KARACHI: We tend to see each other [Indians and Pakistanis] as an amorphous mass. There are elements in every country which are bad. I don’t see my film Phantom as a criticism of a country. Bajrangi Bhaijaan was also my film. Both films came from the same mind.
This was said by Indian filmmaker Kabir Khan on Tuesday as he answered a series of questions put to him by Pakistani filmmaker Asim Raza during one of the sessions of MARCON 2016 organised by the Marketing Association of Pakistan.
Mr Khan said he started out as a documentary maker. He said he always wanted to travel and someone told him that one way of globetrotting was to make documentaries.
He said he realised the power of (feature) films when he once found himself in a dangerous situation in Kabul. He said there a man (who was walking up to him cocking a Kalashnikov) started singing a Bollywood song when he got to know that he was from India. This led him to take interest in mainstream cinema and he made his first movie Kabul Express.
Mr Khan said he did not deliberately work with big stars; it was an organic growth. He said when he first worked with Salman Khan in Ek Tha Tiger they had a lot of arguments. He said gradually he and the actor began to understand each other.
He said Salman Khan was a firm believer in the secular fabric of India and in friendship between India and Pakistan which led to the making of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. He praised the six-year-old girl too who played the character of a Pakistani child who crosses over to India.
In response to the question about Pakistan having far fewer screens to show films than India, Mr Khan said he wanted more screens in Pakistan because “it can be our biggest territory”. He said there were 5,000 screens in India and Bajrangi Bhaijaan was the most watched film in 20 years, but despite that only three per cent of the Indian population had seen the movie.
Answering the question about Bollywood’s new-found interest in Pakistani actors and the waning popularity of Pakistani singers, he said there was excitement in India for Pakistani actors. He gave the examples of Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan. He said as far as music went, these days music directors in India were constantly on the hunt for a new voice. On the issue of Pakistani films not getting release in India, he said the distributors only saw the bottom-line; they wanted to see money being made.
When the discussion returned to Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Mr Khan said he wanted to explore the definition of enemy in his films. When Mr Raza followed it up with a query on Phantom, he said it was a misrepresented film largely because of wrong marketing. He said we tended to see each other as an amorphous mass. He said there were elements in every country which were bad. He said he didn’t see his film as a criticism of a country. He said he had made Bajrangi Bhaijaan as well — both films came from the same mind.
Originally published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016