KARACHI: Lately, Bollywood has been churning out one great actor after another – their latest one being Vicky Kaushal. I first watched him in Netflix’s Love Per Square Foot and later in Raazi, Sanju and Manmarziyaan – out of which Raazi and Manmarziyaan were banned in Pakistan. Taken aback by his acting, I knew he was one actor who was destined to reach soaring heights. His latest film, Uri The Surgical Strike, which hits screens all across the world today, will not see the light of day in Pakistan considering the two neighbouring countries perceive the attacks differently. Regardless, I still hoped to one day watch it when it gets released online.
Yesterday, I came across a clip of one of his promotional interviews with Bollywood Times, where he spoke about the ban on Pakistani artists in India, which ironically was a result of backlash after the attacks took place. Curious about what he had said, I patiently listened to him. But before talking about the ban, Kaushal revealed that the writer and director of Uri, Aditya Dhar, had signed a film with Fawad Khan and the duo were only 20 days away from filming when the attacks happened. “Fawad could not come back because he was in Pakistan at the time, so Aditya had to shelve his film. He started researching on the Uri attacks and wrote a script on it. And the reason why he couldn’t make his first film is why Uri is now his first film,” continued Kaushal.
Coming back to the ban on Pakistani artists, the 30-year-old actor added, “When this happened, even I was confused if it’s right to ban them or not. Because the artists personally did not do anything. But I also felt that there is no other way to silently protest. The industry had decided that so these artists go back and question their own government. At the same time, I thought, ‘How would someone who has lost a brother who was in the army feel?’ when his neighbour plans to go and watch a film that has an actor from that country.” Kaushal stated that even if the actor probably loves Indians and has nothing to do with the entire situation, he would still rather “have that one army official not feel unfair about it”.
A little disheartened by Kaushal’s comments, here’s an open letter to the actor telling him how I, much like quite a few other Pakistanis, feel, so:
Dear Vicky Kaushal,
I love your work and you’re one hot actor in Bollywood right now, but you have just broken quite a few hearts of your fans here in Pakistan. Despite the tensions between our countries and how they both perceive the Uri attacks differently, I, as a film-enthusiast, wanted to watch Uri The Surgical Strike, knowing that it would never get a release in Pakistan. (I even talked about it in this video a few days ago.) Likewise, I expected you, as an excellent actor, to address how art should never come between such matters. Much like India, Pakistani soldiers sacrifice their lives for the country as well. Like Indian families, Pakistani families suffer too. You and I will never be able to understand how they feel no matter how empathetic we may be.
But instead of promoting love, you just added on to the hate. Yes, your comments, even if they had been different, will always get backlash. Just like our artists receive a lot of hate from some Pakistanis who don’t like them working in India. But the only way to get rid of all this negative energy is by promoting peace and friendship through whatever available means possible.
I have watched numerous Bollywood films while I was growing up – albeit they were on pirated VHS casettes because Saudi Arabia didn’t have cinemas and I’d sometimes have to travel to Bahrain only because Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was just released or Devdas was one not to miss. I do not hate India or have any grudges against your people because most of my teachers from school till postgrad were Indians, and they helped me become who I am today. I could never thank them enough. I’ve had Indian friends be there for me at all times when I was the only Pakistani in class. I was upset when my Indian friend couldn’t come to Pakistan for my wedding and I’m upset yet again because I cannot travel to India to attend hers.
If people like me can do our part in increasing harmony between the two countries, I certainly expected – or at least hoped – that you would do the same, considering you’re in a much better place to influence a crowd. But will I still follow your work? Of course, yes. Because I enjoy watching movies and like to appreciate the actors’ and directors’ work. But your comments did hurt quite a few of us. Here’s still wishing you good luck for your latest release.