A year ago, I wrote about Mahesh Bhatt’s new theatrical project a play titled ‘Milne Do’ aiming to find common ground between India and Pakistan. Here’s an update: He’s going ahead with it in collaboration with Azad Theatre and Laal band in Lahore. My article published in Aman ki Asha below:
The veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, in an attempt to find common ground between India and Pakistan, is all set to produce and present a play titled “Milne Do”.
“I have always maintained that a movie or a play can be a greater vehicle of peace than all the lectures we give,” he says. Any message, if communicated through storytelling, touches a chord. We are also trying to do the same. This play will be an emotional transaction between industries on both sides.”
This cross-border collaborative project across borders has been in the making for over a year.“
“An intense love story between two culturally crossed individuals during times of abject hatred, it is aimed at promoting the core message of Aman ki Asha,” says the Delhi-based male lead Imran Zahid, who is heading to Pakistan on Dec 15th along with director Danish Iqbal.
During their four-day stay they hope to finalise the script, cast including the female lead from Pakistan, and design of the play in collaboration with Azad Theatre, Lahore.
Azad Theatre’s Malik Aslam will co-direct the play that they hope to stage in March-April 2015 in both countries.
They plan to have live music by an Indian and a Pakistani band. The popular activist band Laal is already on board from the Pakistani side. From India, Euphoria has given a positive response.
“We will rehearse together in India as well as in Pakistan,” says Zahid. Besides acting, he also teaches and is keen to meet and interact with students in Lahore.
Danish Iqbal has a distinguished career in theatre as well as a solid academic background in the field. A graduate of the National School of Drama, he has an M.A in Classical Acting from the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, and a PhD in “The Inclusion of Folk elements in Shakespearean Plays performed in Hindi”. The last play he directed was “Daddy”, a theatrical adaptation of Bhatt’s powerful 1989 film by the same name.
The film, based on the story of Bhatt’s own struggle with alcoholism and his relationship with his eldest child, Pooja, had Anupam Kher in the lead role. Father and daughter were moved to tears watching the stage production, in which Imran Zahid played that role. He said he had consciously avoided watching Kher’s interpretation of the role.
Zahid also played the lead role in last year’s stage adaption of Bhatt’s iconic 1982 film “Arth”.
“I think Imran has the discipline and the consistency required to take up projects and deliver quality stuff,” Bhatt says of his protégé. “Not everyone has the tenacity to take an idea from inception to its finishing point”.
“This is my first trip to Pakistan and I’m really happy and excited about it. I was a little nervous so I took extra care with getting all my documents together for the visa form but the Pakistan High Commission officials were so warm, welcoming and helpful,” says Zahid.
“Mahesh ji had called beforehand so they were expecting us. They have great respect for him. We’re thrilled they gave us the visa in just one day, and even exempted us from police reporting. Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmad Khan also assured us help in all possible ways to help make it a successful play,” he adds.
Calling for greater commercial investment between India and Pakistan, Mahesh Bhatt said that investments in any form will contribute to “harmonious ties and peace between the two countries”.
“People say I have utopian and unrealistic ideas about Indo-Pak relations but I have a firm conviction that through cultural spaces, India and Pakistan can bridge a lot of distances,” says Bhatt.
His own journey is evidence of this belief. “When I began my crusade for stitching these gaps through movies and released films in Pakistan, there were people heckling and sniggering and laughing, saying that it’s an impossible dream. But now Indian movies are being shown in Pakistan, and Pakistani soaps are being shown in India. There are actors and singers from Pakistan working here, so we have moved light years ahead in just 10-11 years.”
He hopes that such cultural exchanges will “eventually fulfill the dream of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi of the two countries walking hand-in-hand.”
This incidentally, was also the vision of Pakistan’s founding father, who wanted India and Pakistan having the kind of relationship that the United States and Canada enjoy.