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Bollywood pours love on Pakistan

First it was cricket. Now a B'wood story breaches hate lines of Indo-Pak divide, writes Hemendra Singh Bartwal.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 00:45 IST

First it was cricket. Now a Bollywood love story, and one that defied an emperor at that, breaches the hate lines of Indo-Pak divide. Anarkali, crooning Jab pyar kiya to darna kiya, and a love-lorn Salim have become the latest poster faces of confidence-building measures, as the colour version of Mughal-e-Azam premiered at Gulistan cinema in downtown Lahore on Sunday. The first Indian movie to hit Pakistani screens in 41 years.

It will be followed by another Mughal tale, Akbar Khan's lavish spectacle Taj Mahal —An Eternal Love Story, which is slated for release in Pakistan next week. Mughal-e-Azam's distributors advanced the premiere (it was originally scheduled for release in June) in a bid to beat Taj Mahal and become the first Indian movie to be commercially released in Pakistan after four decades.

While pirated VCDs and DVDs of Bollywood films are available in ramshackle shops in every mofussil town in Pakistan, their public screenings had not been allowed since the 1965 Indo-Pak war. The screening became possible after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf granted special permission on receiving several representations to waive the ban.

It is time for another round of culture diplomacy. Culture and Tourism Minister Ambika Soni will lead a delegation of Bollywood biggies — from filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt and Sanjay Khan to actors Manisha Koirala and Hrithik Roshan — to Pakistan on Monday to be at the premiere of Taj Mahal on April 26.

On celluloid will be shared history where LoC was not an issue. On screen Sonya Jehan, granddaughter of Pakistani singer Noor Jehan, will play Mumtaz Mahal. Historicals laced with song and dance are a world away from high-level summits where K-word becomes problematic. Perhaps Salim and Shah Jahan can provide some history lessons.