Cross-border COVID-19 concerns continue to shape the coverage in sections of Pakistani media dealing with entertainment. So Bollywood and its stars become the top news whatever be the state of India-Pakistan relations on political, diplomatic, and military levels.

The Bachchan family being infected by COVID-19 has virtually been reported daily. On July 29, Pakistani media reported a dispatch from a global news agency that while Amitabh, the head of the Bachchan family and a Bollywood icon, who is popularly known as Big-B, remained confined to his isolation room in a Mumbai hospital, daughter-in-law and actress Aishwarya and grand-daughter Aradhya have recovered from the virus and have returned home.

The news was splashed with a lovely mother-daughter picture, along with a “thank you” tweet from Abhishek, known as Junior B. Abhishek, actor and husband of Aishwarya is still in the hospital.

Irrfan Khan

Bollywood star Irrfan Khan’s death continues to haunt his fans in both India and Pakistan. Recently, in a tribute for the late actor Pakistani actor, Adnan Siddiqui penned a dua. Siddiqui, who has over two decades of experience in Pakistan’s entertainment industry, and made his Hollywood debut in 2007 with A Mighty Heart and also acted in Bollywood movie Mom in 2017 opposite the late Indian icon, Sridevi, said he has penned the dua, Islamic prayer of supplication or request that Muslims regard as a profound act of worship, for “souls lost during COVID-19.”

“We first lost Irrfan Khan, he was my friend and I grew quite fond of him during our time together,” Siddiqui told The Express Tribune.

Siddiqui, who wrote the dua during the quarantine, also said many “souls were lost” during these COVID times. He remembered Indian music composer, Wajid of Sajid-Wajid duo, who died of cardiac arrest in June in Mumbai, and Pakistan’s Athar Khan and Tariq Aziz, who passed away recently in Pakistan.

The dua is composed and recited by renowned Pakistani musician Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who has sung many popular songs in Bollywood movies.

Indian filmgoers have seen the suave Siddiqui in ‘Mom”. He plays husband to the late Sridevi and a loving father to Sajal Ali, also a Pakistani budding artist. He had paid a warm tribute to India’s first woman superstar when she died two years ago, while Sajal had written: “I have lost my mother again.”

Siddiqui revealed how it took him two, extremely emotional days to write it down and composer Khan, a week to produce it. “I had tears in my eyes while writing this because it wasn’t just something I was going through, it was the whole world.”

Siddiqui recalled how the ongoing pandemic and isolation had taken away so many stars from the world, that it left many, including him, in darkness.

“So I wrote this, for everyone who left this world and everyone who is still here and suffering. I feel God is upset with us, and through this song, I’ve asked him to have mercy. We’ve gotten the message and we’re exhausted, people can’t take this anymore.”

The Mom actor promised that he would be releasing it after the first ten days of Muharram but until then, he would be honouring all of Pakistan’s living legends through his social media.

Saroj Khan

In comparison to the expression of such warmth, inexplicably, the entertainment pages of Pakistani media took a rather subdued note of the passing away of Saroj Khan, one of the best-known choreographers of Bollywood, who made the stars dance to her tunes. The first woman to become chief choreographer died of cardiac arrest in Mumbai in July.

Dawn’s ICON section wrote on July 12: Saroj Khan, RIP!

“Ace Bollywood choreographer, who gave countless hit songs including the iconic Ek Do Teen from Tezaab filmed on Madhuri Dixit, died on July 3. She was 71. She was the dance director for almost 2,000 songs (a whopping number indeed) and most of her hits were with Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. Although she had been in the industry since the 1960s, Saroj-ji shot to international fame when she choreographed Sridevi for the song Hawa Hawai in 1987, in director Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India. She subsequently gave other memorable hits such as Dhak Dhak Karne Laga and Choli Ke Peechhay. May she rest in peace.”

Sushant Singh Rajput

How soon is too soon to make a film on a grave tragedy? Express Tribune newspaper, asked on July 22 on reports that the alleged suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was becoming the subject of at least two Bollywood film ventures.

The question that reflects the criticism on both sides of the border has surfaced because Rajput’s death has triggered a furious debate in India especially on favourtism and nepotism that favours a few star kids and cronies and treats the rest as outsiders.

The newspaper quoted Indian media reports to note that Rajput’s death on June 14 “has not only started a conversation about mental health in Bollywood but also kicked up many controversies, with many attributing it to the hard time that outsiders have in the close-knit film industry.

“Now, just within a month of his death, two films inspired by the late actor have already been announced, one of them starring TikTok star Sachin Tiwari, who had become a rage on social media for his uncanny resemblance to Rajput. This, again, has ignited the question of whether Bollywood really wants to celebrate his life or just milk an opportunity.

The newspaper also quoted, Indian film-maker Hansal Mehta, known for directing real-life inspired films such as Shahid (2013), Aligarh (2015), and Omerta (2018).

“When you make a film on a true story, it’s always about the intention of the film-maker. If the intent is to let the world know of the actual story, then it’s a different thing. But if it’s to simply capitalise on something that’s topical, I think that’s not ethical.”


Mahendra Ved is a veteran journalist who has served with the Times of India, Hindustan Times and United News of India. The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

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