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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pakistani serials bring new


zindagi to Indian TV screens

A
By Yusra Husain

The Pakistani
television serials
taking India by
storm? Long
overdue,
veteran
Pakistani actor
Samina
Peerzada tells
an Indian
journalist

jovial voice from Pakistan greets


me over the telephone as I sit with
my pen and notepad to converse
with actor and director Samina
Peerzada, towards whom flows
much love and adoration from
India.
As Kashaf Murtazas
solemn, optimistic mother
Rafia in the trendy Pakistani television drama
Zindagi Gulzar Hai,
Samina Peerzada is ragingly popular in
India. Zee TV is
broadcasting the
play on its just-launched channel
Zindagi, a creative bridge-building
initiative.
She asks me where Im from. I
can almost see her face brighten up
when I reply Lucknow. She tells
me that her family lived in Lucknow
before partition, and that she herself
had visited the city back in 1979.
I start talking to her about Pakistan and its art and creative talent,
and the Indians love for Pakistani
soaps and dramas. She responds in a
calm and composed voice, coming
across as a charming lady. It feels
like Im talking to someone nearby,
who is oblivious to borders and lines
on the map. Her answers demonstrate as much love for India and its
emerging talent as Indians are now
bestowing upon Pakistani actors and
directors.
Every evening at 8 pm, Indians
across the country are glued to their
television sets, not to watch some
saas-bahu drama on a lavish set, but
in anticipation of a more real, lifelike, stripped-of-make-up look,
showing a Pakistan that not many Indians until now knew of.
Zee TVs new channel Zindagi
with its tagline Jodey Dilon Ko
(bringing hearts together) has secured as many as a hundred Pakistani television dramas to be showcased to Indian audiences - a move
likely to go a long way towards building better relations between the two
countries.
Art and creativity know no

boundaries. Indian audiences seeing


Pakistani culture through its television shows are finding that it relates
closely to their own life situations
and families. As such, these television shows are gathering accolades
not just from viewers but also from
netizens who are opening their
hearts to the welcome changes on
their television screens brought to
them by Zindagi.
Saminas lyrical voice sounds joyous and satisfied when I mention
that her drama is giving a new dimension to peoples routines in
India. She responds happily, We
have been a regular witness to your
talents, to your faces and charms
here since 73. Its about time you
started attaching names to our
screen faces too. This was long overdue. I am glad that people will come
closer through this creative influx,
and the desire of Pakistanis to show

B R I E F
A Pakistani investing in India

Fawzia Naqvi of the Soros Economic Development Fund has


an unusual focus

akistani American Fawzia Naqvi, who heads


the India investment portfolio for the Soros
Economic Development Fund, is proud of
being one of the few Pakistani origin women who invests in India something she has been doing for
the past eight years.
Naqvi speaks about her work in a short video
posted recently by the policy hub The Political Indian (www.thepoliticalindian.com).
Her focus, she explains, is clients in diverse,
low-income sectors who run small and medium enterprises focusing on areas like healthcare, education, food, and logistics, working to provide more affordable products and services to the people. This
also helps the economy become more efficient.
The companies range from a potato supply
chain, to low cost affordable eye care company in
north India, from a chain of high quality, low cost
hospitals in south India, to a trucking company
based in Bombay and Pune. Naqvi finds the logistics
investments are particularly significant. Moving
people, moving products are very important functions in a growing economy and a country that has
an aspiration to grow.

The trucking company could provide essential


farm-to-market linkages if the temperatures during
the supply-chain are controlled. This would enormously benefit farmers in Kashmir, for example,
who are currently solely dependent on the Kashmir
market for their products which have a very short
shelf life, as Naqvi explains. Then theres the designer clothing line Caravan Crafts, a luxury fashion
crossover of Indian and western clothing that also
helps to sustain artisans in areas like the impoverished rural west Bengal.
Naqvi hopes to be able to use her experience in
Pakistan some day, to help Pakistani policy makers
and entrepreneurs to improve their practices.

Khul ja sim sim

Free the sim! Image courtesy: The Economic


Times

their work in India is coming true.


Indian actors in Pakistan have always been popular. From Dilip
Kumar to Amitabh Bachhan,
Shahrukh Khan to Ranbir Kapoor, all
have had their share of billboards
and hoardings throughout Pakistan.
It intially felt offbeat in India to pass
by a hoarding showing a Pakistani
serial being launched here. However,
the acceptance has been tremendous, accompanied by immense
love. Kashaf is becoming as much of
a household name as Tulsi. Aunn and
Zara are becoming as much the new
age couple in the Indian scenario as
in Pakistan.
The way we talk, how we present ourselves, our day to day situations and how we handle them, are
all similar. People here and there are
very much alike, and so are our stories. We have always seen and related to Indian movies in theatres, or

on networks or through tapes and


DVDs, says Samina.
We have known Indian stars and
the art that is produced in India. Pakistani audiences and talent have long
wanted to take work that is produced in Pakistan to families in
India, and it is through this that people will come closer. When hearts become soft, politics will also become
soft, she adds confidently.
The Indian audience loves Samina, who plays the caring and supportive mother of Kashaf, the leading
lady in Zindagi Gulzar Hai. Now
they will see her in a very different
role in the new show, Noor Pur ki
Rani, launched on July 13, replacing
the Rom Com Aunn Zara.
These short serials with their
fast-paced story lines have an edge
over the regular, long-running Indian
TV shows. Heres a prediction: In this
new show, with her new avatar, Sam-

ina Peerzada will further bedazzle


her audience with her exemplary acting skills, and make a new place in
their hearts.
Noor Pur ki Rani features the
power struggles between three
women and a man, a story of paradoxes based on the English novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Samina
Peerzada plays the role of a housekeeper cum confidante of the male
lead (veteran actor Noman Ijaz).
Pakistani entertainment industry
is a powerhouse of strong women,
Samina told The Times of India in a
recent interview.
I'm a feminist and made some
very tough decisions in my life. I
am a feminist who is firm yet gentle.
That has helped me a lot.
The film tone of the camera, the
simple sets and costumes, and the
excellent acting in Pakistani TV serials is bringing a new zindagi (life) to
viewers for whom experimentation

is also reported to have said that Pakistanis coming on visas are not terrorists. Giving SIM card access will only enhance business ties between the
two nations."
The proposal, which was earlier made to the
UPA government, comes again ahead of a meeting
between Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman and her Pakistani counterpart Khurram
Dastgir Khan on July 24 on the sidelines of the
South Asian Free Trade Area ministerial council in
Bhutan the first bilateral ministerial meeting
since the Modi-led government took charge.
"By allowing sim card access, India may be in
a better position to monitor telecom traffic," says
an official. "A person who has to communicate may
anyway use other means such as Skype. If you
bring along a Dubai sim, it will work in India. So
how does the ban on Pakistani sim cards enhance
security?"
Businessmen from either country can get multicity visas to India and Pakistan, but need to obtain
local sim cards. If India moves to unilaterally allow
Pakistani sim cards roaming access in India, Pakistan is likely to reciprocate. This may lead to better
regional integration and boost bilateral trade.

THE FIRST STEP


LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

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Email: amankiasha@janggroup.com.pk
Fax: +92-21-3241-8343
Post: aman ki asha c/o The News,
I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi

is a welcome change. These shows


are close to real life, featuring real
problems of real peoples relations
and complexities of life.
Our issues are the same, as
Samina tells me. When people in
both nations want to improve their
literacy rates, when they want freedom to express themselves, a decent
home, food and shelter, and a fully
functional democracy when we
share the same concerns, why cant
we and why dont we share our work
with each other?
She bids adieu on that note and
we end our conversation with a
promise to continue sharing art, culture and creativity from here to there
and from there to here.
The writer is a freelance journalist
from Lucknow;
email yusrahusain.lko@gmail.com.
An earlier version of this article
was published in shahernama.com

Befriending the other

A young Pakistani shares the story of the unlearning process that helped her
overcome her stereotypes about Indians
By Anam Zakaria

The Indian Commerce Ministrys proposal for a unilateral move letting


Pakistani mobile phone SIM cards function in the country may lead to
better relations

Indias proposal of a unilateral move allowing


mobile phone SIM cards issued in Pakistan to
function in the country, if followed through,
will go far towards boosting trade ties between the
two neighbours. So far, both have cited security
concerns to deny a longstanding demand of businessmen on both sides of the border.
Indian Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher has
reportedly written to the home ministry asking that
Pakistani SIM cards be allowed access in India. He

Samina Peerzada: Softer hearts will lead to softer politics

At the launch of Zee Zindagi in India: Pakistani actor Imran Abbas Naqvi

he first time I met Indians


was all the way in
Canada, all the way back
in 2007. Heres what I
wrote about that experience:
Amidst the
friendly European, Canadian and
American faces, the Indians and Pakistanis were automatically attracted to
one another. I missed my Bollywood
movies and Urdu jokes as did they. We
longed for home cooked food, running
to the closest Pakistani and Indian
restaurants to have boiling hot daal
and butter chicken Of course we all
argued over who had better food,
cricket team and dressing sense but
somehow we stood far more united
with one another than we did with the
other students (extract from my
forthcoming book 'Partition untitled').
It was not until February 16, 2012,
that I finally got to step across the border and visit India for the first time,
thanks to a Pakistan-India student exchange programme. I remember how
surreal it felt; standing at the Wagah
border with the Pakistani crescent and
star on one
hand and
Gandhis
portrait
amidst
the orange,
white
a n d
green
of the
Indian
flag on
the other.
That year, I was fortunate
enough to visit India twice, having instantly fallen in love with the people,
the cities, the food and the culture.
India, once the home of my father, had
carved itself a special place in my
heart. But it wasn't Batala, his birthplace in district Gurdaspur, Punjab,
that I associated with or longed for.
For me, it was Delhi and Mumbai,

Transcending boundaries: (left to right) Lavanya Nath, Chintan Girish Modi, Vani Valson,
Anam Zakaria, Haroon Khalid
Chandigarh and Agra, the places
where I built friendships and deep
bonds, where I have some of my fondest memories. Those relationships are
sustained over e-mail and Facebook,
and of course with delightful occasional visits from this side or that side
of the border.
My second visit came about when I
was invited to participate in the Women
in Security, Conflict Management and
Peace (WISCOMP) Tenth Annual Workshop on Conflict Transformation. At the
four-day event, we discussed India-Pakistan and Kashmir dialogue and peace,
with people from all over the region.

There were thought-provoking and


engaging discussions, the aroma of Indian food and the chattering of all the
participants, glued to each other regardless of nationality and political
opinions. Something in the air made us
transcend all those boundaries, despite
the political nature of the platform.
I was re-united with one of my closest friends, Chintan Girish Modi, whom I

had met during the student exchange


programme earlier that year. It was Chintan who had informed me of the WISCOMP workshop and helped me develop
the idea for my book, quoted above. In
fact, he has been an integral part of my
life since the first time we met at Wagah
border in February, 2012.
At the WISCOMP workshop, I met
so many other incredible people. Two
of them, Lavanya Nath and Vani Valson
(pictured here with me and my husband Haroon Khalid), were helping organise the WISCOMP workshop. We instantly clicked. We headed out to Hauz
Khas market the first night and had
both serious discussions and hysterical
laughing fits over the remaining days.
They, along with all the other amazing people I came across during this and
other trips I've made, have shaped some
of the best moments in my life. They
have helped de-construct all the stereotypes and images I held about the 'other.'
Growing up in Pakistan, where the
mainstream discourse and official curriculum both endorse a black and
white understanding of partition and
for that matter Hindus and Sikhs, I had
absorbed those biases. For years, Hindus were mischievous and treacherous
people as stated in textbooks. India to
me was synonymous with 'these' Hindus and thus, the evil 'other.'
It was when I was able to interact
with real people from India that a slow
process of unlearning began to take
place. I started to realise the diversity,
the multiple identities, the complicated reality of partition. I began to
understand the similarities between
Indians and Pakistanis, between India
and Pakistan, and I began to appreciate the differences between us as well.
That was how those stereotypes got
shattered, my understanding of the
'other' transformed. And that is something I can't thank each Indian friend I
have made over the years enough for.

Anam Zakaria works with Association for the Development of Pakistan.


Her first book, 'Partition untitled' is under publication (HarperCollins
India). This article is part of a fortnightly series from Friendships Across
Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative to promote friendship between
Pakistanis and Indians - www.facebook.com/fabaaodostikarein
A peace initiative whose time has come...

Destination Peace: A commitment by the Jang Group, Geo and The Times of India Group to
create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together,
contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.