Recently, the stalwart actor Javed Sheikh stated in an interview that Pakistani actors long to be in India. Sheikh might not have bagged the kind of roles in India as he does in Pakistan. Yet he has featured in a fistful of significant B-town movies over time. Inevitably, participation in the cinema across the border sharpens the actor’s profile as it has of Sheikh, even in brief supporting roles. As it happens, Bollywood is to Lollywood what Hollywood is to Bollywood.
For Pakistani talent, dreaming about Bollywood is somewhat akin to playing for the Chicago Chess League while aspiring to make it to the US Chess Championship. Nothing wrong with that — except from what I’ve heard, some Pakistani actors grouse that they don’t care about Bollywood, Bollywood is killing the local industry, etc., and more, etc. The fact is that despite such a who-cares attitude, the actors sprint towards the first flight to Mumbai even if a half-way decent offer comes their way. It’s about opportunity, luck, PR, networking, finding the right friends, and of course, that essential factor called talent.
Although Pakistani directors are still to make a breakthrough, a number of musicians and actors have made a quantum leap. Strings, Soch, Junoon, Annie, Farhan Saeed, Adnan Sami Khan, Javed Bashir, Zeb and Haniya, Mustafa Zahid, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Atif Aslam, to name a few, have taken a stab at Bollywood, with differing degrees of success.
Among the models/actors, Zeba Bakhtiar and Somy Ali in the good old days, and recently, Meera, Veena Malik and Sara Loren did not have a particularly great run in B-town, but new entrants like Humaima Malick, Imran Abbas, Ali Zafar, Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan have grabbed plum assignments, setting off a flutter in Pakistan.
It’s cute when you see the Pakistani media excitedly carrying pictures of their stars posing with their Bollywood peers. These pictures are invariably sent by the stars to their local publicists for dissemination. It’s show business after all. Everyone’s playing the perception game. Jo dikhta hai, woh bikta hai!
So my cross-border friends have been going ‘drool drool’ on Whatsapp over Mumbai’s fashionista getting sexy at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. Even the usual meow-meow brigade is hailing Sonam Kapoor for nailing it at the Riviera. First her divine, electric blue Ralph & Russo gown, followed by the risky, flouncy, bird-resembling Ellie Saab gown. For those who want her to act, keep a track on the film she’s been shooting for these days — Neerja. I have my bets placed on it.
Expected to release later in the year, this one’s the official bio of the valiant Indian airhostess, Neerja Bhanot, who was felled by Libyan hijackers’ bullets (a day before her birthday) when a Pan-Am aircraft was held up at the Karachi airport back in 1986. On hearing her utter the hijack code, the pilots decamped, leaving Neerja, the team leader, to fend for the passengers.
Incidentally, Pakistan awarded her the Tamgha-e-Insaaniyat for humanity, posthumously.
Food. Glorious food
We Mumbaikars take pride in our delicious street food — sev puri, bhel puri, daabeli, dahi batata puri, ragda pattice. But even if it’s just for a single item, Lahore is worth a trip for its halwa puri. Or — as I discovered while wandering around in the labyrinthine lanes of old Lahore — the aroma of halwa puri perfuming the streets. In India, we call it chhole bhature, which are as aromatic, and work totally for vegetarians like me. Puffed puris, piping hot channay and halwa, to be washed down with a glass of chilled lassi. This is Sunday breakfast for the Lahoris. Immersed in oil and unhealthy to the hilt, a heart ailment is assured, but then gourmands like me tend to live dangerously.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015.