Exclusive: ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’ Director’s Open Letter To Pakistan
My dear whoever is In-Charge in Pakistan,
I am the writer/director of the Indian film Happy Bhag Jayegi speaking!!! Are you listening?! Oh sorry, last I checked (when my film was slated to release in your country) you obviously don’t listen, or see, or even feel. So let me speak without you listening yet another time.
It may be of great enlightenment to you that the general “perception” of your country is that of a lawless land with absolutely no freedom of expression. Actually why just expression, let’s include speech, choice and even democracy to that.
Having said that, let me quickly add, that during my visit to your country and within my memorable interactions with the common man and the media of your country, I realised that this “perception” of lawlessness and lack of freedom of choice is untrue. Pakistan actually is a land of limitless potential and bright, eager minds. It left me pleasantly surprised.
As a neighbour who often misunderstood your people, I was left bowled over by the hospitality, love and sheer talent amongst those that live under your governance! I came back to my nation feeling wonderful. It never felt like I was in the land of stringency or hatred. In fact it seemed like I came back from a visit to the neighbours, just as neighbours should be!
However by banning the release of Happy Bhag Jayegi in Pakistan, you... Mr In-Charge (whoever you are) left me flummoxed. The first ever film content that showed people on both sides of this seventy-year-old border as simple human beings with affection, honesty, love and their small shortcomings was found OFFENSIVE by you! Wow!
I was shocked! What a shame! I wish I could respect the offence you felt, but sorry I cannot. I’ll tell you why... Because it’s fake! I dare you Mr In-Charge (whoever you are). I dare you without even having lived in your country, without even being its citizen. I dare you to show Happy Bhag Jayegi to one common Pakistani. One who’s loves his family, strives for his daily bread, loves his cricket, loves his films and lives his life under the nonsensical garb that you force down his throat. Let that common smile-deprived Pakistani who is tired of being viewed as the only stranger in the world that has largely become one big melting pot today, come and tell you that he finds Happy Bhag Jayegi offensive, and I promise you that my apology note to you will be even longer than this letter.
I don’t write this letter to you for any other reason than that of being a creative man whose creativity has hit a roadblock before reaching its deserving receivers. I stand no chance of gaining monetary benefits from a release in Pakistan (hell, my film is doing enough business in the rest of the world). But by standing in the way of your people and what they deserve to see, it’s you who has to let me know of what your vested interests were in stopping my film.
Is it because you’d rather let your people continue to be seen as what the world is already termed them? Is it because you don’t like friendship on a personal level? Is it because Jawed Sheikh (a legendary Pakistani actor in my film) is somebody you’re not proud of? Is it because Momal Sheikh (a Pakistani actress introduced in my film getting rave reviews in India) is the Pakistani woman you want to stop from progressing? Or is it because what is said of you is actually true? That you’d rather live through hatred than open arms to friendship?
The hell, Mr In-Charge in Pakistan (whoever you are) it’s about time you gave a reason. And i know you’ll be yelling from rooftops saying you’re not answerable to me! So don’t give me the reason... Give the common man of Pakistan your reason. Because you’re bloody well answerable to him.
Thank you but no thank you.
Happy Bhag Jayegi- The film that dared to show the nicety and affection of a common Pakistani. Something that you seem to want to hide!