Permanent anger, temporary casualties

Published: 01st October 2016 11:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2016 04:36 PM   |  A+A-

Two categories of performers have the power to sway the masses. One is the politician and the other the public entertainer, who sings, dances, acts or does all three. When the twain mix, all hell breaks loose.
Bollywood, which makes war against Pakistan on screen, is embroiled in an Indo-Pak war off it. The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association banned Pakistani actors, singers and technicians saying, “No Pakistani will be hired by their producer members for ever.” In response, movie halls across the border boycotted Indian films.
War is ugly. So is rhetoric. Both Salman Khan and Karan Johar got trolled for criticising the ban. Extreme-right wing parties threatened to eliminate any Pak actor found in India. Concerts of Pakistan singers Shafqat Amanat Ali and Atif Aslam were canned. Many Pak actors responded jingoistically; Hamza Ali Abbasi said Pak actors must boycott Bollywood.
It’s easier said than done, however.
Singers like Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan are hugely popular in India, commanding monstrous fees for both private and public performances. Albums of Nusrat Ali Khan, Abida Parveen and  Farida Khanum are sold in lakhs, earning royalties of hundreds of crores. Indian producers have invested huge money in Pakistani actors.
Pakistani actor Fawad Khan was asked to leave India for not showing solidarity to the victims of the Uri attack. Johar, his producer, dropped  him from his TV show. Raj Thackeray ordered producers to drop actress Mahira Khan, who makes her B-town debut in Raees. Its release has been postponed. Because patritism trumps ideology, the Congress and not even the Left are willing to oppose the ban.
India’s liberal establishment has been traumatised by incidents of vandalism, like had happened against M F Husain and a similar ban in January of Ghulam Ali’s concert.
After the Uri attack, outraged political leaders asked Pak actors to condemn terror sponsors at home, an impossible task. Unlike India, Pakistan is a democracy but in name, dominated by religious fanatics and an Islamist Army whose only policy is terror against India. It’s one of the most unsafe countries for artistes. Thirteen musicians, singers and artistes have been slaughtered across the country since 2008, the last prominent killing being of noted qawwal singer Amjad Sabri, a favorite in both countries. The murder of Pak model Qandeel Baloch by her brother shocked the fraternity. In 2015, two entertainers—dancer Sangam Rana and actress Mussarat Shaheen—were murdered. Singer Adnan Sami, who lost both weight and his Pakistani citizenship after he moved to India and became naturalised, was trolled by enraged former countrymen for the Indian Army’s surgical strikes last week.
As actor Riteish Deshmukh rightly said, artists are soft targets. The Danish cartoonist who lampooned Prophet Muhammed is still in hiding under police protection. The offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked and the staff was massacred by Islamic fanatics. The banal truth about the human spirit, however, is that life goes on. Soon, the anger over the Uri massacre will abate. Aslam will be back to sing in India. Actors like Fawad will get signed up by producers for hefty fees.  Only, at present, art is the political casualty.

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