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The Enemy Within

Friday, October 07, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

It’s a battle nobody can win, and like most battles these days, it is being fought on social media, the issue of Pakistani actors in Indian films.

If someone says that art is beyond political differences, then, in the current climate they would be accused of being traitors to the country, if someone asserts that Pakistani actors should be banned, then the liberal lobby will accuse them of being narrow-minded and jingoistic. And, when there are so many more serious problems facing the country and the world, this bickering over actors in films seems like a waste of breath, airtime and newsprint.

However, film industry people on both sides of the border are being forced to take the hardline patriotic stance, and if they prefer to be moderate or non-committal, then anyone with a social media handle thinks it is alright to troll and abuse them.

When patriotic emotions are running high, then even if someone, like actress Ramya, says something as innocuous as Pakistan is not the hell it is made out to be, she is put through the wringer!

The matter of Pakistani actors in Indian films and vice-versa, is a prickly issue, more so after their attack on Indian soil.  Directors cite creative freedom for choosing whoever they think suits the role in their film; the anti-Pak lobby says, can’t they find Indian actors talented enough? At some point the argument ceases to be about films, it can very quickly expand to demands of a strict ‘son-of-the-soil’ policy in every other field, and Mumbai has already seen the consequences of this kind of aggressive political posturing.  This restrictive patriotism invariably leads to violence and damage to life and property.

Pakistan is seen as an enemy country and supporter of terrorism, but will the campaign to throw out their actors not descend to a call to throw out all foreigners, setting of quotas for local actors in all films and all manner of political opportunism?  Hardly anyone thinks that the other nation/s can retaliate and throw out Indians from their countries too. There is no end to this.

Karan Johar’s film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, starring Fawad Khan, will face the immediate brunt of it, if there is a call to ban his film. On social media is a post going viral, by an Indian armyman, who says that if soldiers can sacrifice their lives for the country, why can’t a filmmaker sacrifice his profits from a film?  Another post going around demands a ban on all Chinese products being sold in India, because China supports Pakistan.  And so it goes…

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