With nostalgia as its ‘weapon’, Pakistan plans to unleash soft-power warfare on India and Bollywood lovers everywhere as never before. A museum complex is being planned in Peshawar at the ancestral homes of legends Dilip Kumar and late Raj Kapoor.
While this is not exactly ‘news’ since acquiring those havelis has been mooted and debated for long, the new addition is the home of reigning Bollywood megastar, Shah Rukh Khan.
All the three had their homes, pre-Partition, in Qissa Khwani Bazaar, a prominent area of old Peshawar. Plans are afoot to restore the crumbling havelis and turn them into heritage museums.
Welcoming the decision of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province – NWFP), Dawn newspaper (October 1, 2020) adds to the “Bolly-lore” of the Kapoors and Khans: “Incidentally, Bollywood stars Madhubala, Prithvi Raj Kapoor and Vinod Khanna were also born in Peshawar.”
The Kapoor Haveli was built by Lala Bisesharnath Kapoor. His son Prithviraj moved from there to dedicate his life to theatre and cinema, eventually making Mumbai (Bombay, hence Bollywood) his home.
Yusuf Khan aka Dilip Kumar has always been attached to Peshawar, although he grew up as a fruit merchant’s son in Deolali, Maharashtra. So much so, when asked to condemn Pakistan during the 1965 conflict, he famously declared that being born in that part of the subcontinent, he could not think of it as “an enemy country.”
Pakistani media has carried reports of Saira Bano, yesteryears’s actress and Dilip Kumar’s wife, as conveying the ailing Kumar’s good wishes to the people of Pakistan and thanking the authorities for the decision to restore the ancestral home.
As for SRK, he is distantly related to “Frontier Gandhi” Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. His father, Mohammed Taj was a freedom fighter and a Congress activist in New Delhi.
SRK has walked the tight rope amidst intermittent India-Pakistan spats. A remark critical of the attacks on religious minorities in India got him an unsolicited invitation from Hafeez Sayeed, the Mumbai terror attack mastermind known for his many anti-India campaigns. Sayeed urged SRK to live “in safety” in Pakistan. SRK issued a lengthy statement rejecting the offer in unequivocal terms. He has since refrained from saying anything that could get controversial — so have other Bollywood Khans, Aamir and Salman.
Incidentally, Salman Khan’s paternal ancestors were Alakozai Pashtuns from Afghanistan who immigrated to Indore, Madhya Pradesh in the mid the 1800s. His biographer Jasim Khan quotes him to say Salman’s ancestors belonged to the Akuzai sub-tribe of the Yusufzai Pashtuns from Malakand in the Swat valley of NWFP.
Praising Kumar and Kqpoor, Dawn says in its editorial: “Both personalities are unequivocally two of Bollywood’s greatest legends, and people on either side of the Indo-Pak border take pride in their cultural association with these names.”
It expresses the fond hope: “If the KP government succeeds in executing this commendable plan, it will provide a golden opportunity to boost tourism and, by association, the country’s film industry.” The latter reference may be to the Imran Khan Government’s plans to resuscitate Pakistan’s ailing film industry.
“One hopes this decision will help restore Peshawar’s cultural hustle and bustle that faded in the years following 9/11,” the newspaper says, ostensibly referring to the terror attack on the city’s prestigious Army Public School in 2014 when 132, mostly children were gunned down. It has been infamously referred to as “Peshawar’s 9/11.”
As of now, the Kapoor and Khan havelis are in dilapidated state and faced with an imminent threat of demolition. The Kapoor Haveli suffered considerable damage in 2016 during a demolition attempt by its current owner. “Thankfully, the provincial archaeology directorate had intervened and pulled the plug on the operation.”
The idea was mooted in 2014 by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who declared the Kumar home a national heritage site. A dispute over the price had prevented the then KP government from acquiring the property, but it did succeed in declaring the house a protected antiquity to stop the owner from making any structural changes to it.
Now, the provincial government intends to bypass the owners and use in its favour the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which allows the state to take over private land for public use. It is likely to be part of its larger Peshawar Revival Plan.
Vinod Khanna, actor, lawmaker and a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government who died in 2017, was born in a Punjabi Hindu family in 1946, in Peshawar.
Although Dawn claims Madhubala (1933-69) was born in Peshawar, she was born in Delhi as per Wikipedia and was Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi in real life. Her father Ataullah Khan was a Pashtun from the Peshawar Valley.
Villain Pran and comedian Om Prakash, both deceased, were among the many who migrated after the Partition to Mumbai to make their names in Bollywood.