The Bollywood blockbuster Chennai Express is making news for different reasons. Some of the headlines this Shah Rukh Khan starrer is grabbing includes comparisons with Akshay Kumar starrer Once Upon a Time In Mumbai Dobara (or OUATIMD for short) over its release dates, how much money Chennai Express has made compared to OUATIMD, etc.
The latest news on Chennai Express is, how it has broken all Box Office records in Pakistan—and I was not surprised. Because 100 years ago, when Dadasaheb Phalke made Raja Harishchandra, it was not labeled as an Indian cinema or a Pakistani cinema. It was the first full-length Indian movie (albeit silent) made in the subcontinent and it is this movie’s birth we are proudly celebrating today/this year.
100 years of Indian Cinema was established when both countries were one and not cut into three pieces as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Also, history and art in my opinion are inseparables. Which has been proved time and again by great filmmakers. Raj Kapoor made Henna, a sensitive love story between a Pakistani girl Zeba Bakhtiar and Rishi Kapoor. B R Chopra made Nikaah, a muslim social starring Salma Agha, (a Pakistani actress) Manoj Kumar made Clerk and he cast the golden couple of Pakistani cinema Mohammed Ali and Zeba.
This tradition of casting actors from across the border continues even today. Meera, Veena Malik, Ali Zafar and many others are keeping the tradition alive of linking the borders.
It is not just actors, but musicians like Adnan Sami, (also a singer) singers like late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, have carved a niche in the Indian market. Runa Laila, a great singer from Bangladesh is still remembered for her very brief stint as a playback singer in the 1977 movie Gharonda.
Be it actors, musicians, artistes or television dramas from across the border, there is a strong attraction, a healthy curiosity to know more about the culture from across. Filmmakers like J P Dutta, Yash Chopra and others have tried giving us films like Refugee starring Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor or a Veer-Zara starring Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji. I enjoy watching these films over and over again for the Pakistani story angle. It satiates my ‘healthy curiosity’ bit about life and living in Pakistan.
Sadly there are no films from across the border entering the Indian market, therefore we end up watching films made on Pakistan, or with a Pakistan story angle by Bollywood production companies.
Therefore if Chennai Express is breaking box office records in Pakistan, it does not surprise me.