Sohail Khan boosts India-Pakistan film collaboration

Precedents of India-Pakistan collaboration in films are few and far between. But a film by Sohail Khan promises to be a path-breaker.

While Sohail plays the lead role of a non-resident Indian battling racism in "I: Proud To Be An Indian", a Britain-based Pakistani actor Imran has been cast as Sohail's best friend.

Imran plays a Pakistani, who's as much a victim of racism in Britain as the Indian hero. The film's leading lady Henna is also a Britain-based Pakistani.

The film "Henna" was the first serious collaborative effort to bring actors from the two countries together in an Indian film.

Raj Kapoor devised the story of an Indian man who falls in love with a Pakistani girl. When Raj Kapoor died leaving his dream project incomplete his son Randhir Kapoor finally directed "Henna".

Dozens of girls were auditioned to play the coveted role of Henna. Kapoor finally zeroed in on Zeba Bakhtiar. Though "Henna" made Zeba an overnight star she couldn't make much headway in Bollywood.

After a couple of tentative assignments like "Stuntman" and "Jai Vikranta", Zeba vanished out of sight.

Her reputation as a tantrum queen still brings a smile to the lips of Bollywood denizens. Earlier it was singer-actress Salma Agha who was given a dream break by B.R. Chopra in the film "Nikaah". The film was a huge hit, and Salma Agha got to sing all her songs in the film.

But her attitude and her unfortunate choice of roles in nondescript films like "Pati Patni Aur Tawaif" and "Salma" -- she played the title role in both -- sent her scuttling back to Pakistan.

If one goes back even earlier, actor-filmmaker Manoj Kumar had invited Mohammed Husain and his wife to play his brother and sister-in-law in the film "Clerk".

But this is the sum-total of Pakistani actors' contribution to Bollywood.

The singers too haven't quite smashed records.

Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan made an impact with her track "Aap jaisa koi" in Feroz Khan's "Qurbani". But her subsequent soundtrack for the film "Star" flopped and so did her dreams of taking on the Bollywood charts.

Sohail Khan's efforts to bring Pakistani artistes into Bollywood coincide with the open door cultural policy between the two countries.

Today Bollywood is far more open to Pakistani contribution than earlier. While Zeba flopped, her former husband Adnan Sami is a huge hit in Bollywood.

If Imran and Henna get more offers to do Hindi films after "I: Proud To Be An Indian", there may be a floodgate of actors from Pakistan in Bollywood, though the opposite exodus seems unlikely for a long time.