July 29, 2007 / 6:24 AM / 12 years ago

India actor stars in true-life Pakistan border drama

Tony Tharakan

Indian actress Nandita Das poses during red carpet arrivals for Austrian director Michael Haneke's in competition film "Cache" at the 58th Cannes Film Festival May 14, 2005. Das who is starring in a Pakistani film about a boy who accidentally strays into India is hoping that the touching story will move people in both countries and bring them closer.REUTERS/Vincent Kessler SN/dh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A popular Indian actress who is starring in a Pakistani film about a boy who accidentally strays into India is hoping that the touching story will move people in both countries and bring them closer.

“Ramchand Pakistani”, inspired by a real-life incident, examines the emotional turmoil of a 7-year-old boy and his father after they inadvertently cross into India and are jailed, while the mother is left pining for them in Pakistan.

Nandita Das, known for acting in bold, unconventional films, plays the mother in the film whose main characters are from Pakistan’s minority Hindu community.

“The film talks about things common to both India and Pakistan — bureaucracy, prejudice,” she said. “There are innumerable cases of people accidentally crossing the border and being jailed as spies.”

Das was referring to repeated instances of innocent people, mostly children, from India and Pakistan being jailed for years after accidentally straying into each other’s territory.

Such prisoners are released by the two countries from time to time as a peace gesture.

For the actress, cinema could be the perfect cultural bridge between the two countries that have fought three wars against each other since their partition in 1947.

“Films are important for knowing about culture. I think if we knew a bit more about each other, we would stop perceiving each other as enemies,” Das, a former jury member at Cannes, said.

“Ramchand Pakistani” is her first Pakistani film, a rare feat considering that political rivalry has meant limited interaction between the film industries of India and Pakistan.

Screening of Indian films is banned in Pakistan to protect that country’s small movie industry, but a thriving bootleg DVD business has taken Hindi-language cinema to millions of Pakistani homes.

Das, who has acted in more than 30 films in 10 different Indian languages, said she enjoyed “complete comfort” working in Pakistan, where the language and even the food were familiar.

But she rued that Indians were less aware of the cinema and culture of Pakistan, which had many serious filmmakers who were more enthusiastic and committed than many Indian counterparts.

“We tend to get a bit complacent in India,” said Das, known for her performances in two of Deepa Mehta’s element trilogy “Fire” and “1947: Earth”.

“After all, we make about a thousand films annually. But for them making a film is a big thing.”

“Ramchand Pakistani” is likely to be released in India and Pakistan in October.

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