Taj Mahal premieres in Pakistan

For Pakistani actress Sonia Jehan, it is a dream come true. It was a proud, historic moment for the grand daughter of the famed Pakistani singer actress, the late Noor Jehan, when her debut Indian film Taj Mahal was screened at a red carpet gala viewing at the Plaza cinema in Pakistan on April 26. The film’s première also heralds the lifting of the 41-year-old ban on Bollywood films in Pakistan.

The 17th century love story set in the famous Mughal mausoleum of the same name has more than caught the imagination of the Pakistani audience as it will also enable Pakistanis to enjoy a simultaneous release of Hindi films in their country. Earlier they had to depend on pirated DVDs and cable operators to enjoy their favourite stars on screen.

The ban on Indian film in Pakistani theatres came shortly after the two countries went to war the second time in 1965. As a gesture of goodwill President Mussharaf also allowed the screening of the great Indian classic Mughal-e-Azam. The epic film based on a love-story of a Mughal prince who falls for a lowly courtesan. The film incidentally is also set in Lahore, where the film premièred last week.

“The only ground for permitting the exhibition of the films was that the producers of both the movies had agreed to spend their income for the welfare of earthquake-hit areas in Pakistan and India,” said Ziauddin, who is chairman of Pakistan Film Censor Board, a government department which gives permission to movies to be screened in the country. The other two Indian films to be given permission for screening in Pakistan are Sohni Mahiwa and Bride and Prejudice..

The nuclear rivals began a peace process two years ago to bury their many differences, and as relations improve. It is in the interest of the Pakistani cinema owners and filmmakers that the government to lift the movie ban. Illegal import of CD copies of blockbusters from Bollywood had led to several cinemas shutting down at a rapid rate. However, the so-called lifting of ban may not be total as only 13 Pakistani cinemas will be screening Taj Mahal this week. Incidentally, there are only 300 screens across all of Pakistan.

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