Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi: Ban culture doesn't serve anyone

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi feels art does not divide people but politics does. The filmmaker hopes that art does not continue to get muffled because of Indo-Pak border issues, and says the ban culture does not serve anyone.

Over the past few years, cross-border India-Pakistan tension has spilt over into the art and entertainment world, with some Indian outfits imposing bans on Pakistanis and Pakistani theatres pulling down Indian movies from their screens.

The calls for banning Pakistani talent from working in the Hindi film industry first surfaced in 2016 after the Uri attack. The tension continues till date.

"Art is suffering terribly (because of the border issues)," Abbasi told IANS, adding: "I hope that someday we have more Indian talent and Pakistani talent working together because I don't see why they should (not)."

Abbasi's new web series "Churails" is all set to be screened on Indian OTT, and the director takes the show as an example.

"Take the example of ‘Churails', you are sitting in India and I'm sitting in Pakistan. We are having a nice conversation about themes that are important in India and the themes that are important in Pakistan. What allows that? The content is allowing that. Content is allowing us to have that conversation that politics is no longer allowing us to have," he pointed out.

Abbasi continued: "Art has to say ‘okay, institutional politics, you guys figure it out. We are not politicians. Yes, we have something to say but we want to say it through art, and we want that to be a means of connecting. The thing about ‘Churails' is that you will be able to see Karachi in places but I hope that somebody sitting in India will say ‘I know these people, I know this storyline, or I know these characters'. When we can connect on that basic level, when we can connect culturally,"

"I think it is okay to take a step back if politics asks us to once in a while, but we have to (work together). This is our contribution. This is our contribution towards peace," he noted.

Mention that "art doesn't divide people", and Abbasi agrees. "Exactly. Politics divides people sometimes, but art doesn't," he said.

Abbasi is glad that the exchange of stories has initiated once again through the content brand Zindagi. "I want this cultural exchange to keep going. The ban culture, I don't think, in the long run really serves anyone well," he asserted.

Abbasi made waves when his 2018 debut feature film "Cake" was selected as the official Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 91st Oscars. He uses his lens to script a new female narrative from a fresh angle, with a new perspective, going on to break stereotypes.

His latest, "Churails", aims to challenge the hypocrisy of patriarchal societies vanquishing women and their rights. The web series features Sarwat Gilani, Nimra Bucha, Mehar Bano and Yasra Rizvi in pivotal roles. The show will start streaming from August 11 on Zee5, and is an original Zindagi content.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

--IANS

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