MUGHAL-E-AZAM POISED TO PULL CROWD


Colorful version likely to be screen in Pakistani cinemas

 

By ASHRAF KHAN
May 23 - 29, 2005
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Mughl-e-Azam, a rare classic movie produced by the Bollywood movie makers in early sixties had superbly enthralled people of the subcontinent and hit across the densely inhabited part of the globe. It now set to re-appears once again on silver screen to stir the imaginations after a gap of 45 years.

Originally, a black and white movie brought to life the legend of the flopped romance of the 16th century Mughal crown prince Saleem (Dilip Kumar) and the gorgeous court dancer Anarkali (Madhubala), carving indelible marks on the hearts of the cine-goers.

Advanced technology of today has enabled the producers to give a fresh complexion to the immortal classic by putting colors in the movie which has started to incite millions of nostalgic fans with irresistible urge to watch the reminiscence to recall and live in their youthful days at least for three hours in a cinema house.

But a caveat keeps them deprive of this opportunity a decade-old ban of Indian films exhibition on Pakistani cinemas. But a ray of hope emerged when Pakistan's Information Minister, Shaikh Rashid early this month hinted its release in Pakistani cinema circuits.

Pakistan has agreed in principle to screen the movie by bringing the ban to an end.

In yet another sign of warming relations between South Asia's erstwhile enemies, Mughal-e-Azam will become the first Indian movie to be legally screened in Pakistan as soon as the formal approval was granted by the censor board.

President Pervez Musharraf gave his support for screening the 1960 classic, after receiving a request from the family of Mughal-e-Azam's director, K. Asif.

It is now up to the censor board when to release the film. General lifting of the ban has been also in the air especially since the initiation of the Indo-Pak peace process. But the most positive hint in this regard came from chairman of Pakistan film censor board Ziauddin Khan, who said that a summary for allowing screening of Indian films was shortly being sent to the federal cabinet for approval.

A recommendation has also been made to permit screening of other Indian films in Pakistani to give a boost to cinema house owners who have been facing huge losses, and to help improve the standard of Pakistani films.

MORIBUND FILM INDUSTRY

Pakistan has banned screening of Indian films after the 1965 war and since then its film industry had a sole run but failed to flourish. The industry charm has been declining for the past two decades as most of film theatres, unable to bear the losses, began closing down at a rapid pace. In the 1970s, the Pakistani cinema was dealt with several blows. The local film industry was producing over 130 films a year during that period, making a fair comparison with the number of films being produced in India.

Many were commercial successes and an audience was being built. Film industry shrank like any thing. Art was equated with prostitution and it was frowned upon. The genuine producers abdicated their role and no investments took place in studios, not any technical facilities provided besides any establishment of new cinema.

In fact many picture houses built on amenity plots solely for public entertainment were converted into shopping plazas. At one time there were 1,800 cinemas in Pakistan and were on the increase. The number has dwindled merely to fewer than 250 now.

Cinema industry in Karachi and elsewhere in Sindh province is phasing out as most of the movie houses fast converting into shopping centers/markets. Out of 204 cinema houses existed all over Sindh upto January 2002, only 75 are left to run the business while rest 129 have been closed down.

The Sindh Assembly was informed about fast vanishing picture houses during question hour last week. Replying to a question of opposition's Humera Alwani, Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who also holds the portfolio of Information informed the House that in Karachi alone there were 97 cinema houses out of which only 34 are in operation while remaining 63 were closed down. Giving details he said out of total 30 cinemas in Hyderabad 17 have been scrapped for other commercial ventures.

REVIVAL IN THE SIGHT

Weighed down by costs, poor investment and rapidly declining talent, the bigwigs of the Pakistani film industry were pressing the government to allow screening of Indian movies to help survive the business.

While some old timers were still opposing to open gates to Indian movies fearing a cultural invasion. Amazingly, they are overlooking the so-called cultural invasion by going through endless TV channels. The strong proponents of showing Hindi films, like film star-turned director Javed Sheikh, however, asking the government to allow Pakistani film industry to develop strong thematic and technical links with the Indian counterpart for its survival.

 

 

Sheikh, who featured in several TV debates boldly advocating for opening doors for Indian cinema, argues that almost all Pakistanis avidly watch the Indian films through the pirated video and CDs which are released in Pakistan as soon as a new Hindi movie released in India. In Pakistan, the Indian film actors and actresses are more popular than the home artists.

The Indian films would be re-censored in Pakistan and the board would charge a fee of Rs25,000 for every movie. He said Pakistani films lacking story and quality direction. Unfortunately, locally produced movies were struggling to survive only on vulgarity and nudity.

He said the local filmmakers would have to change this trend. It is believed that screening of Indian films would help an atmosphere for a healthy competition. This industry offers an ample scope for good directors, storywriters and musicians to profit from their work.

Indian Entertainment Industry is generating Rs2500 billion profit, which expected to rise to Rs4500 billion by the year 2009. Pakistani film producers could make a better deal having found such a mammoth market as over one billion people.

There is a huge market of over 100 million Punjabis living in India, Pakistan UK, USA, and Canada. This massive populace gives a fair reason for joint ventures, and if the governments in Delhi and Islamabad leave the artistic people alone, they can avoid lot of wastage and plagiarism. Efforts have already underway to form joint ventures. One Shoaib Qureshi, an American national from Pakistan has co-produced a film with his partner from India. The release of the film is awaited but Qureshi determined to maintain his pursuit.

"We are putting our efforts to help our dying film industry and through that our beloved country," he told a press conference here last week.