By Vinod Mirani
New Delhi, Nov 3: A judgement by a two-judge bench of Bombay High Court comes as a bolt from the blue and has taken many followers of the Indian legal system and the film industry by surprise.
The matter relates to the casting of Pakistani actors in Hindi films and the High Court has given not only a judgement on the issue but has also held forth at length on the subject.
The case was filed by an actor, Faaiz Anwar Qureshi, as the brief refers to him, who took it upon himself to seek a ban on Pakistani artistes from being assigned roles in the Hindi film Industry.
Some film trade associations are said to have banned or, rather, passed resolutions asking filmmakers to refrain from employing Pakistani performers.
I suppose all trade bodies have the right and duty to protect its members and asking their members to avoid casting Pakistani actors could well be considered a step in that direction.
I can’t seem to figure out how a court comes into the picture in such matters. It is a matter between an association and its members. And I believe that an association of a particular trade knows what is good for its members.
Having made the judgement that Pakistani actors should not be banned, or in any other such matters, does the court assume the responsibility of what may follow? Filmmakers try to cater to people’s preferences. Has the court taken into account the public sentiments regarding Pakistani participation in the Indian film industry?
This court ruling is dated October 20, that is, a few days after the India-Pakistan ODI World Cup match. The public sentiments and emotions riding with the match and the events that followed were there for all to see.
The courts must be aware that the Indian Premier League T20 cricket organisers have also stopped signing up Pakistani cricketers for this annual event. How about the courts making the same judgement applicable to IPL franchises?
What is curious about this matter is that, according to the petitioner, a number of bodies have banned Pakistani actors in Hindi films. That should settle the matter. But, out of the blue, a so-called artiste, Faaiz Anwar Qureshi, approaches the court to ban Pakistani actors! Who is this Faaiz Anwar Qureshi? What is his status in the film industry? (One Faaiz Anwar I know is a lyricist who has also produced a couple of films.) As the participation of the Pakistani actors is already banned, as he puts it, why did Faaiz Anwar Qureshi need to approach the court? What merit did the court find in this petition?
Most noteworthy is the court’’s observation that the Cricket ODI World Cup is being held in India and the team from Pakistan is taking part only because of the appreciable positive steps taken by the Government of India in the interest of overall peace and harmony in the region.
One would imagine that it is India’s and the BCCI’s obligation to the International Cricket Council (ICC). With India playing hosts to the ODI World Cup to which Pakistan had to be invited, the decision has little to do with peace and harmony!
Anyway, what did we get as a reward? Pakistan’s chief selector describing coming to India as going to “dushman des” (Enemy country).
In its judgement, the court noted: “One must understand that in order to be a patriot, one need not be inimical to those from abroad, especially, from the neighbouring country. A true patriot is a person who is selfless, who is devoted to cause of his country, which he cannot be, unless he is a person who is good at heart.”
I would like to put it on record here that no less a statesman than the late PM Atal BIhari Vajpayee tried to be a good neighbour when he took a bus to Pakistan. So did Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he dropped in on the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his return from a trip abroad. And so did the IPL bosses when they included Pakistani cricketers during the earlier days of the cricket fest.
When it comes to films, the industry has also played good hosts to Pakistani artistes as so many of them were cast in Hindi films. When they went back, they had only bad things to say about their hosts as well as Bharat.
Why this hara-kiri ji!
The period of Shraddha and the Navaratras and the fortnight preceding Diwali is considered a very bad period for the release of new films in terms of business.
Traditionally, old hit films used to be re-released during this period in the hope that a good number of viewers would show up to keep the cinemas above the red zone.
The other alternative was to release dubbed films from the South. These films, which are as well or better than the Hindi films today, did not draw people at that time. They were called fillers, or alternatives to a cinema hall not screening any film at all. The show had to go on.
Of late, filmmakers have been challenging this age-old tradition, ignoring past records and releasing their films during this month. Not one or two, but starting from October 6 up till November 3, as many as 26 films will have hit the cinemas.
Six films were released on October 6: ‘Mission ‘Raniganj’, ‘Thank You For Coming’ and ‘Dono’. It did not matter that one of the films starred Akshay Kumar.
Five more hit the screens on October 13: ‘Dhak Dhak’, ‘Bhagwaan Bharose’, ‘Guthlee Ladoo’, ‘Darran Chhoo’ and ‘Hum Tumhe Chahte Hain’. October 20 saw the release of three films: ‘Ganapath’, ‘Yaariyan 2’ and ‘Pyaar Hai Toh Hai’.
‘Ganapath’ featured Tiger Shroff in the lead and one believed that he enjoyed some kind of following; sadly, it did not reflect in his film’s box-office figures as it struggled to collect in double digits even in its first week.
As this dull period peaks going closer to Diwali, the number of releases increases. Seven films were slated for release on October 27: ‘Tejas’, ’12th Fail’, ‘Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video’, ‘Mujib’, ‘Pyaari’, ‘Mandali’, ‘Pagalpan Next Level’ and ‘Zindagi Zindabad’.
Finally, the pre Diwali week, November 4, will have a line-up of seven releases in ‘Aankh Micholi’, ‘UT69’, ‘Yaatris’, ‘Lakeerein’, ‘Three Of Us’, ‘Prachand’ and ‘Hukus Bukus’.
Hoping for miracles? What else explains this suicidal release strategy!