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India, Pakistan and the Bollywood bridge
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Bollywood is flush with films that talk of India-Pakistan friendship. And that's not all.
Two woman filmmakers from India, Pooja Bhatt and Vinta Nanda, are flaunting their precious films "Rog" and "White Noise" for the film festival in Karachi.
This comes at a time when Pakistan-bashing has become anathema thanks largely to Shah Rukh Khan and his two blockbusters this year - "Main Hoon Na" and "Veer-Zaara".
While in "Main Hoon Na" the two step brothers Shah Rukh and Zayed Khan came together to combat cross-border terrorism, in "Veer-Zaara" Yash Chopra makes an even more heartfelt and direct plea for peace by showing a love relationship between an Indian Army officer and an aristocratic Pakistani girl.
The combined impact of the two films is impressive and far-reaching. There's growing belief that Pakistan will finally open its doors to Hindi films with the screening of "Veer-Zaara".
If so, the impact on peace talks between the two countries is expected to be tremendous.
Says Preity Zinta: "A friend of mine from Pakistan saw 'Veer-Zaara'. He sincerely feels President Pervez Musharraf should see it".
Kirron Kher who featured prominently in the cast of both films feels there can be no better goodwill ambassador than Shah Rukh. "They adore him in Pakistan as much as in his own country."
In fact when Urmila Matondkar visited Karachi last year in connection with "Pinjar" (another film that addresses itself to peace between the two nations), she was told, "All we want is Shah Rukh Khan to visit us."
The mega star in turn is looking for the opportune moment to meet his fans there.
Kirron Kher, who now features in a third film on peace between the two countries, "Khamosh Pani", feels the time is right for the walls to fall.
"My 'Khamosh Pani' is a very important film. It tells you how damaging deteriorating relations between the two countries have been for the people of both nations.
"When I shot for the film in Pakistan two years ago, there was increasing tension on the border. Let's not forget this was the time when Bollywood was making films like 'Gadar' (which indulged in open Pakistan-bashing). When I shot for the film, I wondered if I'd be criticised on both sides of the border," says Kher.
In "Khamosh Pani", young filmmaker Sabiha Sumar has cast Kher as a casualty of India's partition.
Even "Gadar" director Anil Sharma has mended his politics. His new film "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon" originally contained harsh and bitter words against our neighbours. But the slate has been cleaned.
Now several filmmakers in Mumbai are planning films that preach peace between the two nations. Just how far cinema heals the wounds of history remains to be seen.