Ghaddari (n): betrayal.
The word betrayal conjures up many events and memories for Pakistanis. Memories range from the betrayal of the USA during the India-Pakistan wars, to the betrayal of local politicians. Yet, perhaps the most important one lies in the entertainment industry.
It is the betrayal of Lollywood’s actors leaping towards Bollywood.
For decades there has been a rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the screen is not exempt from it. The animosity between Bollywood and Lollywood is only fuelled by the fact that, recently, several Pakistani actors have done projects for the Indian film industry. The reaction of the Pakistani awaam has been less than pleasant, citing the 2019 ban of Bollywood films from most streaming services in Pakistan.
So, is this reaction justified, or does it stem from a history of hatred? Are actors confined to their respective countries or should they break free from a 7-decade-long feud?
As Lollywood progresses and Pakistani actors become more adventurous and open, these are some of the vital questions that need answering.
This whole debate started in 2016 when Pakistani actress, Mahira Khan, joined forces with Indian actor and producer, Shah Rukh Khan, for the Bollywood film Raees. Almost immediately, people started labelling Mahirah as “khaddar”, with many people saying that she was a traitor to Lollywood and Pakistan. The Pakistani government originally did not allow the movie to air in the country, especially because of the 2016 URI attacks. But, it was later given a public release in January 2017.
This is not the only incident where the people turned against Pakistani actors being in Indian productions.
Fawad Khan received immense criticism and hate online for his role in two Bollywood films: Khoobsurat and Kapoor and Sons. He was also called a traitor to his country and, for a few weeks, there was talk of his removal from Lollywood altogether. Though, this did not happen. The actor defended his right to find opportunities and expand his horizons – emphasizing that he was not just confined to one acting industry.
But why is there resistance against Indian-Pakistani joint film ventures in the first place?
Some Pakistani filmmakers believe the size of the Indian film industry is so big that it could smother their own while some say that private news channels are distributing and promoting Indian movies illegally. The reason that this is inflicting a financial loss on the local film industry.
Prominent Director Syed Noor says, “I am not against Pakistani artists working in Indian movies; I am against Indian movies being shown in Pakistan as they are damaging our culture and norms,”
These are not the only celebrities to have faced this criticism. Several other models and actors – Ali Zafar, Saba Qamar, Mawra Hocane only to name a few – don the label of ‘traitors’ and receive criticism for “conspiring with the enemy.”
But is this point of view justified? Or must this rivalry remain confined to politics and not the entertainment industry?
The question remains unanswered.