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Islamists oppose Bollywood film screening

Pak film fans reacted with delight after officials said cinemas would be permitted to show love story Sohni Mahiwal.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 16:23 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Islamic hardliners pledged on Tuesday to protest against Pakistan's plans to screen an Indian movie for the first time in 40 years, accusing Bollywood films of spreading "obscenity and vulgarity".

Film fans and the movie industry reacted with delight after officials said on Monday that cinemas here would be permitted to show the 1984 love story Sohni Mahiwal.

There were calls for the government to completely overturn its ban on all Indian films, which was imposed after the neighbouring countries fought a war over Kashmir in 1965.

"This will strengthen and promote friendly relations between Pakistan and India," Pakistani movie star Nirma told the agency.

"There is no harm in the exhibition of Bollywood movies in Pakistan and likewise Lollywood movies in India," she added, referring to Pakistan's Lahore-based film industry known as Lollywood.

Despite the government ban, Bollywood films have long had a massive audience in Pakistan on pirate DVDs and via cable channels.

Amid a two-year thaw in relations between the nuclear rivals, Indian film stars have recently started making trips over the border and there have also been a handful of joint Bollywood-Lollywood productions.

Pakistan's film censor board said SohniMahiwal was cleared because it was a co-production between India and the-then Soviet Union, and also because it is set in the Punjab region which is split between India and Pakistan.

"All new Indian movies are available on CDs and cassettes in Pakistan on the same day they are exhibited in Indian cinemas," film critic Farah Warraich said.

"If the government cannot stop the exhibition of Indian movies on cable, then it should also allow the exhibition of Indian movies in cinemas."

Bollywood fan Aatika Pervez, a medical doctor from Lahore, agreed.

"We watch every new Indian movie through our cable network and I personally feel that the government cannot stop it," she added.

However Pakistan's powerful alliance of hardline Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), opposed the move, saying that Indian movies with their risque dance routines were not suitable for Pakistani viewers.

"We are of the view that Indian movies spread obscenity and vulgarity," MMA central leader Liaquat Baloch told the agency.

"These (Indian) movies cannot be watched with family members and as such we will be opposing their exhibition in Pakistan," Baloch said.

The MMA, which governs Pakistan's deeply conservative North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, has previously burned TVs, videos and DVDs and other "immoral" material.

Since coming to power in the province, the alliance has banned music in public transport and barred pictures of women on commercial billboards.

Yet the MMA attracts far less support in less conservative parts of Pakistan and they face a tough battle against the widespread popularity of Bollywood here.

The News daily said lifting the ban, if it happens, would open "new vistas" for entertainment-starved Pakistanis.

First Published: Jan 24, 2006 15:17 IST