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Bollywood walks the path of peace with Pakistan
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Mirroring reality perhaps, Indian cinema is working towards a definite peace plan with the days of casting Pakistan as the villain-in-chief in Hindi films seeming definitely over.
The latest example is "Deewaar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home" starring Amitabh Bachchan. Though the film goes into the thorny territory of Indian prisoners of war, not for a second do its makers indulge in below the belt dialogues against Pakistan -- like we saw in films like Anil Sharma's "Gadar" and Tinu Verma's "Maa Tujhe Salaam".
"I haven't seen Mr. Verma's film. But yes, 'Gadar' was a love story about a man rescuing his wife from across the border after partition. Naturally, tempers ran high in the drama," says Amitabh, who plays a retired army officer in Sharma's new war epic "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon".
"Ab Tumhare..." looks at three generations of army officers, played by Amitabh and Bobby Deol in a double role, and covers the two wars with Pakistan.
Sharma had every intention of cashing his Pakistan-card at the Indian box office. But Akshay Kumar who plays another pivotal role asked Sharma to clean the script before coming to him.
Says Akshay: "I'm glad I took a stand. I'd rather put my foot down than in my mouth. See how well 'Ab Tumhare...' has shaped up now. I have loads of fans in Pakistan. In fact I was supposed to perform for them earlier this year but couldn't. I'd do it again at the first opportunity. I don't believe the people in the two countries are different in any detail. So why differentiate?"
Shah Rukh Khantoo makes it clear that he won't be any part of Pakistan-bashing plans in Bollywood. His latest film "Main Hoon Na", a blockbuster at the turnstiles, makes a distinct pitch for peace between the two countries though India-Pakistan relations isn't the main agenda in the plot.
Says King Khan: "In 'Main Hoon Na' when Zayed and I put our differences aside to fight the common enemy, it becomes symbolical of India and Pakistan being two brothers who need to come together as one to be strong."
In Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya" as well, there are no overt anti Pakistan references even though the film is centred on a young man who goes from being an aimless youngster to a determined soldier fighting Pakistan in Kargil.
Pakistan bashing is becoming increasingly unfashionable in Bollywood. Apart from the oft-quoted example of "Gadar", no other film deriding Pakistanis as terrorists and anti-socials has done well.
In new director Sanjiv Puri's "Agnipankh", Jimmy Shergil who played an Indian Air Force pilot mouthed some rabid anti-Pakistan dialogues which Sunny Deol got away with in "Gadar".
Subsequent attempts by Sunny at Pakistan-bashing in "Indian" and "Maa Tujhe Salaam" also fell flat on the face.
India-Pakistan films as a genre seem to be taking a beating at the box office.
This year Chandrapakrash Diwedi's stunning look at India and Pakistan after the partition in "Pinjar" was a miserable failure. Sawan Kumar's idealistic cross-border romance "Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya" was a miserable flop.
But the biggest blow to anti-Pakistan patriotism in Indian cinema was the failure of J.P. Dutta's "LOC", a big brilliant epic depiction of Pakistan's invasion of Kargil. The film's graphic war scenes, reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" found no favour with Indian audiences.
War has clearly run its course. Ram Gopal Varma's super ambitious epic "Ek" about international espionage with blunt references to terrorist activities in Pakistan has been shelved.
Cinema now needs to look at a definite peace plan. Farah Khan's "Main Hoon Na" is a step in the right direction.