New Delhi: Sitting miles away in Karachi, the mention of India makes Pakistani actress Sarwat Gilani remember its 'mitti ki khushboo' (smell of the earth) which is endearing to her family till date. She is appreciative of how India has been welcoming artists from her country, and says "it's a big deal".
The 32-year-old's TV show "Mata-e-Jaan Hai Tu" is being aired in India as "Meri Jaan Hai Tu" on Zindagi channel.
In an interview with IANS, her first with an Indian media house, over phone from Karachi, she opened up about her Indian connection with fondness, and even spoke of how spreading the idea of oneness is a "huge responsibility" that entertainers on both sides of the border have.
"To see India welcoming Pakistani artists with such grace is a very big deal...it just shows that people there have a very big heart," she said, referring to how actors like Ali Zafar, Fawad Khan and Humaima Malick as well as singers like Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam have made space in Bollywood.
Does she intend to work in an Indian film or show?
Sarwat, who is expecting her first child, said: "For me, it doesn't matter where I work. If something good, interesting, and what I'm looking for comes along, then why not? I would love to do an Indian project."
"I'm a very artistic person. So if they (any Indian) would like me to be a part of any film that will require my acting skills more than my face value, then I would love to do it. I like meaningful cinema and India has a lot of meaningful stuff to offer," she added.
Asked about some similarities between entertainment content of India and Pakistan, Sarwat, who is said to have appeared in over 20 TV shows, explained: "I feel our problems are the same. Children's rough attitude, relationship between husband and wife, old age problems, customs and rituals -- we usually show similar type of stories in shows.
"Whenever we see shows which have people from both sides, India and Pakistan, I feel the Indian community is so open to us and they are so talented, yet they give us equal platform to showcase our talent too."
However, she said "there is no comparison in films" as Pakistan still needs a "lot of time to achieve what Indian entertainment industry has achieved".
Sarwat has a strong India connect.
"My Nana (grandfather) was a Nawab of Manavadar. The state given to his elder brother was Junagarh. I came to India when I was six years old. I came to Bombay (now Mumbai) and our apartment was near the beach.
"My connection with India is through rain. Whenever it rains in Karachi, at that time we start remembering India and that 'mitti ki khushboo' that my family members can never forget throughout their lives.
"Also, shopping is fantastic in India. My mother used to buy beautiful saris for herself, and toys for me. I have a really good memory package from my India roots...from when I was a child," she said.
Sarwat, an admirer of Bollywood, is glad that people across borders have affection towards each other's entertainment industry.
"It can play a tremendous role in bringing both sides closer. When we talk about politics, religion or other serious things, then a lot of people usually hold back or try and leave the conversations.
"But when we talk about entertainment, or some drama shows, then everyone wants to be a part of it. So, it's a huge responsibility for the actors and all other artists to spread the idea that 'we were always one'," she said.
(Sandeep Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)