Pakistani Nationalism Vs Bollywood

The battle between those who believe in globalization and those who stand against it has been going on for several years.

The country of Pakistan is in an intensely complex situation due to globalization. Having fought 3 wars with archrival India and growing up to see their country at war with it many Pakistanis are still vary about Indian influence and goods in their markets. However at the same time Indian influence is growing worldwide and Islamabad has definitely not been left out from this new development. Indian goods seem to be flooding Pakistani markets. Indian textiles seem to be in fashion amongst Pakistan’s elite while Indian poultry, fruits, vegetables and other edible items are now available in the country as well.

Indian goods may be making their way into Pakistan but the largest representative of growing Indian influence in Pakistan would be Bollywood and the positive response a large section of the population has given to it.

Bollywood’s effect on Pakistani Music

Undoubtedly Bollywood’s influence is continually growing across the World. With the huge success of Slumdog Millionaire the Indian Movie Industry and along with the music industry that supports it has crossed another threshold. The movie has received 10 Academy Awards at the Oscars. Whether it was merely hyped up and deserved all these awards or not the fact is that Bollywood is gaining exposure Worldwide.

If Bollywood is now accumulating fame in far off USA and Canada it is definitely having a major impact on its immediate neighbour Pakistan a country which shares with it a common language. While Nationalists and traditionalists are exceedingly infuriated with the influence it has on Pakistani society large sections of the population especially amongst the youth seem to be either oblivious or purposely ignorant over its effects on the Pakistani Music Industry and on an already crippled Movie Industry.

In Pakistan the effect of Bollywood can be seen everywhere. Though the influence of Pakistani Nationalism has not diminished completely and Bollywood is still seen negatively by a very large section of the population the effect it has on much of the younger generation in Pakistan is clear. Conversations between youth and college students often focus on new Indian songs and movies or discuss the affluent lives of actors and actresses. Pakistani girls idolize Katrina Kaif, Karina Kapoor and other actresses and equally admire actors like Shahrukh Khan. Many of them have very minimal knowledge of the Pakistani Music Industry since Bollywood has become a complementary market for them. This trend is further represented by the shrinkage in the sales of Pakistani CD’s and Cassettes.

Many segments in society don’t see this as a problem at all and simply claim that people shouldn’t be told what to do and cannot be directed. They simply feel that the entire topic is pointless claiming that Pakistanis simply should not over concern themselves with such affairs. They claim that just like Lollywood, Pakistani music simply is not good enough or really useless and the Indian music is likely to “inspire the Pakistanis” into making something for the local population

No doubt Pakistani bands, artists and film-makers may need to create something better suited for the local population but are Pakistanis willing to give their own countrymen a chance at all? How is it that a song by the same singer gains immense recognition when it features in a Bollywood Movie while no one even knows about it when it is released in Pakistan? Didn’t Adnan Sami feel that his talents were ignored and disrespected by Pakistani Society initially? Did he not skyrocket to fame when he made his debut in India? The same is true with Atif Aslam. To gain an audience and fanfare these artists have to cross the border and have limited opportunities in Pakistan.

The Nationalist Belief: Is banning the solution?

Several Pakistani Nationalists believe that a complete ban on Indian music and movies in Pakistan is the solution for the losses suffered by the Pakistani music and movie industries. This movement is gaining steam and a petition is being signed all over Pakistan demanding such a ban as well. Some of those signing this petition are so passionate about the ban that they have planted stickers on their cars demanding an end to its influence. The fact that they are supported by the studies of local market analysts also motivates them to demand a complete ban on Bollywood. One such media analyst is Mahmood Agha.

Mahmood Agha is a critic of Indian media influence and penetration in Pakistani society continually argues that if Pakistanis stop giving excess attention to Bollywood and instead direct this attention to the Pakistani Music Industry they can inject 25 Million Rupees into the Nation. Despite this many people continue to claim that only some of these funds go outside the country as only local intermediaries benefit due to the wide scale of the copying of Indian music. However the fact that the sales of Indian audio CD’s and cassettes (copyright infringed or not) are gaining steam while the sales of their Pakistani counterparts are declining heavily at the same time seems to support the analysis of Mahmood Agha. At the same time CD’s and Cassettes are often imported from India to be sold in Pakistan for Millions of Rupees is a glaring fact in the face of Pakistani Society.

However in Pakistan all questions and solutions to our problems begin with “What is our government doing to power our Entertainment Industry” and end there. In any case several senators have been arguing for a ban in assembly as well but mostly for their own political gains or to take pot shots at another party. Therefore there is no such major movement against the Indian Medias influence in Pakistan.

Counterarguments: Is a complete ban possible?

First of all this is not possible because this is not a Dictatorship and neither is Pakistan gifted with a Nationalist government. With shady individuals who would readily sell National Interest for their own interests carrying the flag of so called “freedom” there’s no point in even trying.

Any such move will be met with stark opposition locally as Bollywood is already well ingrained in Pakistani minds. Unfortunately the reality in Pakistan is that Bollywood dominates every corner and every mind especially amongst girls and women. The fact is that once an audience is gained it cannot be banned as the entire industry is firmly ingrained in local minds.

Furthermore in reality banning is not in any way a viable solution. Any ban will in turn be met by a similar ban on Pakistani music in India and will spoil improving ties between the Nations. This added with media sensationalism and mass nationalism on both sides will ensure hardships for Pakistani artists who seek their fortunes in India which has so far been willing to give Pakistanis a chance in Bollywood despite them being Pakistani.

It is also very well known that laws are extremely difficult to implement in our country. Even if Indian music is banned until there is a constant demand for Indian music the Pakistani industry will continue suffering. Unfortunately Pakistanis are lions of number 2 methods. Piracy already takes place in Pakistan at every nook and corner but it will become an even more lucrative trade if Bollywood is banned. If there are people in the country that want a certain good there is no way of stopping them from attaining it in the first place.

The role of the government is deplorable here. If it was well known that Bollywood would have an impact on our Entertainment Industry we should never have let it penetrate so deep into Pakistani society in the first place. After all isn’t it the duty of the government to promote National Interest first? Since Bollywood is here and within Pakistani minds there is no point in trying to ban it.

Clash of Ideologies

As far as the question goes from the individual standpoint each one of us needs to decide whether we are willing to put personal interest first at the cost of National Interest or are we going to make some sacrifices for National Interest. Certain people value their freedom above all else and believe no one has the right to tell them what to do.

From the Nationalist viewpoint it’s completely a different matter since Personal interest is expected to be National Interest and love for the Nation is the only thing to be held above everything else. As such each decision is expected to be made keeping in mind whether Pakistan would benefit or suffer.

When there are people in the Nation with such opposite lines of thinking it clearly calls for an explosive mix and the situation though not as volatile as some other religious identity issues the Nation faces the situation is representative of the struggle of two warring ideologies in Pakistan.

I remember meeting a Nationalist friend who had a very interesting story to relate. He very proudly boasted that he had slapped an individual for listening to Indian music and dancing to it in the Mazaar E Quaid. “Next time I see this sort of thing I will slap his mother who didn’t teach him to respect Pakistan” he exclaimed proudly under an outburst of verbal abuse. I tried to explain to him what he had done was wrong but my conversation didn’t bear fruit.

“The Quaid was responsible for the formation of the country.” He argued “His respect is the most important aspect in Pakistani society. I don’t care what these traitors do but they don’t do it in places of National Heritage and where we Nationalists come to pay our respects” He continued. “I love my country and I will die for it.”

I could say nothing more and shut my mouth as there was no point arguing because when a Left Wing Nationalist says he can die for his country he means it. Yet the lack of respect shown for National monuments is indeed a cause of concern. The only thing is there are more logical ways for dealing with such behaviour. Many Nationalists don’t seem to understand that.

Interestingly if we are expecting better from those who call themselves “liberals” it’s unfortunate that they don’t seem to be any less fanatical in their approach. When I related this to one of my new Pakistani friends from College his exact comment was “if someone would slap me for doing what I want I would actually kill him.”

Solutions Anybody?

Liberal or Nationalist it is evident that the government needs to invest very heavily on promoting Pakistani talent and ensuring that Pakistani people support their own industries, companies and artists before they head towards others as that will result in the money being circulated within Pakistan rather than going abroad. The same is the case with music.

While Nationalism in Pakistan is definitely on the rise for it to be utilized in a proper manner Nationalists need direction. People within Pakistan need to understand how their actions affect their country as a whole. It is the duty of the government, intellectuals, academics, philosophers and artists to promote Pakistani Nationalism and raise awareness over how our actions may affect the country. We do not need blind Nationalism that has no direction but Nationalism that seeks to find solutions by first looking at our own pattern of living and starting to work for our country from ourselves.

Until Bollywood remains embedded in the minds of Pakistanis and until there is no real sense of responsibility to improve our society and put Pakistani interests first no major change can begin to occur. To make the Pakistani Music Industry stronger Pakistanis have to take charge.


Why are Pakistani artists and bands so eager to perform in India?

Adnan Sami. One of the greatest singers Pakistan has produced is living in India. Unfortunately one of his most famous comments is “I’m as Indian as anyone. I’ve been here for 10 years. Mumbai is my home. The procedure to acquire an official citizenship is still on. And I don’t want to jump the line. Or jeopardize it in any way”

This was in 2008 and was the third time Adnan Sami applied for Indian citizenship. When Adnan went to USA for concerts it was common knowledge that Pakistanis all around were complaining that he never displays patriotism for Pakistan or any love for the country oftentimes to get that citizenship. The same Adnan Sami was seen covering for help from the same Pakistan he readily abandoned when he received death threats in Mumbai post 26/11. This was while his application for Indian citizenship was still being processed.

But the question is can we blame Adnan Sami for trying to get Indian citizenship in the first place? What have we as Pakistanis given Adnan Sami for making music for Pakistan and bringing a good name to it and its music industry? Has he received a larger welcome in Pakistan or in India?


An Unfortunate Phenomenon

A common and unfortunate phenomenon exists in Pakistan where whenever Pakistanis are questioned if they like Pakistani music they simply say Pakistan doesn’t have any good music. Even if it is true answering this very question naturally does require knowledge about the Pakistani music industry. When these same people are asked about the various bands and artists in Pakistani it often turns out that most of them don’t even know a quarter of the bands and artists in the market out there.

“They need excuses to ignore their own music industry now. It may be true India produces better music depending on the choice of the person but in every country the government and people support their own artists and bands. In Pakistan both don’t care. In turn if the bands and artists will feel unwelcome in their own Nation or feel there is simply no demand for them there they will just go elsewhere. It’s a business after all. If we don’t get recognition, fame or money from your time and effort then you will turn to a market where we will be more openly accepted” says analyst Mehmood Agha. “In any case it’s the duty of the government to promote the local music scene. In US, UK and Canada albums from local artists cost less than foreign albums. Unfortunately in Pakistan’s case when Pakistani albums are much more expensive than their infringed Indian counterparts what sort of message does that give to the Pakistani public?”

A band or artists ticket to fame: Bollywood

It’s only natural that most bands and artists have seen a skyrocketing of their career when they have gone to India and performed there or when they have used their songs in Indian movies. Before that many of them were unknown even by the Pakistanis. Amir Jamal’s song Kaho Na Kaho brought him the fame he needed however virtually no one knew about the album in the Pakistani market but everyone heard the song in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Murder. Even now many Pakistanis may know the song due to its link to the Bollywood movie but will not know the singer. Najam Shiraz had a single in the same movie.

Atif Aslam is one the greatest representatives of this trend. He has also done several concerts across India while his songs have been featured in Indian movies. He has introduced Tere Bin in the movie Bas Ek Pal, Juda Ho Ke Bhi in the movie Kalyug and Pehli Nazar in the movie race. His latest venture consists of two songs in the movie Ajab Prem Ki Ajab Kahani. Jal, Call and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have also done concerts and have even produced some of their videos in India.

It’s definitely not a bad thing that Pakistani artists are featuring their songs in Bollywood as it proves that Indians don’t want to close their doors on artists from Pakistan just because they are Pakistani. However the very fact that Pakistani artists and bands need to go there to make a real impact on the music industry is the pressing issue as it proves that in Pakistan there are few ways of ensuring the proper promotion of an artist or bands song.

Do we have anyone to blame?

To put it bluntly the Pakistani fans of these bands and artists never really are willing to admit the fact that there still are people in Pakistan who simply don’t care about anything Pakistani. Several of these hardcore Pakistani music enthusiasts still believe the reason Pakistani artists feel more welcome in India has to do with relative size of audiences there as it is a larger country and Pakistan is a smaller country with fewer people.

True or not channels that conduct any effort to promote local bands and artists are not getting as much viewership compared to the channels promoting Indian music. According to the 2008 consumer viewership trends show that all the Pakistani Music channels put together don’t get as much viewership as B4U Music in Pakistan. On the other hand Pakistani music enthusiasts actually complain when artists and bands from the country take up ventures in India and claim they are running after the dollars but the problem lies within the population itself.

Adnan a model and guitarist from Karachi make’s an effort to explain this phenomenon and the problems that artists and bands face today. “One of the reasons artists in Pakistan don’t get as much promotion may be that Pakistan has a very weak film industry which is needed to support the artists. Also let’s face it people do like sensationalism. They want to watch women shed their clothes even if they will never admit it. This is also the reason for the growth of Bollywood and Indian artists amongst other factors such as better direction.”

However there are people who refute this claim “Well they have Bollywood so what? That doesn’t mean that the Music industry can’t operate without a movie industry at all. After all we don’t see American artists dependent on Hollywood or Arabs dependent on Arabic movies. I think the issue is simply there isn’t enough powerful Pakistani media willing to promote the local music scene.” counter’s Maras a student at NED. “The foreign music scene has taken preference over our own music scene. Many songs that come up are really good but even the channels that used to play the videos of upcoming artists have stopped doing so. ARY Music and Aag have all switched to different medians of entertainment instead. We can’t blame them because the public isn’t willing to give our own artists a chance which is sad because these same artists shoot to fame when they launch their songs in Bollywood Movies”

Both claims stand true but not only the general public but also Pakistan’s media is responsible for taking part in “killing off” Pakistani talent as they want to play simply what the majority wants to listen. They are not willing to invest on trying to create a new trend or inspiring the youth of Pakistan.

Needless to say the non-operational government has no significant role here at all and has itself brought Indian music, Bollywood and English music to our homes without providing any sort of assistance to improve the local entertainment industry. Freedom in what we do is no doubt valuable to all of us and many of us may listen to English and Indian music but it shouldn’t cost in terms of Pakistani interests.

What can we do?

All that is left for Pakistanis is that they themselves start seeing it as a responsibility to support their own bands and artists and at least ensure that they stay updated about them even if they don’t truly admire Pakistani music.

We, the general population need to encourage the good artists instead of trying our level best to find something wrong and particularly focusing on how useless most Pakistani musicians are in order to ignore them. No doubt the problems need to be addressed but we are as much a part of the problem.

This at least can be a start to the revitalization of our music industry. We should remember that not only our artists and bands make up the music industry but also the audience. We Pakistanis may have great bands and artists but until we make these bands and artists feel at home in our own country they will continue seeing the Pakistani music industry as a secondary one and will find the Indian market more lucrative. Only Pakistanis can strengthen their Music Industry. We can’t expect any helping hand here.

Are we not hypocrites when it comes to Pakistani Media?

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon in Karachi and unlike our other days in Pakistan when there was always something to do there was very little to do that day. I had just taken off from my internship early and had decided to spend some time with my friends before heading home back to Defence.

So while everyone was sitting bored in the drawing room talking about stuff that barely concerned us it was decided that we’d check out what was on the television. While we were flying across the channels trying to find something useful that we could watch we came upon Play TV. We watched the channel for about 10 minutes but we stayed on the channel for this time only because I complained that I was going to Dubai and wouldn’t be able to see these music videos there. Unfortunately no one had any interest in any of these channels. First we watched a song called Sitara by Mizmaar. The discussion turned to how the Pakistani music could not compete with Indian music and was simply “useless.”

The next song however had a significant impact on a rather sinful lot of people. Dumbstruck, I gaped in alarm as a song by Sahar known as Bheega Mausam turned a rather nonspiritual group of young people into religious zealots complaining that Pakistani musicians had “no shame”. I could barely find anything wrong with the song considering the fact that only a few minutes ago everyone was drooling on about Pamela Anderson and Salma Hayek.

Excuse to change the channel or not just 5 minutes later we were watching B4U music on the 24 inch tv screen where a group of women were dancing in a club sporting something that was close to a bikini with short skirts and a top that leaves little to the imagination.  No member of our group either male or female had any qualms watching and the air was filled with appreciation about the way Kareena Kapoor danced and her “sweet relationship” with Shahid Kapoor. Since we had women amongst us the discussion inevitably veered on to Shahid Kapoor, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Katrina Kaifs eyes, makeup and jewellery… that’s when I took my leave and said I’d be taking a bus and going home as people at my defence home would be waiting for me.

In any case being perplexed by this phenomenon I raised the point several times with my friends. One person seemed to have a very bizarre clarification of the behaviour that pervades our society. Unfortunately his explanation made me lose faith in the entire population of Pakistan when it came to supporting our own artists and music industry. His explanation for not listening to Pakistani music was “We all love girls dancing around and all that stuff but no one’s going to say it. That’s why we watch the Bollywood videos. But we are in a religious society. We can’t say that in public now can we? This isn’t Canada obviously”

I was completely dumbstruck by this explanation and I understood that the reference to Canada naturally was more about my being a student there for some time even though it had no connection to what I had just questioned. It also proved that there were certain bigots who believed that spending 6-9 months outside the country simply for the benefit of the Nation meant you weren’t a Pakistani which sufficiently managed to annoy me. This isn’t Canada simply meant to ask me “why would you actually care?”

But unfortunately this is just one example of the hypocrisy that pervades Pakistani society today. People are looking for reasons to ignore their own people and music industry. Other examples are even more extreme.

I had with the help of some backers once funded and hosted an event for Pakistani youth. I was sitting on the table discussing the penetration of Indian media in Pakistani society and its negative consequences with some of my friends. In that time a girl keen to introduce herself came up and soon joined our conversation. She agreed with most of what was being said and to conclude the conversation said she never watched Indian movies or their songs and disliked Bollywood because Pakistani movies and musicians were better

The reason she had come to our Pro Pakistani table was because she wanted favours from me. One was to get her on the stage as a model using my links with Yaseen Modelling Limited and the other was that she wanted to sing on stage. Bold girl you might say but unfortunately she didn’t really have the striking looks we associate with models. In any case we managed to become friends and I gave her the stage in my next event to sing and she did have a fine voice.

Then later on I noticed that she was going to watch a Bollywood movie and saw her with her friends discussing Indian movies. Gajini was the name of the movie she was discussing and when I questioned some of her friends if she just started watching they pointed out that this girl watched every Bollywood movie that came out. At that point I broke the friendship. When she called me the next time I told her I would have equally been her friend if she hadn’t lied to me and that also just in the hope of getting a few favours. I said our friendship could have lasted longer had she not had the impulse to lie. I told her I had Indian friends and many of my Pakistani friends did watch Indian movies and I never told them not to do so.

No doubt the fact that Nationalists were all across the table may have impacted her and made her want to fit in but that doesn’t mean one has to give up what he or she believes in?

The reason I broke my friendship is obviously not that she watched Indian movies but because of the fact that she lied and thought those lies would help her get a few favours and develop friendship with a person who could help her with her future career. This is sadly the way people see Pakistani Nationalists.

Can we blame the TV channels and artists for the videos we see today?

I have always been a believer of media freedom in all its forms and believe that everyone should be free to not just think but also watch or hear what he or she wants. But what surprises me is the hypocrisy prevalent in some sections of Pakistani society. The use of a fake display of piety as an excuse to avoid Pakistani videos and in other cases lies and putting another person down to present oneself as patriotic have become a useful way to avoid everything Pakistani and putting the game on one who questions the hypocrisy.

When on one hand people in Pakistan are often heard saying that Pakistani television is unwatchable these days as Pakistani channels are not portraying “our culture” the same people feel no shame watching Bollywood and English movies.

The question is don’t they simply ignore the fact that they themselves watch Indian movies and listen to Indian music. Don’t many of them watch English movies? What culture does all that show? In Pakistan Star Plus has the second highest viewership than any other channel. B4U music has a higher viewership in Pakistan than the total viewership of Pakistani Music channels combined!

Despite these channels having fewer restrictions on what type of “culture” they can show are they not being watched? Won’t artists be more inclined to produce videos that the general population seeks to watch?

Producing songs and music is a business after all. Would an artist keep producing videos that are completely ignored by the general public, neither give him fame and don’t even cover the massive production costs involved for one video? It is natural that several channels have changed the way they operate and today’s dramas and music videos by Pakistani artists have accommodated according to what Pakistanis are only too keen to watch on Indian channels.

Today the unfortunate phenomenon with Pakistani people is that we are seeking excuses to ignore our own industries. Nations are built when there are citizens within them willing to support their own people, industries and economy rather than trying to find all sorts of excuses to avoid them.

Being Pakistani is not simply about raising a flag on our roofs on the 14th of August. Neither is it about supporting our team in cricket matches. Those aspects are definitely part of it but that does not even cover half the picture. Until all of us Pakistanis resolve to change their attitudes and bring forward a society that cares starting with ourselves things in Pakistan will continue the way they are. As Pakistanis we must remember that this land is our responsibility and no one will fix it except us.