The world of entertainment is dynamic, and in this, the Indian film industry, has always been at the forefront of cultural exchanges. Over the years, it has attracted and lured in talent from across the globe. This melting pot is especially significant with Pakistan where the examples of the collaboration of art and artists from across the border is particularly memorable, whether that be in the music or film industry, with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam and Fawad Khan.
This exchange of talent came to a sudden standstill in 2016, when following the Uri attacks, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) demanded a blanket ban on Pakistani singers in India. Following this, Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) made the decision to stop work with Pakistan citing "security" and "patriotism" as their reasons to disallow cross-border talent to perform in India and vice-versa. Reports emerged suggesting that T-Series, one of India's leading music companies, removed songs by Pakistani artists Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam from its YouTube channel. Rumours made rounds that the likes of Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan, were willing to abstain from releasing their films or songs in Pakistan. These decisions by actors were driven by the ongoing political tensions and security concerns.
It is pertinent to note that the ban on Pakistani artists in Hindi film Industry was not an isolated response but part of a broader strategy to re-evaluate India's relations with Pakistan which has continued ever since 2016.
In 2023, Faaiz Anwar Qureshi, a self-proclaimed cine worker and artist, initiated a legal petition in the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay, against the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking directions for issuance of notifications and action to ban Pakistani artists and prohibit the granting of visas to Pakistani artists from working or performing in India. The petition specifically called for a prohibition on the employment, solicitation of work, or collaboration with Pakistani cine workers, musicians, singers, lyricists, and technicians by Indian citizens and companies. The petition went on to cite that the ban was required to prevent the exploitation of commercial opportunities by Pakistani artists in India, which could lead to loss of opportunity for Indian artists.
The petition was heard by a division bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising of Justices Sunil Shukre and Firdosh Pooniwalla who stated that such a move was a "retrograde" in fostering cultural harmony and unity, both within India and across its border with Pakistan and consequently rejected the plea. The bench highlighted the unifying power of the arts, particularly activities like music, sports, culture, and dance, which transcend national and cultural boundaries and declared that such resolutions lacked statutory force and could not be enforced through judicial orders. The court went on to emphasize the cornerstone of fundamental rights in this regard, stating that enforcing such bans would contravene the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g), and 21 of the Constitution of India. The judges of the Bombay High Court also went on to cite the steps taken by the Government of India in the interest of overall peace and harmony in consonance with Article 51 of the Constitution of India in regard to the decision of allowing the Pakistani cricket team to participate in the Cricket World Cup, 2023 which is being held in India this time round and stated that allowing such a please would undermine and contradict the positive initiatives taken by the Government of India in the interest of international peace and harmony.
The recent judgment by the High Court of Bombay in October 2023 reinforces the importance of cultural harmony and unity, while also recognizing the role of cultural activities in fostering peace between nations. The ongoing debate over the presence of Pakistani artists in the Indian film industry reflects the delicate balance between artistic collaboration and geopolitical realities in the entertainment industry.
While there has been no news, statement, or reaction, either positive or negative, from any media organization or institution following the decisions pronounced by the High Court, it has now been seven years since Pakistani talent has collaborated on an Indian project.
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