Article: Connecting India’s Zindagi with Pakistan’s
by Ravi Nitesh
This article was originally published on Express Tribune
The screen came to light and the hall in Taj Hotel, New Delhi, was suddenly filled with loud echoes of applause. Sitting in a corner, I also participated in the emotional event, clapped with all my heart and tried to gather all the thoughts going through my head. I couldn’t believe that such a great step was being taken during my lifetime.
Team members of the Zee Zindagi channel and Imran Abbas, a Pakistani actor, accompanied by Sultana Siddiqui, a Pakistani director, were attending a video conference with a gathering of bloggers from Delhi. Imran was in Mumbai and he spoke to bloggers and Indian media-related people alike from there with regards to the new Indian channel that was featuring Pakistani dramas.
The conversation was a rare one. Not many people get a chance to talk to actors from the other side of our border. Zindagi is an effort to promote harmony and further the peace initiative between Pakistan and India and everyone in that room felt extremely excited about this.
Being someone who is associated with many different initiatives for Indo-Pak friendship, this was an extremely powerful moment for me. While I was very happy that this step had taken place, I was also keen to observe how Imran would communicate with the people, how he would phrase his words for peace and how it would impact the audience. This was, after all, an important moment in history. I needed to see how the Pakistani side was going to introduce this step.
Once the conversation began, I must say, I was not disappointed.
Imran sounded like a professional at work. One could sense his determination as he stated that,
“We remember the first person who went to the moon. Firsts are always remembered. And hence I did not want to lose the opportunity of being the first Pakistani actor who represented Pakistan on Indian television through Indian broadcasters.”
He added that he took this step despite the fact that his friends had discouraged him. They told him that since he already had a good viewership in Pakistan, he didn’t need to be part of the Indian television industry but Imran didn’t listen to them and followed his passion instead. With this response I felt an instant liking for this man. Not only did this show that the young actor was determined, but that he also had a vision and the courage to advance progressive steps.
Imran attempted to shatter misconceptions of the “us” and “them” dichotomy by highlighting the similarities between Indians and Pakistanis. People of both countries look just the same, both follow largely the same culture and customs, and even though the languages aren’t similar, they are not hard to comprehend for people from either side of the border.
He discussed how art and culture had always transcended boundaries in India and Pakistan’s case, and how actors from both countries had worked on either side and have been appreciated. And I completely agree with what he had to say. There is more to the Indo-Pak relations than just tensed connections. We, as a people, are largely the same.
Imran’s effort was further fortified when he chose to sing, after insistence from Zindagi team members and bloggers alike, the famous Veer Zaara song,
“Wahi sham hai wahi savera… aisa desh hai mera… jaisa desh hai tera…”
This was reflective of how similar the nations were and connected him directly with the hearts of audience. I was deeply moved by his gesture and sincerity, and it was in this moment that tears struck my eyes and I truly become his fan. Not only is a great actor and a true artist, he is also an earnest human being.
What this effort highlighted was that relations don’t have to be so hostile and opinionated; it is nice to see how India is connecting itself with Pakistan. I am sure that such steps will help towards increased people-to-people relations and friendship between these two nations.
Zindagi will help Indians understand the life of an average Pakistani and I am confident that after sometime, when the channel will have established an emotional connection with its audience, it will help Indians realise how their lives are the same as their Pakistani counterparts – like two sides of the same coin.
Ravi Nitesh is from Delhi. He is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam (India) and founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti