Bollywood actress Nandita Das' directorial debut "Firaaq", based on the 2002 sectarian violence in Gujarat, has won the best feature film award at Pakistan's KaraFilm Festival.
The film, which Das describes as an outcome of her involvement in social work, is yet to be released in India and had its premiere at the seventh edition of KaraFilm Festival.
"To come to Karachi was a big struggle. But it was very necessary to come, not just to screen 'Firaaq' here but to make it clear that contacts between the people should continue. Artistes should talk on these issues at a different level," said Das, who was in the southern port city to attend the closing ceremony of the festival last night.
"Till the world is completely peaceful, neither can we be. And that is not going to happen in our lifetime. So we will keep struggling and living," said Das, who is popular on this side of the border because of her performance in "Ramchand Pakistani".
Tensions generated by the Mumbai attacks curtailed the Bollywood presence at the festival though Das and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt travelled to Karachi to participate in the event.
In past years, Bollywood stars and directors have been among the main draws at the festival, which was first held in 2001.
"It is a tense atmosphere and sometimes the role of the media and the politicians becomes dangerous because they have their own agendas. But we must retain our sensitivities and sensibilities and not fall into their traps. We should understand that people on both sides of the border are affected by same problems. People should not detract us from these issues," Das said.
KaraFilm founder Hasan Zaidi said he was happy that Das decided to bring "Firaaq" to Pakistan even before its release in India.
"Firaaq", starring Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Deepti Naval and Sanjay Suri, interweaves the stories of Muslim couple Hanif and Muneera, middle-class Hindus Sanjay and Arati, an older Muslim musician living in a Hindu neighbourhood and a Hindu-Muslim couple.
The film traces the tensions these characters have to grapple with over a 24-hour period in the aftermath of the violence in Gujarat.
Das said she was "very excited to see what dialogue and questions arise" after the screening of "Firaaq". "It's very timely after 26/11 to show the prejudices and perceptions that arise after a period of violence occurs," she added.
Referring to the tensions between India and Pakistan, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said, "These are dark times, and it has brought back the things we had thought we had put behind us years ago.
"It is important that the platform of KaraFilm, where we started seeing the dream of Indo-Pak co-productions, continues," he said. Bhatt said he remained hopeful that things could improve on both sides of the border through a "long and sustained engagement".
Pointing to the lack of barriers and travel formalities in Europe, Das said there is a dream for something similar in South Asia. "Some people will not benefit from something like this, how will they sell arms then?
"Both India and Pakistan spend so much money on their militaries. If this money could be spent on the poor, education and health, then both countries could reach a new level," she said.