Acclaimed actress-filmmaker Nandita Das, who was a part of an Indian delegation to Karachi last week, is undaunted by hatemongers who call her anti-national. She hopes small efforts help in building bridges between India and Pakistan.
Nandita, along with over 20 other Indians, participated at the Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) in Karachi.
"Mumbai to Karachi is an hour's journey, but has no direct flights because of the tense relations that have only worsened in recent times. For us to fly to each other's country, we have to go via Dubai. Moreover, we only get restricted city-visas that are not valid not for the whole country," Nandita said.
As for being called anti-national for visiting Pakistan at a time when India's relation with Pakistan is at the lowest ebb, she said: "I have come back fully knowing that all that warmth, delicious food and affection that we all got, will quickly fade as the trolls begin to call us anti-national and media will question our intent."
She admits that the political situation couldn't get any worse.
"While it may be true that the Pakistan government has harboured or at the very least is soft on terrorists, their own people have suffered grievously from this. Is vilifying the people of another country the only way to feel nationalistic?
"Is my love for my country proportionate to how much I can hate another country? Yes, there are some real and some imagined conflicts that we all are locked in. But while that reality - history, geopolitics, and terrorism - is unlikely to change anytime soon, I still believe that small bridges could and should be built. And perhaps one day these small efforts will create a more peaceful and saner world."
This was not Nandita's first visit to Pakistan.
The actress, who has earlier featured in Pakistani film "Ramchand Pakistani", recounted: "The last time I went to Karachi was nine years ago along with the first film I directed, 'Firaaq', to the Kara Film Festival. That festival which has been unfortunately discontinued was organised by a bunch of young filmmakers.
"This one (PIFF) is organised by one of their leading television channels called Hum TV. The force behind this new venture is Sultana Siddiqui, a feisty woman who, with very limited resources and time, put this festival together."
The Indian contingent comprised 22 delegates, including S.S. Rajamouli and Shobu Yarlagadda (director and producer of "Baahubali" respectively), Rekha and Vishal Bhardwaj, Vinay Pathak and scriptwriter Anjum Rajabali among others.
Nandita said they have all returned with happy memories.
"For many of those who accompanied us, it was the first time they had visited Pakistan and they were surprised by the overwhelming warmth and hospitality that we were received with. I have in fact always felt that our perceived sense of animosity would dissipate if we made the effort, or rather we were just allow to meet, in person."
At the PIFF, there was much discussion on Indian cinema's contribution to Pakistan.
"Both Indian and Pakistani film fraternities came together on various panels to explore ways in which we could collaborate and issues of common interest, like the shrinking space for independent cinema and how to navigate through the different genres of films. The idea of a South-Asian Forum for people in films and television was floated and across the board it immediately found resonance.
"This would create such a pool of talent from the entire subcontinent and I am sure some very unique and interesting projects would emerge," she said.
(With IANS Inputs)