One-Sided Pakistan Love In Bollywood
The show of love and cordiality by Pakistani spy agents and populace towards India and its people, depicted in Bollywood films, has throughout been accompanied by hostility and violent attacks in real life.
In Pathaan, which released on 25 January amid online and street protests, Shahrukh Khan plays an agent of India’s intelligence wing RAW while Deepika Padukone, an agent of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.
RAW is Research and Analysis Wing and ISI is Inter-Services Intelligence.
In one of their banters, he learns about her past of doctor-turned-ISI agent and observes, “So you joined ISI for serving humanity.”
The exact phrase used is “insaniyat ki khidmat”.
Unlike the film’s antagonist Jim, who is a former Indian soldier gone rogue (he is a ‘Veer Puraskar’ awardee, where censor board got Ashok Chakra to be replaced with this title), Deepika’s character of Rubina Mohsin has no disagreements with her government.
She remarks that there is only one rotten apple in her (noble) country — a certain military general. “If my people find out about him, they will bloody hang him,” she says.
Eventually, she allies with ‘Pathaan’ to kill Jim who is creating a biological bomb to kill Indians, over a fallout with the Indian government.
One wonders if the filmmakers confused ISI with UNICEF in this humanitarian portrayal of an agency notorious for its role in terrorism. Or, for that matter, the various ISI (Indian Statistical Institute) colleges.
In this regard, a tweet by defence journalist Gaurav Sawant went viral in which he wrote, “Pak ISI is friendly only in Bollywood films. In life, ISI has been responsible for bleeding India from 1993 Mumbai serial blasts (257 killed) to 26/11 (166 killed) and despite being permitted to probe Pathankot, has refused to probe and punish perpetrators of radical Islamist terror.”
It is waiting to be seen if the film still gets a release in Pakistan, which banned Ek Tha Tiger and its sequel Tiger Zinda Hai from the so-called ‘YRF Spy Universe’, of which Pathaan is the latest, for merely showing a Pakistani spy (played by Katrina Kaif) fall in love with an Indian spy (played by Salman Khan).
This was despite Kaif's character shown as friendly towards India.
The film’s writer-director Kabir Khan had expressed surprise at Pakistan’s decision saying his film “is not anti-Pakistan”. The film paid the price because Bollywood has made “insensitive and jingoistic films in the past”, complained Khan, who, as readers might remember, called Mughals “the original national builders” in a 2021 interview.
Pathaan’s pro-ISI plot has angered many Indians, who have expressed their protest on the social media. The anger seems to be not limited to this film but a reaction to Bollywood’s serial glorification of Pakistanis through fictionalised plots.
Spate Of Pro-Pakistan Films
In recent times, films such as PK (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015, also written-directed by Kabir Khan), Raazi (2018), Indoo Ki Jawani (2020) and 83 (2021) were blatant, almost cringe-worthy, in their pro-Pakistan agenda.
PK showed an Indian Hindu woman fall in love with a Pakistani Muslim man, during her studies in Belgium, but prevented from marrying him by a Hindu ‘godman’ because of his religion.
While the ‘godman’ leads her to believe that Sarfaraz betrayed her, she later finds out that he, in fact, is so committed to her that he has been annoying the Pakistani embassy officials by repeatedly asking if they have received a call from her.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan showed an Indian Hindu man cross the border to reach Pakistan, for a humanitarian act of returning a girl who had accidentally separated from her Pakistani parents, while they were on a visit to India. The film’s portrayal of Pakistanis is so kind that one wonders why any Hindu, Sikh or Christian ever migrates to India to live in the slums as refugees.
For instance, commuters on a bus in Pakistan are so impressed by Pawan Chaturvedi’s intentions that they unitedly hoodwink cops for him. The first maulana he meets turns out to be a progressive man who does not mind Pawan’s religious views and even says “Jai Shri Ram.”
The kindness of Pakistanis impresses Pawan, a shakha-going Sanghi, so much that he starts doing salaam instead of namaste, and visits a mosque for dua when he is on the verge of losing hope that he can ever unite the girl with her parents.
In the mosque, plays a Sufi qawwali “Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad”, which incidentally was composed in Pakistan several decades ago. The qawwali featured in a 1975 Pakistani Bin Badal Barsaat (1975), before seeping to the other side of the border in no time.
In the 1978 movie Ganga ki Saugandh, a character named Kallu Chamar (Pran), tired of atrocities by a nexus of Pandit-Lala-Thakur, discovers humanity in a mosque with this song as background score.
The film was incidentally written by Wajahat Hussain Mirza Changezi (and produced-directed by his nephew Sultan Ahmed), who permanently shifted to Pakistan shortly later.
Raazi, which told the real story of an Indian woman who went to Pakistan as a secret RAW agent, was severely criticised by the author of the book on which the film was based. Harinder Sikka, author of Calling Sehmat, openly expressed his anger towards director Meghna Gulzar for “her pro-Pakistan approach”.
Sikka said he had made a blunder by letting Gulzar adapt his book. Among other things, he said that while the film showed the agent coming home depressed and disillusioned with the RAW operation, she had, in reality, returned to a royal red carpet welcome and saluted the tricolour.
Indoo Ki Jawani, produced by T-Series, stands out in this list for its plot of showing a Pakistani Muslim man saving an Indian Hindu woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad city from a terrorist, who incidentally has no name or religion. Eventually, the two fall in love.
The plot is bizarre in its development and shows that the man is on a visit to India to meet his relatives and hooks up with the woman through “Dinder” (a play on Tinder).
When the woman expresses surprise and fear that he is not an Indian but a Pakistani, the man shames her for being a bigot.
Film 83, also written and directed by Kabir Khan, was based on the Kapil Dev-led Indian Cricket team winning the World Cup in 1983.
The film went out of its way to show Pakistanis cheering the Indian victory. It showed Indian soldiers hooked to cricket commentary and thereby failing to respond to attacks by the Pakistani Army along the border.
Eventually, the latter is filled with compassion and decides to stop the bombing so their counterparts in India can enjoy the match.
Fiction Versus Reality
This show of love and cordiality by Pakistani spy agents and populace towards India and its people, depicted in Bollywood films, has throughout been accompanied by hostility in real life.
In a sensational disclosure in 2020, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry admitted to Pakistan’s role in the dastardly Pulwama attack a year earlier, where at least 49 Indian soldiers were killed.
Earlier, Bollywood films such as Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999) have been made with a similar agenda, only to be proved devastatingly wrong.
The Veeru Devgan-production was seen by many as a promoter of the controversial Gujral doctrine that dismantled India’s covert action in Pakistan, and showed Indians and Pakistanis embracing each other to mutually agree to end all conflicts.
The same year this film released, India was caught off-guard when Pakistan launched an intrusion in Kargil.
Later, horrifying details emerged of Pakistan’s conduct after Captain Saurabh Kalia and his soldiers were captured by Pakistani troops. They were brutally tortured and killed in gross violation of the Geneva Convention.
Their bodies were burnt with cigarettes butts, limbs were chopped off, teeth were broken, skulls were fractured, nose and lips were cut off, ear drums were pierced with hot iron rods, genitals were chopped off and eyes were punctured.
Pakistan’s role in carrying out Jihadi terrorism in Kashmir is undisputed and well-known. But in 2014, Bollywood director-producer Vishal Bhardwaj and writer Basharat peer joined hands to release Haider, a brazen one-sided portrayal of the conflict in Kashmir to show the Indian Army and state as the real enemy of peace.
In sharp contrast to Bollywood, the Pakistani film industry has made no films showing Indian agencies or its majority population in even slightly good light.
A 2013 film Waar, which was Pakistan’s most expensive film when it released, showed RAW carrying out terror attacks in Pakistan.
The film also whitewashed hate-fuelled Islamist atrocities and showed Hindu faith in a bad light, through scenes where Pakistanis were shown discussing how all those who converted to Islam in the Indian sub-continent did so because they found their original beliefs to be outdated in front of Islam.
The second part of the film is in the making.
The same year that Waar released in Pakistan, its lead actress Meesha Shafi appeared in Bollywood film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The film’s distributor was ARY Films, which went on to distribute PK in Pakistan the very next year.
The lead actor of Waar, Shaan Shahid, has a history of playing the lead in virulently anti-Hindu films such as Moosa Khan and Musalman, both of which released just three years after Hindustan Ki Kasam.
Musalman (2001) was based on the conflict in Kashmir, which Pakistan has been claiming as its own since Partition. The film begins with ’leke rahenge azaadi’ slogans and a Muslim woman telling her child to end “Hindu raj”. This is followed by scenes showing Indian Army men killing innocent Muslim children and raping Muslim women.
The film also featured Zeba Bakhtiyar and Jawed Sheikh, both Pakistani superstars who have appeared in Bollywood films as well.
While Bakhtiar featured opposite Rishi Kapoor in the 1991 film Henna produced by RK Studios, Sheikh became a regular in Bollywood after Musalman.
He was cast in Ajay Devgn-starrer Shikhar (2005), Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar-starrer Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Akshay Kumar-starrer Namaste London (2007), Shahrukh Khan-starrer Om Shanti Om (2007), Jannat (2008), Yuvvraaj (2008), Tamasha (2015) and Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016).
Moosa Khan is the story of a Muslim boy who grows up amid extremist Hindu Pandits and avenge his father's murder. The Pandits, sporting tilak and saffron robes and shown as snarling, drooling evil men, live in a temple that has a python in sharp contrast to doves that grace a nearby mosque.
When Shahid's character is about to kill the evil Pandits who plead to be spared, he thunders, "Hindoo, tu Ram Ram karta ja, main Allah Allah karta jaunga" (Hindu, you keep chanting your Ram Ram, I will chant Allah instead).
Aamir Khan famously offered Shahid a lead role in his 2008 film Ghajini, which he declined due to personal reasons.
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