Dear Mahira Khan, We’d Love To Have You In Bollywood, But…..

Dear Ms. Mahira Khan

 It’s so delightful to see you and the very gifted director, my erstwhile friend Shoaib Mansoor create  a powerful statement against sexual violence and power-misappropriation in the film Verna.

 I say  ‘erstwhile friend’ because Shoaib Saab was very gracious and cordial to begin with when  I praised him for his stunning debut Khuda  Ke Liye.Later he cooled off when things warmed up at the border. I could sense his growing lack of warmth, prompted no doubt, by the growing hostility between the two countries.

 I don’t blame him. We all need to respect the sovereignty of our country. Art comes later.Which is why you could not enjoy our Indian hospitality when your Bollywood film Raees released last year. It was sad.And when we spoke on the phone you had expressed your sadness to me.

 You said, “No other actor here in Pakistan has got an opportunity like this(Raees). And it fell in my lap,due to whatever hard work that I may have done earlier.I didn’t have to look for it.I feel blessed. But at the same time I feel like that marathon runner who during the last lap just before the finishing line ,is made to drop out of the race.There was this feeling when it happened, ‘Oh Man, not right now. Now just before the release!”

And now I see you doing an interview with  the BBC, poised and articulate negotiating tricky questions on the violation of human rights in Pakistan, where you said Bollywood was never your priority. I remember you told me with such warmth  about your fascination with  Bollywood from your childhood and specially the cinema  of Guru Dutt, and how as a  child,you’d wait every Thursday for that  Bollywood film which you were treated  to  .

How could it not be your priority, when Pakistan,  with due respect , has so little of cinema  culture , besides of course ShoaibMansoor. And how many films can he make?

No, Mahira. You need Bollywood.And we appreciate  and  understand  your need  to be a part of the Indian entertainment  industry. But now is not the time. Not when Indian soldiers are  being killed on the border, when human rights are being violated and terrorism is being given a free reign in  your country.

 You may well say, what’s the political situation got to do with you? And  in a way  you are  right. The minds and  manoeuvres of politicians  are  beyond our understanding, But still, as I said we have to consider the  acute crisis and  the political sensitivities. Art seems trivial when  weighed  against the loss  of human lives at  the  border.

So we will wait to keep that  promise we had made when we spoke after Raees and you had  said, “We were  all like one big family during the making Raees.And I just felt happy connecting  with them long-distance.I know we’ll  celebrate whenever I am able to visit again.”

We’ll wait for that dawn which  your favourite Indian poet-lyricist Sahir Ladhianvi spoke about in the song Wohsubah kabhi tohaayegi:  “Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi, Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi,In Kaali Sadiyo Ke Sar Se, Jab Raat Kaa AanchalDhalakega,Jab Dukh Ke Badal Pighalenge, Jab Sukh Ka Sagar Chhalkega,Jab Ambar Jhum Ke Naachega, Jab Dharati NagameGaaegi..Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi.”

You had said to me, “I do only one film at a time.My first priority is my child. So it’s a lot of hard work . But it can  done.It’s all about choices. Many times I have to let go of good work.Fortunately the work I’ve done is worked for me. Yes, I am an anomaly in my country. I hope in the coming years there will be more women like me.”

I wait for the dawn when the sound of  the morning birds won’t be shattered  by the  din  of  blazing gun  and when  actors like you and Fawad Khan  can just walk  into India  without having to wait for visas.We  wait for that dawn when you can walk through the green channel at the  Mumbai  airport your head held high . Being a  single  mother the grace with which you conduct your life is inspirational to women on both sides  of  the border.

Sincerely yours

Subhash K Jha

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