When the Pakistan India cricket series resumed after a long hiatus, I thought it was a good idea to travel to Pakistan to make a film about cricket and how it affects as well as reflects the state of affairs between the people of India and Pakistan. I wanted to travel all over Pakistan with a group of Indian Cricket fans on their first visit there, and catch on film their encounter with the enemy which was now with a face.
The film almost didn’t happen. First nobody was interested in the idea of a film about a first documentary of it’s kind which would be exclusively shot in Pakistan from an Indian’s perspective. But in Pakistan, when I had only bounced off the idea to an unseen friend through an e-mail, I was surprised to learn that her film production company would be interested in a co-production. If it had happened that way, it would perhaps have been a first India-Pakistan film.
After much trying with producers and production companies and even sports channels that I had thought would lap up an idea such as this, after failing and almost giving up hope, the project was rescued by the Public Service broadcasting Trust (PSBT). They had produced my earlier film too – Tell Them The Tree They Had Planted Has Now Grown.
I had expected that in the euphoria and the hype that had begun to build up getting a visa would be a rather easy affair. I made a mistake. I told them the truth. That I wanted to travel with my unit of four people to make a film about Indian cricket fans in Pakistan. I even expected that, since I had an arrangement with a Film Production company in Pakistan, getting a visa would be a cakewalk. Again I came a cropper. Finally the Pakistan side also backed out.
Than one fine day, much after one part of the series had already gotten over, I decided to buy tickets for the test series online and than apply for the visa. I made sure to hide my real intentions though I was still very much eager to make this film, and strangely, speaking a lie worked.
Luckily for me, Arun Varma, who shot this film, was still keen on accompanying me to Pakistan though he was aware of the risks involved in shooting a film clandestinely in the country, which has been a bitter foe for most of the time since the two nations came into existence as independent entities.
Only now, when I see the film again with audiences, when I see them laugh at the funny moments or nod their heads in agreement and shake their heads at some hard to take scenes, do I realize that if caught, we might still be languishing in some notorious Pakistani jail a la Sarabjit Singh of RAW fame.
Why and how we managed to come back safely across along with the tapes is in some measure a testimony to the goodwill that exists in the people of Pakistan for people of India. Thinking about this I ask myself “kaun ullu ka patha nahin chahte ka India aur Pakistan main dosti ho, lekin…” (Which idiot doesn’t want friendship between India and Pakistan but…)