'Khuda Kay Liye' thaws 43 years of India-Pakistan screen chill!

By Arpana

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) The Pakistani film "Khuda Kay Liye", which delves into the rift between radical and liberal Muslims, hits the screens here this week, the first to have a commercial release in India in more than four decades.

The movie, starring Naseeruddin Shah in a key role, has been made by Shoaib Mansoor. Mumbai-based Percept Picture Company has got the rights of the film and is releasing it with 300 prints on April 4.

"We are the first to get the rights of a Pakistani film and it's a big high for us. We are releasing it with 300 prints, including the digital ones," Nadish Bhatia, general manager of the marketing division of the Percept Picture Company told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

"Everybody is saying 'Khamosh Pani' was the first Pakistani film to hit the Indian theatres. It was a French co-production. But 'Khuda Kay Liye' is a Pakistani film and the first one to hit Indian screens in 43 years," Bhatia added.

The movie, which faced opposition from the extremists and Pakistani clerics, was a huge hit in Pakistan.

"The film has made a record in the country. Those who hadn't been to a hall in 35 years made an effort to watch the film," said Mansoor, who was in town to promote his movie.

"We released it with only 10 prints. Pakistan is a small market, but we still made Rs.70 million in Pakistani currency. It is surprising that a film which discusses religion and doesn't have any humour, songs, dance or romance has done so well commercially. It means that it has touched the hearts of people," he added.

Mansoor, who has also produced the movie, made it at a budget of 60 million Pakistani rupees.

"The film has made an impact in Pakistan and abroad and I am confident that it will make an impact here too."

"Khuda Kay Liye" was the first Pakistani film to be included in the official line-up of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and it struck an instant chord with audiences when showcased there last year.

The film stars Pakistani superstar Shaan, who impresses as the harried protagonist Mansoor, and Rasheed Naz as the Maulana who brainwashes boys. The film also features Pakistan's top model Iman Ali, who plays Maryam, a woman trapped between modernism and conservatism.

Naseeruddin Shah essays a powerful cameo of an Islamic scholar who embodies the voice of reason.

With the lifting of the ban for exchange of films between the two countries, the Pakistan government has allowed it on a condition that films will be strictly "exchanged". For each Hindi title released in Pakistan, an Urdu film will have to be exhibited in India.

Indian movies were banned in Pakistan in 1968 and the Pakistan film industry had to bear huge losses. There were more than 1,000 theatres throughout Pakistan those days, but now it is reduced to just 200.

Compared to India, which churns out about 1,000 films every year, Pakistan's film industry produces just about 40 movies, a fifth of what it churned out during its heyday in the 1970s.

"This action will not only benefit Indian producers but Pakistani filmmakers as well. Now that the films will have legal screenings, Indian producers will get a new market. Its a double whammy for the film industry in Pakistan," Mansoor said.

"Pakistan will get a big Indian market and when Indian films will come there, the business of cinema will flourish. Secondly, release of Indian films will translate in competition for Pakistani filmmakers. In a competition, the underdog benefits. This will help good filmmakers come out and bad filmmakers will automatically vanish," Mansoor said.

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