India and Pakistan may be divided by sub-continental politics, but one popular OTT platform, Zee5, is quietly building cultural bridges between the two traditionally hostile neighbours. Over the past year, Zee5 has streamed three Pakistani web series – ‘Churails’, directed by Asim Abbasi; the family drama series ‘Ek Jhoothi Love Story’ (EJLS); and ‘Dhoop Ki Deewar’ (DKD), revolving around the friendship of two young people from India and Pakistan.
As the finale of DKD was being streamed over the weekend, the news agency, caught up with a director, three actresses and a writer, all associated with the three shows, and asked them how artistes can provide the glue to bind the two countries, which are both celebrating the platinum jubilee of their independence. The sound bites of the artistes from the other side of the border:
Asim Abbasi (Director, ‘Churails’): Art should facilitate something that political conflicts are unable to do – that is, building bridges between nations. For the last few days, that is exactly what I am doing. I have been speaking to Indian journalists. I am sitting here in the UK, but I am Pakistani. We are connecting through the medium of storytelling, which is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. Our agenda is different than that of politicians. We are not stoking hatred. Our stories bring people together.
Nimra Bucha (Actress, ‘Churails’): I would love to see politics, the way it is, being removed from the equation between the two countries. Our history is so bitter and sweet at the same time; our fates are intertwined. That cannot be changed. Art comes from the heart, from emotions. And artistes are emotional creatures. I do not know what politics is driven by, but it surely is fueling negative emotions, because that makes politics and politicians winners on both sides of the border. We cannot ignore the fact that we have had a painful past. I think the role of art and the artiste is to work towards a collaboration to address this pain.
Sarwat Gilani (Actress, ‘Churails’): Art and music do not respect borders. The world is moving forward, but, in our heads, we are still stuck somewhere in the past. People from both sides of the border do not have bad feelings for each other. Even in Pakistan, unless there is a political point being thrown across, the love between the people of the two countries always surfaces. If we keep the politics aside, we are respectful of each other.
Madiha Imam (Actress, EJLS): I went to India to shoot my first-ever feature film and that too with my all-time favorite Manisha Koirala. It was her comeback and the name of the film was ‘Dear Maya’. This was in 2017. We shot the film in Delhi, Shimla and Mumbai. I went to all these places … it was such a lovely experience.
Umera Ahmed (Writer, EJLS and DKD): I am a proud Pakistani, but an artiste too. I do not think that to show my patriotism and love for my country, I have to show and spread hate for our neigbouring country. As a mother, to show how much I love my child, shall I start hating other children? The same goes for the country.
–By Arundhuti Banerjee