The Pakistani actress Ushna Shah has criticized the Indian filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali for cultural appropriation as his upcoming Latest series on Netflix India ‘Heeramandi’ is based on Lahore’s locality. 

The actress took to Twitter to elaborate how the Indian show is an appropriation of Pakistani culture and the series is not ‘their’s to make. 

Earlier on Instagram, she posted, “It isn’t about permission. Banaanay koh toh (For the sake of making) they can make anything. Of course, it was all India once. But if the little history that leans towards Pakistani culture/language/city is also commissioned to India to make, what historical film will Pakistan make?”

In a separate tweet, the ‘Lashkara’ actress wrote that the story and setting were what Pakistan “needed” asserting that ‘India has a plethora of rich culture and history’ to make films about and if a handful of the Mughal history had fallen into Pakistan’s domain after partition, its language, geography, and culture are ours to play with, Pakistan needed this.

Previously, Shah commented on a news post about the series on Instagram, she wrote, “Netflix doesn’t fund original projects for Pakistan. This is an opportunity taken away from Pakistani directors and filmmakers. Collaboration is one thing but this is appropriation.”

The actor went on communicating her position citing examples from Indian-owned history adding that how wrong and unacceptable would it be on Pakistan’s part if the country had made a film or TV series on the Mahabharata. 

She added, “Heeramandi is set in Lahore which is in Pakistan, and even if we abide by the pre-partition argument: Mughal history is often denied by India and it is what Pakistani history is set on (school books, etc). India has a plethora of rich cultures and histories to base films on, whereas we predominantly relate to the Mughals. This would be like a Pakistani director making Mahabharata.”

It is important to understand that there is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. Appreciation is when someone tries to understand and learn about a distinct culture in an effort to broaden their perspective about people carrying that culture and to connect with others cross-culturally. Appropriation, on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not yours and using it for your own personal interest and gains like publicity, political point-scoring, or monetary purposes.


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