Is Bollywood more open to foreign artistes now, including Pakistani singers, actors and other artistes? Going by the number of Pakistani artistes who’re currently working in the Indian entertainment industry, it may seem so.
There’s no doubt that Bollywood is attracting talent from all over the world, including that from Pakistan. And that is because of the growing reach of Bollywood movies. Initially, it started with Pakistani singers, and now several Pakistani actors and actresses are trying to get a foot-hold in the Hindi film industry.
Bollywood is indeed one of the biggest film industries in Asia, and is seen by several foreign artistes as a lucrative market. No wonder, you have several singers & actors from Pakistan who are trying their luck here. And the good thing is that most of them are getting success too.
Working in Bollywood is looked upon as a huge achievement in Pakistan
Pakistani television actress Momal Sheikh, who’s making her debut in Hindi cinema with the romantic comedy ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’ (HBJ), starring Abhay Deol, says that working in Bollywood is looked upon as a huge achievement in Pakistan.
“Pakistani actors feel the same pride for Bollywood that Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra feel for Hollywood,” says Momal.
Momal Sheikh was offered three Bollywood films (including Welome Back) but had to turn them down because she was pregnant. So when she was offered ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’, she jumped at the opportunity. Momal Sheikh left her two month old son Ibrahim with his husband so that she could focus on her Bollywood debut film.
Pakistani musicians were always popular in India, but now Pakistani actors like Fawad, Mahira (working with Shah Rukh Khan) and Mawra are also finding work in Bollywood.
In fact, Fawad Khan has set the bar too high for Pakistani actors.
Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai song featuring Sonam Kapoor and Pakistani actor Fawad Khan
Is Bollywood More Receptive to Pakistani Singers Now?
It’s a fact that Pakistani actors are now finding good work in Bollywood. Even Pakistani singers are delivering some of the biggest hits in recent times, and probably also making decent money.
That’s perhaps one reason that some political parties are also demanding that Pakistani artistes be banned from Bollywood (its got to do more with politics than the market dynamics). Bollywood insiders however maintain that art and entertainment have no boundaries, and that politics should not be mixed with politics.
So is it that Bollywood as well as the Indian audience has matured now, and are more receptive to international artistes?
Is the audience mature enough to keep art and politics separate, or is it just a temporary phenomenon?
Bollywood Has Come a Long Way
Among Bollywood’s earliest singers, Shamshad Begum (who gave us immortal songs like “Kajra mohabbat wala”, “Leke pehla pehla pyar”) was in the news recently because of her death, to which one of the Pakistani newspapers commented:
“Although India is “much kinder” to its creative artists than Pakistan has ever been, Shamshad Begum was “stepped over” for other singers in the 1960s, as her voice was considered too powerful for the cinema in those days”.
Many acknowledge that Bollywood films are largely defined by the music they offer, and those who’re talented in vocals, lyrics, & composition can expect fame & fortune here.
Besides, Bollywood has only gotten bigger in recent years, and most of its big budget movies now are released in countries outside India as well (and they are popular as well there).
In a recent interview, Atif Aslam did acknowledge that Pakistani artiste’s look forward to working in India for greater visibility, commercial success and opportunities as the local film industry is not well established.
That explains why Bollywood is attracting foreign talent, including Pakistani singers.
Cultural Similarities & Talent
Another reason that some of the Pakistani singers are popular here is because of our cultural similarities.
Their singers have long been popular here, because of their knowledge of Indian classical music. Bollywood’s music directors were trained in Indian classical music and their compositions (in the earlier decades) were also heavily based on ragas, and that’s why they respected Pakistani singers who had a command of classical music.
Among their greatest is Ghulam Ali (“chupke chupke raat din” fame), he also sang for a Bollywood movie called Nikah. And before Ali, it was another ghazal maestro, Mehdi Hasan, who was a household name in India (popular because of his private concerts and not because he sang in films here).
Then came Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was known for singing qawwalis, but was made popular here by Bally Sagoo, who remixed his great works, which instantly became a hit with the young crowd. Gradually, the people here started knowing more about Nusrat’s work.
Their younger singers are already popular here in India, thanks to the Internet, and because some of them have already scored music/sung for Hollywood films (Pakistani singers are definitely more “experimental” with their music).
Peace Campaigns at Work
Several times in the past, the hospitality that the Pakistani singers have enjoyed here in India have been disrupted because of terrorist activities, which were completely exploited by various political groups as well.
The hugely popular Pakistani band “Strings” gets several requests every month to perform in India but visa clearance became almost impossible post 26/11. It used to take at-least 3 months to get the visa cleared, unlike before.
Since then, there have been several efforts by local groups to ensure that “peace” between these two countries doesn’t remain fragile.
The campaign launched by Times of India and Jang group Pakistan named “Aman ki Asha”, and the help offered by singers from both India & Pakistan to it, seems to be working.
Pakistani Actors in India
Several Pakistani actors and actresses have worked in Bollywood films. While Bollywood attracts global talent, Pakistani actors are at a disadvantage right now due to the fragile political equation between the two countries (many are losing out on good roles).
Popular Pakistani Singers Here
These names need no introduction here; they’re from Pakistan and currently doing great work in Bollywood. This list also includes the names of a few legends, who have fans worldwide.
Politics & Music
There are many in India who feel that Indian movie makers should not allow Pakistani singers to sing in Bollywood. The following reasons are commonly cited:
However, the fact is that Pakistan’s film industry is almost dead, and even if they were more welcoming, our Indian stars may not find it lucrative to perform there.
Offer them Dubai, and they would be more than happy to perform there!
Secondly, as mentioned earlier, Bollywood is becoming global, so irrespective of people like it or not, you’ll find a lot of foreign artistes and crew working here in India. Eventually, the money is flowing into our country one way or the other.
And as far as talent is considered, this is probably the best time, for newcomers even within our country, as there are so many opportunities to showcase you talent, and even music composers are open to experimenting with talented newcomers.
Are They All Deserving?
Most of the time, when anybody opposes artistes from Pakistan, it’s more of a political stunt. Then there are some who just like to oppose whatever comes from Pakistan.
But, do all the Pakistani artistes who’re trying to make a career here deserve the money or the opportunity to work here?
Singers like Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali, and Nusrat were already popular in several countries because of their talent, before they became popular in India. In fact, most of them only had limited interest in films.
However, can it be said about the new breed of Pakistani singers as well?
Well, if they only see Bollywood is a lucrative career option, then it’s more of a generation thing than the country. Even if you take Indian artistes, money is an important factor for them as well.
Rahul Vaidya (whose only claim to fame is that he was “Indian Idol’s” runner ‘s up) drives a Audi car which is priced around one-crore rupees (was in the news lately as a BEST bus brushed against his car).
So, there’s no doubt that the younger generation wants fame & money faster, even if they lack talent.
Talent Wins in the Long Run
Bollywood has several examples where aspiring musicians did a few songs, got their share of fame, but quickly disappeared from the scene as well.
The moment you become monotonous, and don’t have the skills to sing a variety of songs, you’re very likely to fade away.
So even though “un-trained” Pakistani singers are trying to make the most of Bollywood’s commercialization, they are not likely to survive in the longer run.