Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bridging the Cinematic and Cultural Divide

Since the partition of India relations between India and Pakistan have been tense – to say the least. Both countries claim ownership over Kashmir, a portion of land connected to both. The two countries have participated in peace talks for decades now and although they are continuing, the issue remains at an essential standstill. India and Pakistan are separated geographically, politically, and culturally – until recently when a Pakistani-made film was released in India.

A few weeks ago, the critically acclaimed Pakistani film, Khuda Ke Liye, was screened in India. It was the first Pakistani film seen in India in over four decades. It had received such enormous praise from the Goa International Film festival that an Indian film producer decided to launch the film in Delhi. Word spread slowly about the film, but soon crowds of people started flooding theaters in multiple Indian cities due to the rave reviews and hype it received.

The film, whose title means "In the Name of God," is about two brothers who embark upon very different paths; one becomes a religious extremist and the other becomes a victim of racial profiling in the US. Khuda Ke Liye tackles the conflict between Muslim fundamentalist and liberal thinking. This is especially interesting because popular thought in India holds that Pakistanis are old-school conservatives; this movie helps break that stereotype by proving that every culture has layers of complexities – even Pakistan. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit said “cross-border movies can help sweeten the bitterness in ways that politics has not been able to do till now.”

The lack of communication between the India and Pakistan has bred misunderstanding and ignorance in both countries about the other. One article claimed that Indian movie-goers were surprised that Pakistanis had nice houses. Cultural exchanges in the form of movies and pop culture can help to educate each population about the other. After all, misunderstanding can lead to unwanted and unnecessary hostility. If each culture begins to understand the other it may help create a forum for discussion. Up until now political diplomacy has not achieved its goals of a peaceful resolution, so perhaps that is not the only method of achieving them.

I believe that the decision to release a Pakistani movie in India was a momentous one. It adheres to nonviolence principles because it seeks to mend an embedded conflict through the means of education and cultural immersions rather than through military escapades. I believe that this seemingly minor event marks the beginning of a new chapter in Indian-Pakistani relations. Two more Pakistani movies are slated to be released in India and Bollywood actors and actresses say they would love to collaborate with producers, directors, and actors in Pakistan.

What showing this movie did was shatter the concept that these two cultures are distinct, separate, and unable to relate. Khuda Ke Liye represents progress and hope for future amiable Indian-Pakistani relations. As they say in the movies, hopefully "this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

1 comment:

Nicole Pedi said...

This is such a great story! It helps to restore my faith in non-violent methods to create change after recently looking at so many stories of unsuccessful protests and cases of non-violence that aren't working. Since cinema has continued to play such a significant role in so many societies, it definitely seems appropriate for a movie to be used as a key to non-violence. I find that lately my favorite movies are the ones that seem to have political undertones or comment on societal issues simply because they can be so effective at making us look at problems from the outside.