Petition against Bollywood films dismissed in Pakistan

An effort to stymie the release of Bollywood films in neighbouring Pakistan has been given the thumbs down by a Lahore high court. Movie Artists Association of Pakistan (MAAP) President and senior Pakistani actor Yousaf Khan, had filed a petition even as Akbar Khan’s Taj Mahal was set to be released in Pakistani theatres that screening of Indian films violated the law enforced in 1965.

His petition had also pointed out that Pakistani culture was different from Indian culture and that screening Bollywood in theatres would “harm local culture and Traditions.”
The Lahore High Court dismissed the plea saying that if the exhibition of Hollywood films had not impacted Pakistani culture how could the screening of Bollywood dent it. The court also accepted that the government’s decision opens Pakistan’s doors to Indian cinema did not violate any laws.

Lahore Court judge Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed queried if any Pakistani movie was representative of local culture, and whether Indian movies screened in Pakistan before 1965 had “tarnished or damaged our ideology”.

He added: “Iranian movies win international awards even though they are low-budget, and the Iranian film industry is not as big as Bollywood or Hollywood. When all Indian movies are available in the country on DVDs and CDs, what is the harm in showing these on the big screen?”

The judgment came even as a handful of Bollywood and Pakistani stars descended on Lahore yesterday at the premier of Taj Mahal starring Sonia Jehan, the grand daughter of Pakistan’s songstress Noorjahan. Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni joined Indian stars like Kabir Bedi, Fardeen Khan, Manisha Koirala, Shatrughan Sinha and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and Pakistani stars Reema and Meera.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Federal Culture Minister GG Jamal allayed fears that the Screening of Indian films in Pakistan would damage the local film industry. Speaking at a reception hosted by the Pakistan Film and Television Journalists Association and the Lahore Press Club for Indian artists visiting Pakistan for the premiere of Indian film Taj Mahal, Jamal said artists had no borders and cultural diplomacy was the most effective diplomacy in the world.

Mahesh Bhatt, filmmaker Akbar Khan, Taj Mahal leads Sonia Jahan and Syed Zulfiqar, and Satish Anand participated in the reception. Indian Censor Board Chairman Satish Anand said the Indian government had approved the screening of two Pakistani films – one Punjabi and the other in Urdu — in India. And Soni proferred that a festival of Pakistani films would be organised in India at a place to be decided by its government.