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Will Taj open doors?

With Akbar Khan's colourful epic Taj Mahal -- An Eternal Love Story ready for a grand release in Pakistan, all eyes in Bollywood are now on President Pervez Musharraf.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 01:36 IST

With Akbar Khan's colourful epic Taj Mahal -- An Eternal Love Story ready for a grand release in Pakistan,  all eyes in Bollywood are now on President Pervez Musharraf.

Will the flamboyant General, himself said to be an avid fan of Hindi cinema of yesteryears, give the nod for opening up the lucrative Pakistani market for more Bollywood productions that are a rage in that country? Or will it be just a one-time largesse that he has bestowed on a couple of films, the other one being Mughal-e-Azam, based on the two nations' shared past of the Mughal era?

The large delegation of Mumbai film stars, producers and exhibitors that is visiting Pakistan on the occasion of the Taj Mahal’s premiere is hopeful that the President will attend a special screening planned for VVIPs in Islamabad and grant them an audience later.

It is after a long gap of 41 years that public screening of Indian films is being permitted in Pakistan, which placed a ban on them after the 1965 war.

Culture and tourism minister Ambika Soni, who will attend the Taj… premiere in Lahore on April 26, will be carrying letters with "goodwill messages" from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to Musharraf.
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"This is an important part of the ongoing process of improving Indo-Pak ties through confidence-building measures and people-to-people contact...We in India like to see Pakistani plays and their people love watching Indian films. At the moment, they see our movies on pirated DVDs. It would be much better if there is a process of open exchange," Soni said.

The Bollywood contingent is being led by producer-director Mahesh Bhatt. Other members include the Khan brothers -- Feroz and Sanjay, besides Akbar himself -- Fardeen Khan, Shatrughan Sinha, Rekha and Pahlaj Nihalani, the president of the Indian Motion Pictures Association (IMPA). There is also Sonya Jehan, UK-based granddaughter of legendary Pakistani singer-actress Noorjehan, who plays Mumtaz Mahal.

According to Mahesh Bhatt, the key issues that would be discussed with the Pakistani culture minister and film industry representatives include evolving a mechanism for regular release of Indian films there, permission for shooting, co-productions and joint ventures for setting up multiplexes in Pakistan.