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Suicide bombers keep Pakistanis away from Awarapan

With the novelty of having a recent Indian movie playing at local theatres wearing off, the film 'Awarapan' sees less audience, reports Kamal Siddiqi.
None | By Kamal Siddiqi, Karachi
UPDATED ON JUL 25, 2007 09:04 PM IST

With the novelty of having a recent Indian movie playing at local theatres wearing off, the film "Awarapan" which stars Emran Hashmi is gradually playing to a trickling of audiences.

But why the crowds are not turning up is a point of debate among many. Theatre owners say that the reason is not the movie itself but the fear amongst people that cinema houses may be targets for suicide bombers.

However, there are others who argue that it's not about threat and more about what the movie has to offer. Another movie with an Indian actor, Khuda Kay Liye that stars, among others, Naseeruddin Shah, is getting a more favourable response. There have been lines of people wanting to watch the movie despite it having triggered more anger among some right- wing elements.

'Awarapan' is a story about a Pakistani woman who is kidnapped and kept as a mistress in a foreign country. Its story-line has been criticised by many for being "too Bollywoodish." Also, the absence of any major Indian star has meant that many cinemagoers have stayed away.

'Khuda Kay Liye' tackles a more serious topic: the predicament of moderate Pakistanis who, at home have to battle extremist elements, and abroad are viewed with suspicion by Western authorities. The crowd-puller for the movie is Naseeruddin Shah, whose role has been appreciated by viewers.

Ironically, a fatwa has been issued against this movie and there have been some incidents where protests were held outside cinemas playing the movie.

Asra Aziz, a student and avid fan, says that the real crowd-pullers would be blockbuster Indian films "which have stars like Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan."

A notion that Pakistanis would be lining up to watch Indian movies, come what may, has been dispelled.

Earlier, movies like 'Mughal-e-Azam' and 'Taj Mahal', which were aired in theatres across Pakistan a year ago, drew a lukewarm response. A reason for this is that most Indian movies appear on DVD, usually smuggled into the country, and are also aired on private cable networks. The Pakistani appetite for Indian movies is amazing, but those who watch also have their tastes and preferences.

In another significant move, a local distribution company has taken the rights to distribute "Eik Chalis Ki Last Local," an Indian movie, on DVD. This is the first time such an arrangement has been worked out.

There are three categories for certification of an Indian film or films with Indian artists in Pakistan. First, films produced in India are banned in Pakistan since 1965. Second, films produced in Pakistan containing Indian artists were also not allowed under Martial Law Order 57 issued by then Chief Martial Law administrator General Zia-ul-Haq.

"Awarapan" had been allowed under a third category wherein films produced in foreign countries, except India, even though having Indian artists, could be shown in Pakistan in view of the amendment carried out in Rule 10 of Censorship of Films Rules, 1980.

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