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In times like these

February 22, 2009

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The KaraFilm Festival has been paramount in creating, advocating and promoting not only an exchange of talent and art across the border, but also bringing in bodies of work from different sections of the world.

But times have been tough, and with sponsors having pulled out, the festival this year was relatively low-key with no such expected guests. This festival was perhaps about showing a resilience of spirit, a determination that the `show must go on`, and it did.

It was heartwarming to note that two members from the Indian film community flew down in a show of love and support for the festival. It was on a sunny afternoon last weekend that Images on Sunday was invited to see what Indian film-maker Mahesh Bhatt and Indian actor/film-maker Nandita Das had to say.

As an attendee and supporter of Kara, Mahesh Bhatt has become somewhat synonymous to it as well. He`s attended the past four festivals regularly. Nandita Das, on the other hand, can best be related to the Pakistani audiences as playing the female protagonist in Mehreen Jabbar`s Ramchand Pakistani. She also attended the festival sometime in 2002, and since then she says that she`s ended up forming a very close friendship with the festival committee.

Mahesh Bhatt emphasised on the importance of an artiste-exchange between the two countries. “The idea is to have civil society move forward,” he said. “We need to support this platform and like-minded people.”

When posed with the question of how Pakistani artistes were suddenly asked to leave and their future work in India remaining unsure after the Mumbai attacks Mahesh said, “We need to be realistic that these are dark times. Especially concerning what we had achieved collectively. The problem is not just with Pakistani talent but also with the Indian producer; especially in cases where his films have been denied release.”

He added, “Logon ko na apne mulk se ziyada pyar hota hai aur na aap se koi dushmani. They end up getting caught in the overall hype of the situation.” At this point Hasan Zaidi said, “The producer/directors don`t have a problem with films being released in Pakistan, but the distributors do.” He motioned towards Nandita who was also present, and said, “She had taken a stand and brought her film, Firaaq, to Pakistan even before it was released in India.”

Nandita Das`s own portfolio of work as an actor is in films such as Earth and Ramchand Pakistani, the first which is based on the Partition, the breaking of ties and racism arising out of Partition. The second focuses on the tragedy a Hindu minority family faces when their son crosses the border by mistake, especially when tensions between the two countries are running high.

Other than the above, Nandita mentioned that she has been actively participating in cross-border events. “India mein dekhtay hain what the response would be to Firaaq, will it be banned in Gujarat or not,” she said adding that the film was about “the after-effects of violence, the false sense of security, the anger, the hurt that stays back. The point of the film is to open a debate, create a dialogue and this has become more important especially since the Mumbai attacks.”

Humayun Saeed has been working with Mahesh Bhatt on a film and Mahesh assured everyone that his stance in the film has not been reflected. He informed that “Jashn has been completed, dubbing baqi hai,” and hoped that the film would be released sometime in April this year. “Jab halaat ache hotay hain to har koi dosti ki baat karta hai. Jab halaat kharab hote hain, uss waqt ziada zaroorat hoti hai support dikhana,” added Hasan Zaidi on a concluding note.