By Sarwat Ali
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has taken a commendable step in naming two houses where the greatest film personalities of the subcontinent were born, as "qaumi virsa". Two stars born in Peshawar are Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor who spent the early part of their lives in Mohallah Khudadad and Dhaki Munawar Shah of Peshawar before going on to dominate the Indian film industry for the next few decades.
Due to the tense relationship between India and Pakistan, some of the most evident realities like the commonality of heritage and the recognition of each country's areas of excellence have often been ignored. On the whole the relationship has been marred with ambiguity and inconsistency and this to a large degree has blighted the sensibilities and perceptions as well. When some local film star decides to work in an Indian film it creates uproar, and is not seen as a natural progression. Qurratulain Hyder was stymied for having moved to India after making Pakistan her home and Faiz Ahmed Faiz also resisted taking up assignments in India for fear of being misunderstood.
Dilip Kumar went to Bombay in search of a film career and after a few failures was able to make good with 'Jugnu' released a few months before the partition of India. Noor Jehan, the heroine of the film, born in Kasur took an unexpected decision and came to Pakistan with her husband who was born in United Province, now Uttar Pradesh. Noor Jehan's decision has never been truly acknowledged for she was an established star while Dilip Kumar had just made it. He decided to stay back in the capital of film making in the subcontinent and was not to regret it as he went on to become the most adored hero of the silver screen, winning laurels from connoisseurs as well as the man in the street.
He only came to Pakistan, that too for a humanitarian cause and as he also went to visit his ancestral house, he was given an unprecedented welcome and people actually came out on to the street to greet him like a head of state or a national hero who has won laurels for the country. Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano were overwhelmed and thanked Pakistanis for the display of overflowing love and admiration. Prithviraj Kapoor also migrated first to Calcutta and then to Bombay from Peshawar and not only became a famous film personality but founded a whole dynasty that has since dominated the film world.
Ustad Bare Ghulam Ali Khan too bid goodbye to Pakistan after a couple of years of living and struggling here to find his true place but was forced to migrate as he found more appreciation and reward for his music in India. He only came back once to Pakistan while on his way to Kabul to attend the very famous annual festival called Jashan-e-Kabul. In the case of Bare Ghulam Ali Khan, too, though he quit the country he was generously adored and admired by the lovers of classical music and all his achievements in India were seen as justified achievements of a son of the Punjab. Even when his son Ustad Munawwar Ali Khan, who spent his childhood in Lahore and then grandsons when they visited the city were given a warm welcome and a protocol that far exceeded what their talent deserved because citizens were paying homage to Bare Ghulam Ali Khan and not to his grandchildren.
If both sides begin to count the number of such personalities these can run into thousands. Two of the Nobel Laureates, Hargobind Khorana and Subramanyam Chandrashekhar, who were acknowledged for Medicine in 1968 and Physics in 1983, were born in Khanewal and Lahore respectively. Shahrukh Khan, the current superstar of Indian too would have been born in Peshawar if his father had not decided to move to Delhi in the middle 1940s just a couple of years before partition. The rest of the family still lives in Peshawar and his uncles and cousins all hope that some day Shahrukh Khan will pay them a visit and probably receive the kind of adulation that Dilip Kumar received in the 1980s.
Two of the Indian Prime Ministers Inder Kumar Gujral and Manmohan Singh played in the dusty street of Jhelum. Gulzar, a famous lyricist, was born there while the current honchos of the films, the Chopras - Yash and before him B.R. both toiled in Lahore in various capacities, primarily film journalism before their star shone bright in Bombay. Now they make and break destinies and reputations in the tinsel town.
It should not be left to a few individuals or a particular field because it is all over the place. In all fields and all sectors, limited not to the generation that migrated but in their progeny as well. Indeed a very difficult and complicated task and the people and governments have desisted from it for fear of a backlash and accusations of going soft on the enemy.
But it is a good step the government has taken because it will push the wall of prejudice and see talent and greatness as it exists irrespective of religion, colour, creed or lineage. Perhaps time has arrived to look beyond the narrow definitions of loyalty and patriotism and feel confident about appreciation beyond the stigma or the fear of sleeping with the enemy. This division for long distorted our history as well as perception. Let us acknowledge all sons/daughters of the soil and pay them homage and expect that the other side too will be shamed by our gesture of large heartedness. The first step taken by the government of KPK should be followed by other such steps by individuals, and more so by the governments.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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