MUMBAI: Pakistani actress Mahira Khan says she felt “violated” when images of her sharing a cigarette with Indian actor Ranbir Kapoor emerged in the media.
Mahira also cited that it was the first time that she was embroiled in a controversy.
The Humsafar actress spoke at length about working in Bollywood, the impact of the tensions between India and Pakistan on the countries’ film industries, and the controversy, on “HARDtalk on BBC World News”.
Mahira’s photograph with Ranbir Kapoor emerged from New York in September last year, months after the actress’ Bollywood debut Raees hit the screens.
Recounting how it became a “national topic and debate”, she said: “That was the first time in my entire career that I was caught up in a so-called controversy and it was strange because there were so many things in that. One, obviously you feel violated, you are in a personal downtime moment and someone has just photographed you.
“Two, obviously there was an uproar, because here I was, someone who is extremely loved in Pakistan, and they sort of keep me up on this pedestal you know, they treat me with a lot of love and a lot of respect. And there are certain things I didn’t realise that they don’t want to see me do.
“At that point yes, it was crazy honestly because it lasted for a while… It was crazy, it was ridiculous.”
Her film Raees, starring Bollywood ‘badshah’ Shah Rukh Khan, did not get a chance to release in Pakistan. Mahira said she was excited for the film to release in her nation.
“I was more excited about ‘Raees’ being released in Pakistan than anywhere else, because all I wanted was to sit there with my best friends and my child Azlaan and the audience and watch this and I couldn’t.”
The Pakistani censorship board had deemed Raees as an “ugly, horrible, unacceptable depiction of Muslims” at the time. Mahira feels had the movie released at any other time, it would not have been banned.
“I think their decisions sometimes are based on things that don’t even concern the film sometimes. So you know I don’t think that was the reason. They said it but I don’t know. I don’t know if ‘Raees’ was released today, would it be released,” said the 33-year-old actress.
The movie, released in January 2017, came just months after bilateral tensions intensified between India and Pakistan over the September 18, 2016 Uri attack that left 19 Indian soldiers dead and the September 28 surgical strikes by India on Pakistan terror camps.
After the incident, India’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena gave an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to leave India. Zindagi channel withdrew telecast of Pakistani shows. And even the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) desisted from allowing Pakistani artistes to work in India.
As a result, Mahira couldn’t even promote the movie in India.
She reflected: “It was a two-way thing. We got stuck under the political fire really, nothing else. But by the way, Pakistan is still showing Indian films, we haven’t banned Indian films at all.”