Indian superstar Salman Khan's latest release, Bajarangi Bhaijaan, has hit the jackpot the way none of his earlier hits had. At close to 600 crore rupees, the blockbuster has emerged as the Bollywood's second all-time grosser after PK starring another Khan, Amir.
Apart from the moolahs it has raked in, the story of a good Samaritan, Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajarangi, who goes all out to help a mute 6 year-old girl Munni, lost in India, to reunite with her family in a remote village in Pakistan has had an unexpected benefit.
The reel life of Bajarangi and Munni has helped real lives of two similar characters. The search of a Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney for the family of a mute Indian girl who strayed into Pakistan 15 years ago has received a boost following the release of the Salman-starrer.
On knowing the plight of the girl, Geeta, Indian external affairs minister Sushama Swaraj instructed the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, TCA Raghavan, to meet her and provide assistance for her return to home in India. Raghavan and his wife last Tuesday met Geeta and assured her to locate her family as soon as possible.
Geeta, now 23, is believed to have mistakenly crossed into Pakistani territory as a child. She was 7-8 years old when she was found by the Pakistan Rangers 15 years ago from Lahore railway station, according to reports.
Human rights activist Burney, who had raised Geeta’s issue three years back while visiting India, is now optimistic about getting her reunited with her family in India. “I am sure finally this poor and innocent girl will be able to go back to her country,” he said.
One of the many countries where the movie, Bajarangi Bhaijaan, was received extremely well was Pakistan where only recently another Bollywood release, the Akshya Kumar-starrer Baby was not allowed to be screened.
"That Bajarangi Bhaijaan is performing well in neighboring Pakistan bodes well for the film’s gentle, crowd-pleasing plea for better cross-border Indo-Pak relations," writes film critic Rob Cain in the Forbes magazine.
The Salman Khan blockbuster's reel life characters of Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi and Munni may have resembled the real life characters of Burney and Geeta and even helped the latter's humanitarian cause. But history hardly inspires when it comes to politics. Relations between not only the arch rivals, India and Pakistan, but between other countries of the region as well have not been able to rise above petty politics and vested interests of the elites who thrive on an atmosphere not conducive to better people-to-people relations.
Even as Bajarangi Bhaijaan was winning hearts of the people on both sides of the borders, reports of fresh cross-border firings kept India and Pakistan busy hurling allegations against each other. This apart, both sides also repeated long-running accusations of sponsoring ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ against each other with the militants' attack on Gurdaspur police station in the Indian state of Punjab giving a fresh platform.
In an obvious reference to Pakistan in the wake of the Gurdaspur attack, National Security Advisor to prime minister Narendra Modi, Ajit Doval, was in a belligerent mood earlier this week. “India has a mentality to punch below its weight. We should not punch below our weight or above our weight, but improve our weight and punch proportionately.”
The statement came less than a month after Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif accused India of supporting what he called anti-Pakistani terrorist groups in a proxy war against Islamabad and threatened to use nuclear weapons. Appearing on the Pakistani television channel Geo, Asif said, “We should pray that such an option never arises, but if we need to use them (nuclear weapons) for our survival we will”
While the politics play the spoilsport in the beautiful game of humanitarian love and empathy transcending the political borders the media does hype it up. As Bajarangi Bhaijaan's good-hearted journalist Nawazuddin Siddique, says out of frustration over his inability to sell the true story of love to the mainstream media: "Nafrat badi aasani se bik jaati hai. Lekin mohabbat...(Hatred sells very easily, but love..)