Veteran Indian Actor, Shabana Azmi, in a recent interview said that artists of both countries have to play the peacemakers in Indo-Pak relations. She said that it is important for cultural exchange to be kept alive between the two countries. “War is not an option”, she says. Azmi has urged that more films be produced on the theme of peace between the two countries. The crux of her statements was that the citizens need to play the role of peacemakers, while the politicians go head to head in their warmongering ways. She specifically mentioned cricket as well, a sport which typically requires good sportsmanship, but it is turned ugly by citizens of both countries. Which is quite true, because, like most things, cricket too falls prey at times to extreme jingoistic nationalism. Azmi also said she hopes that more student exchange and cultural exchange programmes are spearheaded in the future as well.
Even though these ideas aren’t exactly novel in that they have been discussed before, Azmi has made some thought-provoking claims. And we do often see some artists on both sides exchanging positive dialogue on their Instagram or Twitter accounts. But, particularly in light of the existing atmosphere, entertainment cannot be a source of relief for citizens of both countries. Just recently, the Pakistan censor board banned the film Mulk in Pakistan. Even though the film supposedly tackles the stigmatization of Muslims in India and promotes peace between India and Pakistan. A few months ago, India banned Pakistani artists to undertake projects in the country as well. And of course, who can forget Swara Bhaskar’s atrocious comments on Pakistan when her film ‘Veere di Wedding’ was banned here.
So the question really is:
Is it ever possible for Azmi’s vision to be turned to reality? When both countries have all their institutions, including the entertainment industries, so heavily entwined with politically driven nationalism?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!