Hollywood has built an image of my country that I certainly don’t recognise: Mehwish Hayat

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Mehwish Hayat makes Pakistan proud once again. The actor has received the Pride of Performance award from Norway’s Prime Minister Madam Erna Solberg for doing films which are based on women empowerment and for spreading the message of peace on multiple national and international platforms.

Mehwish shared the video of herself receiving the award from Norway’s PM on Twitter. The host of the event gave her a stellar introduction and said that they are “proud to have her here in Norway.”

Taking to the podium, Mehwish thanked the Norway PM and government for bestowing her the honour before speaking about films and regional peace.

“It is fitting that we are here in Oslo this evening, the home of the Nobel Peace Prize,” Mehwish began. “Peace is something that unfortunately my country Pakistan has not known since its inception. We have been embroiled in one conflict or another for as long as I can remember. For us in Pakistan, peace has become a relative state of mind,” Mehwish said.

She continued, “Even as I speak today, we are yet again in another conflict with our neighbours over Kashmir, which literally blew up last week.”

Mehwish remarked that as an actor she could very easily just do her films and forget about the rest.

“Cinema is a very powerful tool. It has the ability to change people’s mind, behaviour and attitude. I sincerely believe that Hollywood films and programs vilifying my country and portraying us as terrorists has had a profound effect on the psyche of the West. It has greatly influenced what people think of Pakistan.”

Naming a few films, she commented that “Hollywood has built an image of my country that I certainly don’t recognise.”

“A country branded a terrorist, we have lost over 70,000 lives and billions since 2001. That is more than any other country. But where is that being shown?” Mehwish questioned, adding that these films which portray a negative image of Muslims have fueled Islamaphobia.

Mehwish then took on Bollywood. She said that it is one of the largest film industries in the world and they had the power to bring us [Pakistan and India] together.

“But what do they do?” Mehwish said, “They make countless films showing Pakistanis as the villains. I have lost count of the number of films in the last year where Pakistan has been shown in bad light.”

She said that she understands that one has to appear patriotic but if “we want some peace in the future, we as artists need to see beyond nationalism and take a stance.”

She said that she believes that through films, we can present a more “nuanced picture” of the country. Mehwish said, “there is more to us than gun-breeding terrorists and subjugated women.”

Mehwish then addressed India directly and said that they need to decide whether their nationalism is more important or a peaceful future is. She finished off her speech with a quote from Prime Minister Imran Khan, which was met with huge applause.

“If they [India] are willing to take one step forward [towards peace], we are willing to take ten steps.”

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