Article: Pakistan’s Bollywood Problem


Pakistani Nationalism Vs Bollywood

By Havi Zayed

The battle between those who believe in globalization and those who stand against it has been going on for several years.

The country of Pakistan is in an intensely complex situation due to globalization. Having fought 3 wars with archrival India and growing up to see their country at war with it many Pakistanis are still vary about Indian influence and goods in their markets. However at the same time Indian influence is growing worldwide and Islamabad has definitely not been left out from this new development. Indian goods seem to be flooding Pakistani markets. Indian textiles seem to be in fashion amongst Pakistan’s elite while Indian poultry, fruits, vegetables and other edible items are now available in the country as well.

Indian goods may be making their way into Pakistan but the largest representative of growing Indian influence in Pakistan would be Bollywood and the positive response a large section of the population has given to it.

Bollywood’s effect on Pakistani Music

Undoubtedly Bollywood’s influence is continually growing across the World. With the huge success of Slumdog Millionaire the Indian Movie Industry and along with the music industry that supports it has crossed another threshold. The movie has received 10 Academy Awards at the Oscars. Whether it was merely hyped up and deserved all these awards or not the fact is that Bollywood is gaining exposure Worldwide.

If Bollywood is now accumulating fame in far off USA and Canada it is definitely having a major impact on its immediate neighbour Pakistan a country which shares with it a common language. While Nationalists and traditionalists are exceedingly infuriated with the influence it has on Pakistani society large sections of the population especially amongst the youth seem to be either oblivious or purposely ignorant over its effects on the Pakistani Music Industry and on an already crippled Movie Industry.

In Pakistan the effect of Bollywood can be seen everywhere. Though the influence of Pakistani Nationalism has not diminished completely and Bollywood is still seen negatively by a very large section of the population the effect it has on much of the younger generation in Pakistan is clear. Conversations between youth and college students often focus on new Indian songs and movies or discuss the affluent lives of actors and actresses. Pakistani girls idolize Katrina Kaif, Karina Kapoor and other actresses and equally admire actors like Shahrukh Khan. Many of them have very minimal knowledge of the Pakistani Music Industry since Bollywood has become a complementary market for them. This trend is further represented by the shrinkage in the sales of Pakistani CD’s and Cassettes.

Many segments in society don’t see this as a problem at all and simply claim that people shouldn’t be told what to do and cannot be directed. They simply feel that the entire topic is pointless claiming that Pakistanis simply should not over concern themselves with such affairs. They claim that just like Lollywood, Pakistani music simply is not good enough or really useless and the Indian music is likely to “inspire the Pakistanis” into making something for the local population

No doubt Pakistani bands, artists and film-makers may need to create something better suited for the local population but are Pakistanis willing to give their own countrymen a chance at all? How is it that a song by the same singer gains immense recognition when it features in a Bollywood Movie while no one even knows about it when it is released in Pakistan? Didn’t Adnan Sami feel that his talents were ignored and disrespected by Pakistani Society initially? Did he not skyrocket to fame when he made his debut in India? The same is true with Atif Aslam. To gain an audience and fanfare these artists have to cross the border and have limited opportunities in Pakistan.

The Nationalist Belief: Is banning the solution?

Several Pakistani Nationalists believe that a complete ban on Indian music and movies in Pakistan is the solution for the losses suffered by the Pakistani music and movie industries. This movement is gaining steam and a petition is being signed all over Pakistan demanding such a ban as well. Some of those signing this petition are so passionate about the ban that they have planted stickers on their cars demanding an end to its influence. The fact that they are supported by the studies of local market analysts also motivates them to demand a complete ban on Bollywood. One such media analyst is Mahmood Agha.

Mahmood Agha is a critic of Indian media influence and penetration in Pakistani society continually argues that if Pakistanis stop giving excess attention to Bollywood and instead direct this attention to the Pakistani Music Industry they can inject 25 Million Rupees into the Nation. Despite this many people continue to claim that only some of these funds go outside the country as only local intermediaries benefit due to the wide scale of the copying of Indian music. However the fact that the sales of Indian audio CD’s and cassettes (copyright infringed or not) are gaining steam while the sales of their Pakistani counterparts are declining heavily at the same time seems to support the analysis of Mahmood Agha. At the same time CD’s and Cassettes are often imported from India to be sold in Pakistan for Millions of Rupees is a glaring fact in the face of Pakistani Society.

However in Pakistan all questions and solutions to our problems begin with “What is our government doing to power our Entertainment Industry” and end there. In any case several senators have been arguing for a ban in assembly as well but mostly for their own political gains or to take pot shots at another party. Therefore there is no such major movement against the Indian Medias influence in Pakistan.

Counterarguments: Is a complete ban possible?

First of all this is not possible because this is not a Dictatorship and neither is Pakistan gifted with a Nationalist government. With shady individuals who would readily sell National Interest for their own interests carrying the flag of so called “freedom” there’s no point in even trying.

Any such move will be met with stark opposition locally as Bollywood is already well ingrained in Pakistani minds. Unfortunately the reality in Pakistan is that Bollywood dominates every corner and every mind especially amongst girls and women. The fact is that once an audience is gained it cannot be banned as the entire industry is firmly ingrained in local minds.

Furthermore in reality banning is not in any way a viable solution. Any ban will in turn be met by a similar ban on Pakistani music in India and will spoil improving ties between the Nations. This added with media sensationalism and mass nationalism on both sides will ensure hardships for Pakistani artists who seek their fortunes in India which has so far been willing to give Pakistanis a chance in Bollywood despite them being Pakistani.

It is also very well known that laws are extremely difficult to implement in our country. Even if Indian music is banned until there is a constant demand for Indian music the Pakistani industry will continue suffering. Unfortunately Pakistanis are lions of number 2 methods. Piracy already takes place in Pakistan at every nook and corner but it will become an even more lucrative trade if Bollywood is banned. If there are people in the country that want a certain good there is no way of stopping them from attaining it in the first place.

The role of the government is deplorable here. If it was well known that Bollywood would have an impact on our Entertainment Industry we should never have let it penetrate so deep into Pakistani society in the first place. After all isn’t it the duty of the government to promote National Interest first? Since Bollywood is here and within Pakistani minds there is no point in trying to ban it.

Clash of Ideologies

As far as the question goes from the individual standpoint each one of us needs to decide whether we are willing to put personal interest first at the cost of National Interest or are we going to make some sacrifices for National Interest. Certain people value their freedom above all else and believe no one has the right to tell them what to do.

From the Nationalist viewpoint it’s completely a different matter since Personal interest is expected to be National Interest and love for the Nation is the only thing to be held above everything else. As such each decision is expected to be made keeping in mind whether Pakistan would benefit or suffer.

When there are people in the Nation with such opposite lines of thinking it clearly calls for an explosive mix and the situation though not as volatile as some other religious identity issues the Nation faces the situation is representative of the struggle of two warring ideologies in Pakistan.

I remember meeting a Nationalist friend who had a very interesting story to relate. He very proudly boasted that he had slapped an individual for listening to Indian music and dancing to it in the Mazaar E Quaid. “Next time I see this sort of thing I will slap his mother who didn’t teach him to respect Pakistan” he exclaimed proudly under an outburst of verbal abuse. I tried to explain to him what he had done was wrong but my conversation didn’t bear fruit.

“The Quaid was responsible for the formation of the country.” He argued “His respect is the most important aspect in Pakistani society. I don’t care what these traitors do but they don’t do it in places of National Heritage and where we Nationalists come to pay our respects” He continued. “I love my country and I will die for it.”

I could say nothing more and shut my mouth as there was no point arguing because when a Left Wing Nationalist says he can die for his country he means it. Yet the lack of respect shown for National monuments is indeed a cause of concern. The only thing is there are more logical ways for dealing with such behaviour. Many Nationalists don’t seem to understand that.

Interestingly if we are expecting better from those who call themselves “liberals” it’s unfortunate that they don’t seem to be any less fanatical in their approach. When I related this to one of my new Pakistani friends from College his exact comment was “if someone would slap me for doing what I want I would actually kill him.”

Solutions Anybody?

Liberal or Nationalist it is evident that the government needs to invest very heavily on promoting Pakistani talent and ensuring that Pakistani people support their own industries, companies and artists before they head towards others as that will result in the money being circulated within Pakistan rather than going abroad. The same is the case with music.

While Nationalism in Pakistan is definitely on the rise for it to be utilized in a proper manner Nationalists need direction. People within Pakistan need to understand how their actions affect their country as a whole. It is the duty of the government, intellectuals, academics, philosophers and artists to promote Pakistani Nationalism and raise awareness over how our actions may affect the country. We do not need blind Nationalism that has no direction but Nationalism that seeks to find solutions by first looking at our own pattern of living and starting to work for our country from ourselves.

Until Bollywood remains embedded in the minds of Pakistanis and until there is no real sense of responsibility to improve our society and put Pakistani interests first no major change can begin to occur. To make the Pakistani Music Industry stronger Pakistanis have to take charge.

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