While often exploited as the fourth estate wheel for staging ideological and political warfare, global entertainment industries also remain that one arena that serves as a melting pot for divergent socio-cultural viewpoints, where artistes and filmmakers from different cultures work towards blurring the lines that divide. This holds true for Pakistani artistes working across the border as much as it does for far-eastern film studios hiring the best from Hollywood — the cross cultural interactions serve to infuse much verve, creativity and freshness into the content we enjoy watching.
While such exchanges between Pakistan and Bollywood might have fallen prey to regional troubles, this has not stopped some enterprising Indian filmmakers to continue to find ways to work with vaunted Pakistani talent. It would not be a stretch to say that the Punjab filmmaking fraternity on the other side of Wagah has kept the flame of cultural exchanges burning — and with the kind of box office response some of their endeavors have received, it’s only likely that we are likely to see more of such interactions in the near future.
Here, we take a look at some major artistes from Pakistan who ventured into Punjabi filmdom across the border and made a mark for themselves. From the looks of it, it seems Chandigarh is beating B-town when it comes to getting the best talent on board, and making handsome returns off it. Drumrolls, cheers….here we go!
Iftikhar Thakur, Nasir Chinyoti, Akram Udas, Zafri Khan and Ruby Anum
Before their debut across the border, Iftikhar Thakur, Nasir Chinyoti and Akram Udas were already hugely popular on the Lahore comedy circuit and were making waves internationally as well. The trio landed leading roles in the UK shot situational-comedy Chal Mera Putt revolving around the (mis)adventures of migrant Punjabi workers in UK, and the rest is history. The film ended up being a runaway hit, grossing $3.6 million from just overseas territories when released in the summer of 2019, paving way for its sequel that also brought comedians Zafri Khan and Ruby Anum on board. Chal Mera Putt 2 was released in March last year and turned out to be a box office money spinner despite the Covid-19 substantially affecting its box office prospects. It goes without saying that Pakistan’s comedy central team is very much in business when it comes to Punjabi cinema, and if reports are to be a believed, a third installment of CMP is also planned.
Ahmed Ali Butt
Following the success of the Chal Mera Putt films, it was only a matter of time before this behemoth (no pun intended) of a comic talent of local cinema was roped in for a plum project. News broke in late October last year that Butt had been signed for a British-Punjabi film titled Phatte Dinde Chakk Punjabi and was all set to make his international debut. Shooting for the said film was said to be well underway in UK, and the Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 star tweeted excitedly about the film “with an incredible international cast, director and producers.” The said film co-stars leading Punjabi film actor Gippy Grewal. Local distributors HKC entertainment have already signed on to the project, and the buzz around the film remains pretty strong.
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In her brief acting stint across the border, this starlet/reality-show celeb who debuted in 2000’s Tere Pyar Mein acted in quite a few film projects of all shapes, sizes and languages. Before she gained her Big-Boss related fame, Veena Malik had already made her foray into Punjabi filmdom playing the archetypical village belle in Pind Di Kudi in 2005 where she co-starred alongside Sarabjit Cheema and Sheeba Bhakri. Almost a decade later, she also performed an item number titled ‘Shabbo’ in 2013’s Jatts in Golmaal. That movie also featured Indian talent Arya Babbar and Sameksha Gurpreet. Malik eventually settled for matrimonial bliss and distanced herself from the world of glitz and glamor.
At the tail end of her career, Zara Sheikh starred in the 2014 Punjabi-Hindi project Honour Killing that was based on the eponymous social issue that affects South Asian brides. The Canada shot movie was directed by Avtar Bhogal and featured Sheikh alongside the likes of Sandeep Singh, Gulshan Grover and Pakistan’s very own Javed Sheikh.
While Sana Fakhar continues to be a force to be reckoned with on the local film and television circuit, not many know that the Wrong No. 2 star also starred in an Indian Punjabi project titled Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya. She shared the screen with singer turned actor Inderjit Nikku in this Thakur Tapasvi directed film. DPHG was released in 2013 and is available on Youtube.
Noman Ejaz and Mehreen Raheel
Virsa was a Pakistani-Indian co-production that was meant to highlight the common socio-cultural ties and issues that bind the two countries, especially in the immigrant Punjabi communities in the west. The trans-generational love saga featured leading Pakistani television actors Noman Ejaz and Mehreen Raheel alongside Indian talent Arya Babbar, Gulshan Grover, among others. Jawad Ahmed scored the tuneful music with the track ‘Mein tenu samjhawan ki’ elevating Rahat Fateh Ali to the next level of stardom. The film carried an important underlying message of remaining true to one’s values, culture and upbringing in face of headwinds of change, and was released in 2010.
As is evident from this list, film collaborations between Pakistan and the Punjabi filmmaking community in India have a long track record and have often produced projects that have benefitted artists of both countries. We look forward to more such efforts in the future and will keep you updated on the latest about the upcoming films. Stay tuned to PakistaniCinema!