Bollywood returns to Pakistan – what happens next?
If there’s a more worrisome border animosity on the planet, it’s tough to imagine it. There’s no love lost between India and Pakistan, two of the most populous countries, both boasting modernized military forces and nuclear capabilities … and a mutual dislike that is constantly in danger of flaring up into a shooting conflict, that, some fear, could go nuclear even faster than North Korea.
But there’s been a recent development that may just warm that icy relationship and cool those hotheads calling for conflict. Of course, it comes from the entertainment industry.
After several months of banning movies from India, Pakistan is once again allowing Bollywood to entertain its citizens. The ban originated after Indian-Pakistani tensions rose (again). When Indian film producers decided not to work with Pakistani actors, Pakistani cinema owners fired back, opting to refuse to show movies made in India.
The decision, which many Pakistani patriots lauded, proved too painful for Pakistani merchants, who suffered a massive drop in revenue when they chose to no longer show Indian films. This is because, despite the political tensions between the two countries, culturally, Pakistani movie buffs would rather watch Indian actors … or even Pakistani actors in Indian films.
How bad was it? During the ban, most Pakistani-produced films could not even fill half the theater on opening night. Reports from CNN put attendance numbers at a dismal 17 to 40 percent.
As a result, the Pakistanis relented, opting to show Indian movies once again. While some political hardliners are calling this unnecessary capitulation, the Pakistani movie going public is lauding this decision and have begun flooding back to the theater.
While tensions are still high, the movie situation could signal a generational sea change in the decades-long conflict, a light at the end of a very dark tunnel that those in power may want to give strong consideration to.
Just about any political animus can thaw into a strong and mutually beneficial relationship given enough time and enough reason to do so. Entertainment can be a gateway to help make that happen.
Commerce, especially when entertainment is involved can create the initial connections needed for a new political platform to be built on. It takes time and deft PR campaigning, but change and growth are possible, and, if it happens between India and Pakistan, they may just have to give Bollywood credit for the assist.