20 Sep 2017/Wednesday  

Very few people may be aware that India is often a “Most Favoured Destination” to shoot movies set in Pakistan because of not only  better film infrastructure but also the Security, which is a major consideration. Movies having controversial content are very risky to be filmed in Pakistan as it may result into massacre of the whole Film Unit. In India also not much publicty is given to these shootings for the fear of reprisal by Nationalist organisations.

Norwegian-Pakistani filmaker Iram Haq’s What Will People Say had a significant section set in an unidentified town in Pakistan’s Punjab province. But that was shot entirely in the cities of Udaipur and Ajmer in Rajasthan. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

As Haq said, “I didn’t feel it was the place I would film this movie and also the industry is so well (developed) in India, so I wanted to shoot in India.”

Indian director Hansal Mehta’s latest project, Omerta deals with Pakistani-origin terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was born in England and is connected to major terror events around the world, including 9/11 and the Mumbai attacks, and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. Sheikh was finally arrested by Pakistani authorities for Pearl’s killing and remains incarcerated after being sentenced to death.

Given Mehta’s Indian background and a script that points fingers at Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency conspiring with Sheikh, the film would have never been completed if shot in Pakistan. So, places such as Mumbai, Patiala and Lonavala became on-screen substitutes for cities such as Karachi, Lahore or Rawalpindi, and other sites identified as in Pakistan.

When Indian-American director Mira Nair was making the film version of Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s bestselling novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, she spent four days filming exteriors in Karachi but bypassed the country for the majority of the shoot.

She was candid about this choice during an interview in 2014, the year it first screened: “We couldn’t get insurance to bring actors over (to Pakistan). Delhi is a sister to Lahore in many deep architectural ways.”

In Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, much of the action is set in Pakistan, including the climactic scenes of the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. That township, though, was recreated in Manimajra Fort of Chandigarh, with the city playing Lahore and Jordanian capital Amman replacing Islamabad.

This phenomenon may have started with Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart, based on the abduction and killing of Daniel Pearl. Its director Michael Winterbottom had filmed in Pakistan earlier, and even shot a fair amount in Karachi, before security considerations caused the production to shift to Mumbai and Pune.

Since then, international projects mostly haven’t even attempted to risk setting up units in Pakistan, even as the terror-related security environment in that country has gone south.

Pakistan Government needs to look into this matter very seriously. Firstly for the reason that the films having terror plot are always having a Pakistani connection, which portrays the country in very bad light. Pakistan has recently been castigated for its support to terror by leading powers of the world. The second issue is that the security situation remains a deeply worrying factor in Pakistan, which does not speak very highly of the competence and collusion of its security agencies including army in handling terrorism.