Uri reaction: Zee considers dropping Pak shows from Zindagi

MUMBAI: It makes sense, nationalism-wise. But, does it make sense, business-wise? An unexpected yet ideal tweet by media baron Subhash Chandra has catalysed a hot debate whether film actors from a hostile country should be allowed to earn millions working in the Indian film industry. His tweet follows in the footsteps of a political party sloganeering that Pakistan artistes working in India had better look for greener pastures elsewhere.

In his tweet, Chandra says, “Unfortunate stance of Mia Sharif at UN. Zee is considering stopping Zindagi programs from Pak, as well as artistes from there should leave.” Chandra's reaction comes in the wake of a recent attack on the Indian forces by Pakistan-trained terrorists in Uri (Jammu and Kashmir) that left 18 army men dead. He is the chairman of India’s leading entertainment company as well as a member of the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha.

Chandra has all along been making attempts to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan by himself or through his media empire. He even had meetings with the Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Shariff around two years ago when he launched Zindagi. At that stage, his son as well as Zeel MD & CEO Punit Goenka had tweeted: "Jodey Dilon Ko: Chairman Sh Subhash Chandra in conversation with Pakistan PM NawazSharif at the launch of @ZeeZindagiTV"

Zee Zindagi was positioned as a channel differentiated from the rest of the GECs as it offered a bunch of popular Pakistani TV shows which it had acquired from channels in the green flag nation. The purpose: give a 'hungry for variety' Indian audience a chance to engage with finite TV shows, shot with a focus on scripting and different dramatization.

Some of the Pakistani artistes who rose to fame and got work in the film industry figure are: Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Ali Zafar, Imran Abbas, Atif Aslam, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

Zeel had earlier announced a revamp of the channel from 3 October and changed its slogan from 'Jode Dilo ko' to 'Yeh Lamha Hi Hai Zindagi.’

Earlier this year, Chandra had taken another step towards promoting Indo-Pak unity with an initiative called Zeal For Unity (ZFU). Through ZFU, ZEEL brought together 12 filmmakers, six each from India and Pakistan, and funded their one-hour shorts, which were showcased across platforms like film festivals, television, theatre and digital under the ZFU initiative.

Questions that are being asked include whether Chandra will back his tweet with decisive action by pulling off all of Zindagi’s Pakistani content. Or, whether he was just posting his tweet at an emotional moment? Or, whether he had already decided to drop shows provided to it commercially by producers and broadcasters in the neighbouring state earlier, and was just latching on to the being-nationalistic opportunity.

Other questions that are being raised include whether other media houses will follow suit? Will they yank Pakistani content and artistes off their programmes? Will they air trailers featuring them? One can only wait and watch how this unravels.

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