Pakistani stars ditch Lollywood for Bolly

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Pakistani stars ditch Lollywood for Bollywood

By Shoaib Ahmed

LAHORE: A lack of good quality productions and the slump in local cinema have led Pakistani movie stars to India, where they are tripping over each other to sign onto the next ‘peace’ film.

These actors and actresses like to highlight that their performances across the border give a boost to India-Pakistan relations. However, while the top talent enjoys the more professional, and lucrative, experience of working in India, less glamorous film industry professionals are running out of work. And since Indian movies are still banned, Pakistanis will not see these ‘peace films’ in local cinemas.

“Cinema can bridge the gap between Pakistan and India,” says actress Meera. “I would like to dedicate my performance in Nazar Kay Samnay (a film she is currently working on in India) to good relations between India and Pakistan.”

Mahesh Bhatt, a famous Indian film writer and director, has also signed Meera for his upcoming British-Indian production. She also says she is independently producing a film in India - with a budget of Rs 60 million – that will be directed by Karan Johar.

The problem with the local film industry, according to several film stars, is that it lacks professionals and skilled technical people, and equipment. Meera pointedly praised Bollywood as very professional.

Sana and Javed Sheikh performed in Indian film Sitam, a film both signed together a few months ago. “Every other person in the film industry is claiming that they have signed an Indian film, but there are few who have actually signed,” says Sana.

According to sources in the film industry, actresses Laila and Nirma are constantly in touch with friends in Mumbai to search for roles in India movies.

Sana downplayed her participation, saying it was nothing special. “I do not feel good expressing extra jubilation over such projects. Artists working in other countries are normal. The world has now become a global village. There should be no boundaries for artists and they should be able perform anywhere.”

Javed Sheikh, a staunch supporter of co-productions with India, feels no such restraint. “It felt working in India. I hold Bollywood in high esteem. They are highly professional.”

And he is working with them again. Sana and Javed Sheikh have signed onto Paak, a movie about India-Pakistan relation. Javed Sheikh is currently in Bombay for the shooting of the film Das. He has also recently signed Kareena Kapoor for his film Khulay Asman Kay Nichay.

Veena Malik, another Pakistani actress has performed in Indian flick Pind Di Kuri, a copy of Pakistani film Baoo Jee. The film is to be released in India soon.

Moamar Rana is in India these days, where his first movie Dobarra was released on Friday. He stars alongside Mahima Chaudhry, and apparently those two are to appear in another Indian movie soon.

Moaammar’s work in India has delayed the Geo TV serial Muhabat Ka Sahar, which is also a Pakistan-India project. The director is Indian Ravi Roy and it includes an Indian and Pakistani cast. The serial will now begin shooting in Switzerland in October.

While the current rapprochement between India and Pakistan has spawned the recent glut of movies about peace and cross-border ties, creating a fashion in India for Pakistani stars, the bubble will eventually burst. That is why some Pakistani artists are taking a longer term view.

Actress Samina Peerzada wants the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) to have a film secretariat, under which a regional cinema could be developed. She believes movies addressing regional issues would have more weighty subject matter and have access to more professional film-making techniques.

Heavyweights from across the border agree. Indians Nandita Das, Raj Babbar, Mahesh Bhatt and Pooja Bhatt have all voiced support for co-productions in visits to Pakistan.

Earlier this year, a delegation of film producers and directors were invited to Mumbai by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce for the Global Entertainment Convention (March 15-17). The delegates described their visit as a roaring success.

They met Indian film icons such as Yash Chopra and Dharmindra. They discussed a number of possible co-productions, and had discussions on film rights. The recently met the federal culture secretary, Khalid Latif, and discussed the co-production issue with him at length.

But with all the top Pakistani talents going across the border for work, most of them claiming to be doing it for peace, the local film industry shrinks further into obscurity. Local studios are empty, with even most big Pakistani projects preferring to shoot abroad.

The lower paid film industry professionals are suffering. Light-men, make-up artists, laboratory technicians, cameramen and extras have less work.

“Our local film people are no way inferior to those in India,” says Khanu Samrat.

Although prominent choreographers don’t have any problem, small choreographers are affected because of drowning film industry in Pakistan, he said. He said Pakistani artists were not being given their due respect that was why they could not shine. He said although Indian choreographer Feroj Khan is an icon in his country, he could not perform well in Pakistan because “there isn’t appreciation here”.

Director Syed Noor was happy that with the departure of “substandard” actors to India, Pakistani film industry would be cleaned. He said that low budget films had spoiled the film standards in Pakistan. He said that he was a “talent-hunter” and was keen to introduce new talent in films.
Posted 25 Sep 2004

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