When External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his officers board the flight to Pakistan on Tuesday, their luggage will include four-CD audio sets titled 'Bollywood: 60 years of Romance'.
This special compilation of Hindi film songs will be gifted to Pakistani diplomats during Mukherjee's tour to promote one of India's strongest manifestations of soft power, Bollywood.
The Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs has tied up with the RPG group's Saregama India Ltd (formerly The Gramophone Company of India Ltd) to bring out this special product as a gesture of diplomatic goodwill for a country in which Hindi film songs are all the rage.
This 60-song CD pack drawn from Saregama's vast archives covers songs from 1946 to 2006 and is not available in the domestic market. It will be given to various foreign ministry officials when Indian delegations visit a country.
The CD, which will have 1940s' film songs, will remind Pakistanis of undivided India and the undivided talent in the Bombay film industry. The first song is Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya by Kundan Lal Sehgal from the film Shahjahan. The album signs off with the title track of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna by Sonu Nigam.
While gifting indigenous products of fame to foreign dignitaries has always been part of diplomatic courtesy, the history of gifting Hindi film music to Pakistan is interesting. Bollywood films and its by-products were banned in Pakistan for many years, depriving Hindi films of a good market.
Bollywood lost millions of dollars in revenue while pirated products sold freely on the streets in Lahore and Karachi. Things have changed over the past few months, after the Pervez Musharraf-led government allowed the release of some Bollywood films.
As films like Taare Zameen Par and Bhoothnath hit Pakistan's theatres, 'Lollywood' (as they call the Lahore film industry) also came forward, making Khuda Ke Liye with Indian stars like Nasiruddin Shah. In short, Hindi films in Pakistan had never seen better days.
During Partition, the 'nightingale' of Hindi film music -- Noorjahan -- left India to settle in Pakistan. But in the recent past, Pakistani singers have shown keen interest in tapping the huge Indian market.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and now his nephew Rahat Fateh Ali have been regular play-back singers for the stars while Adnan Sami, another Pakistani, has become a full- fledged music director in India.
Film music has already transcended the fences on the Indo-Pak border. Music CDs in Pranab Mukherjee's luggage represent a promise of more.