With his second Pakistani film that is slated for a release soon, veteran and versatile actor Naseeruddin Shah shares his view on Pakistani cinema, cinema as a means to promote cultural ties and why Indian cinema will never make great films! In conversation.
What is Zinda Bhaag about?
Zinda Bhaag's a Pakistani film I shot last year and it's made by a first time film maker. It's about illegal immigrants in Pakistan and a satire on the national anthem of Pakistan. Pakistan Zinda bad- Pakistan Zinda Bhaag! It's the story of unemployed guys who see no future, no prospects and they get a few lakhs by begging, borrowing, stealing and scraping from wherever they can.
They are trying to escape on a ship. These are tragic events that occur in real life. I know of incidents where people have boarded the ship hiding in drums. When they leave Karachi, their ship is only taking circles and comes back to Pakistan. These people are then told they have arrived in Dubai but are finally apprehended in court. I'm playing an agent who helps these 4-5 youngsters escape.
After Khuda Ke Liye, this will be your second Pakistani film. Many Pakistani actors have also made their careers in India. Will this help in promoting cultural ties between the two countries?
Cinema is the only way I know that will promote cultural ties between India Pakistan. I did plays there and workshops with university students where I spent time with them and played cricket. The kids are very bright like our generation here. There's great curiosity, awe and envy of India and they are fascinated by our country.
The tables have turned completely. When we were young we heard stories of how they had imported cars in Pakistan. Whatever happens between our countries is so tragic. We can't do anything about it. All we can do is encourage person to person contact. Few people in India have met Pakistanis or interacted with them. If you meet one, you will really change your opinion to some extent.
How do you view Pakistani cinema?
I feel great cinema will emerge from Pakistan in the near future. Great cinema will also emerge from Bangladesh and Nepal because these are countries which have been through hell. It will be these tortured countries which will produce great cinema, literature, poetry and paintings. I really feel that. It will emerge in the same manner as it did from Italy and Germany after World War II and even from countries like France, Poland and former Czechoslovakia. They really suffered.
Is Indian cinema any different from its' neighbour? We are just too fat and contented with our selves. We'll never make a great film in our country.
Have you faced any flak for doing Pakistani films or received any threats so far? Not yet and hope it doesn't happen. I won't stop. I don't go there to preach about India love or make these statements. I want to go there to meet the people, the younger generation.
(A report published in TOI)