The artistic exchange between India and Pakistan has been as constant as the conflict between the two countries. Ever since the British left after dividing the country in two, both sides have been facing protracted violence interspersed with the visceral awareness of a shared heritage. So far, the bond has paradoxically co-existed with bloodshed. Indians love watching Pakistani plays. Before the advent of satellite television, they would position their television antennas in a way that would catch transmission from the volatile neighbor.
Pakistan, on its part, has been an avid fan of Bollywood films. Over time, artists, including singers, actors, models and even students have tried to thaw the political chill with the warmth of art. Their efforts have withstood political hostilities. But now, there’s a new challenge – the outpouring of anger on both sides over the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the backlash it triggered.
Recently, singer Mika was banned from working by the Federation of Western India Cine Employees after he performed in Pakistan. Initially, he stood by his decision but as pressure mounted, he apologized. The ban was later revoked. Mika was defended from unexpected quarters – silver screen actress Shilpa Shinde, who courted controversy with her statement daring anyone to stop her from performing in Pakistan if given the opportunity. “You say you are independent, but who among you really is?” She asked, reacting to the ban on Mika.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena under Raj Thackeray has hopped on to the vitriolic bandwagon with its demand for a blanket ban on Pakistani singers. “We have verbally communicated to Indian music companies like T-Series, Sony Music, Venus, Tips Music, etc. to not work with Pakistani singers. These companies should stop it immediately or we will take action in our own style,” said Amey Khopkar, head of the MNS Chitrapat Sena. Cultural equations on both sides are mirroring the political situation. Will the hostility subside with time? Will the desire for good art supersede bloodlust? Time will tell.