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December 20, 2003

Syed Firdaus Ashraf

The peacemaking bug has bit Bollywood.

Urmila Matondkar, Suniel Shetty, Pooja Bhatt and filmmakers like Saawan Kumar Tak, Prahlad Kakkar and Mukesh Bhatt are all on Mission Pakistan.

Interestingly, never in the history of Bollywood have so many stars visited or expressed a desire to visit Pakistan like they have over the last few months.

Actress-producer turned director Pooja Bhatt is planning to premiere her debut film Paap in Karachi. There is Saawan Kumar Tak, producer-director of the recently released Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya, who is reaching out to meet Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf.

“I have requested a meeting with Minister of State for External Affairs Minister Digvijay Singh for permission to take a Bollywood delegation from Mumbai to Pakistan,” says Kumar.

“The purpose is to lift the ban on Hindi films in Pakistan which has been in effect for over four decades [Indian films were banned in Pakistan after the 1965 Indo-Pak war]. When we are talking peace on every front, why should cultural exchange of films not take place?” he asks.

Urmila was in Lahore and Islamabad to shoot for a video album. The album was directed by ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar with the help of local Pakistanis and was the brainchild of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“We had 50 years of enmity between us. Let us give peace a chance,” Urmila told in an earlier interview, prior to the release of her Partition drama Pinjar.

The actress had also visited the Wagah border to distribute sweets to Pakistani rangers during the music launch of Pinjar.

Sharing her experience, Urmila said, “Human suffering has no religion. We should work together for the betterment for our next generation. Let me tell you, Pakistanis love Indian films. Why not make them legal in Pakistan? This will help bridge the cultural gap between the two countries.”

Talking about his project before leaving for Pakistan, Kakkar said, “The Pakistani band Fusion has composed the music for the album, and I will direct the video. This will be the first time that I will interact with Pakistani artistes. I am really looking forward to this project.”

Expressing his views on Indo-Pak relations, Kakkar said, “There are hardliners on both sides of the country. But we should see that peace must prevail ultimately.”

Suniel Shetty, however, is on different trip. He is planning to have a cricket match between the Indian and Pakistani actors for the charity of IIFA (International Indian Film Awards).

“This match is awaiting clearance from the government of India. If we get it, we will have a match with Pakistani film stars,” said Shetty.

The actor added the match would be held at a neutral place like Abu Dhabi. “Fifty per cent of the proceeds of the match will be given to IIFA and the rest will go to the welfare of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Cancer hospital,” adds Shetty.

Producer Mukesh Bhatt flew down Pakistan-based singer Amir Jamal to Mumbai. The purpose was to make Jamal sing a song in his latest film Murder, featuring Malika Sherawat, Ashmit Patel and Imran Hashmi.

"When Mahesh and I heard his voice, we decided that we should bring this man to Mumbai," says Bhatt.

“There is good talent on both sides of the border. We must come together for a better future. It is time the Berlin wall between both the countries disappeared,” he concludes.

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