On Friday, Khuda Kay Liye (“In the Name of God”), a critically acclaimed Pakistani film about the lives of Muslims and Pakistanis after September 11th 2001, was released in cinemas across India. According to BBC News, “It is the first Pakistani film to get a wide commercial release in India in over four decades.” The film, directed by Shoaib Mansoor and starring Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah as well as Pakistani actors Shan and Iman Ali, won several awards following its release last year, including the special jury award at the 31st Cairo International Film Festival in December. A movie review by Pakistan’s Daily Times noted last year, “If directed by any other individual, such a sensitive, introspective story could easily have metamorphosed into a mere show of finger-pointing. However, Shoaib Mansoor is intelligent enough to portray the gray, confused areas of an individual’s interpretation of religion, experienced enough to fairly depict both the religious and not-so-religious factions of Pakistan and perceptive enough to get his message across: that while religion in itself is good, it is often misused as a means to personal gain. Violence, persecution of women and lawlessness are all conveniently excused to have been done ‘in the name of God’.”
While the film’s premise is significant given the current international atmosphere, its release in India today is especially notable. Khuda Kay Liye, produced by Geo Films, will essentially end the official film ban imposed by both countries following the Indo-Pak 1965 war, (although illicit copies of Bollywood films have always been easy to find in Pakistan). Diplomacy via the two countries’ film industries in the past few years has been notable. BBC News added, “… in recent years, the two countries have made exceptions [to the ban]. In 2003, Pakistani film Khamosh Paani (Silent Waters) had a limited release in India. In 2006, Pakistan allowed three Indian films to be shown.” Moreover, Bollywood stars have recently attended film festivals in Pakistan, while Pakistani actors have been featured in Indian productions. I have always been a major proponent of alternate methods of diplomacy and peace building. Therefore, the recent “good will” developments between India and Pakistan’s film industries, in my opinion, has been especially instrumental in influencing positive perceptions between the countries’ populations and should serve as an example to our governments.