MNS workers burn CDs by Pakistani musicians and threaten producers planning to cast Pakistani actors.
It has been almost a month since the home of Bollywood – Mumbai – went up in flames and was a target of a well coordinated attack on two five star hotels, a railway station, restaurant, hospital and a Jewish center. With accusations ranging from the terrorists hailing from Pakistan to blaming the Pakistani Government for not doing enough, the Indian Government and their media has had a field day with the blame game.
One of the fallouts of the events in Mumbai has been the disruption of the Bollywood connection between Pakistan and India, and from the day after the attack, one saw Pakistani entertainers return back home after they were threatened in India.
And the Bollywood connection between the countries also extends to the cinemas. When Bollywood films began screening in Pakistan last year, cinemas suddenly saw a mad rush of people to watch Indian films. From films that had enjoyed success worldwide such as Singh is Kinng to films that had flopped in India like Kismat Konnection and Love Story 2050, they all hopped across the border to Pakistan. But that may be coming to an end as well – UTV has decided to temporarily withdraw all it plans of bringing its channels here, as well as will not be releasing any of its upcoming films in Pakistan.
“Pakistan is an important market and we have the highest regard for its people, but in the present situation it is important for all companies to support our government in its demand for strong action against terrorism by the government of Pakistan. We would be happy to resume business in Pakistan once we all see affirmative action. We have so far had a wonderful relationship with our distributors there and its unfortunate that these events have come to pass,” said UTV Motion Pictures CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur. Mr & Mrs Khanna was the next film from UTV that was scheduled for release in Pakistan. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’s planned release was also shelved this month, even while the demand for Bollywood films remains consistent – Dostana and Yuvvraaj are still doing strong business in Pakistan.
With the disruption of the Bollywood connection have come several alarming elements. For one, this marks a standstill for Pakistani entertainers who were working in India. The Shiv Sena, who control Maharashtra with an iron fist, have made it clear that they will not allow Pakistanis to work in Mumbai’s burgeoning entertainment industry. Raj Thackeray, of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party vehemently made his stand clear when he said this week, “We won’t allow Pakistani artistes to perform here. Nor will we allow anyone to sell cassettes and DVDs featuring their work.”
He said that no film starring Pakistani artistes would be allowed to be screened anywhere in the state. “Why should we patronise Pakistani artistes when terrorists come from their country and kill our countrymen?” Raj was reported as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency. “Do not force us to make you pull out cassettes of Pakistani artistes,” he warned music retailers.
The Times of India quoted Amey Khopkar, head of the MNS’ cinema cell (yes, the Sena actually has one) as saying, “We will not allow any of them to work in the film, TV and music industry. We will not allow the release of films starring Pakistani actors in Maharashtra. Even British passport-holders such as Adnan Sami will not be allowed to work here. Why should we allow them when people from their country have come and killed our people?” And MNS’ cinema cell has made true on Raj Thackeray’s words – DNA India reported that workers of the cell burned CDs of Pakistani artistes including Ghulam Ali and Adnan Sami Khan.
This is obviously a matter of great concern. While Pakistani musicians have already faced the brunt by having their concerts and album releases shelved in India, this should make even the most brave soul wonder before they decide to work in India. Several Indian websites have been reporting that Sanjay Leela Bhansali is looking to cast Imran Abbas for his next film, called Heera Mandi. And while Imran Abbas declined to comment, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali has said the deal wasn’t finalized, the MNS has already issued a threat to him. Amey Khopkar said, “Bhansali will have to pay the price for taking Pakistani actor Imran Abbas in his film Heera Mandi. We will stall screening of films of those producers who sign Pakistani artistes for their films.”
While this should be a wake-up call to those planning to work in India, it serves also to remind one that this is a very volatile situation. Several Pakistani stars are still adamant to work in Bollywood productions – but at what cost? One expects that Bollywood producers will pay heed to the MNS’ warnings. After all, the MNS is renowned for bringing Bollywood to its knees. Earlier this year, after Jaya Bachchan made an offhand remark about speaking Hindi, the MNS and Shiv Sena went on an all out rampage against the Bachchans, to the extent that Amitabh’s film The Last Lear’s premiere was cancelled and posters and billboards featuring him were torn down – and the furore lasted until Jaya apologized.
These are clearly tumultuous times, and one would expect that our stars will see reason and not blindly head off to Bollywood. After all, as F-16s are whizzing by over Lahore, the Karachi stock market is gripped by war rumours and one sees a heavy flexing of army muscle from both sides of the border. And with the uber-nationalist spirit in the air, from people cheering the jets whenever they pass by over Lahore to cell phone operators touting nationalistic ringtones to their customers, one does not expect the situation between the two countries to calm down anytime soon.
link: The News International – No. 1 English Newspaper from Pakistan – Saturday, December 30, 1899