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Bollywood stumbles in Pak with Taj Mahal

Reuters

Posted: May 14, 2006 at 1240 hrs IST

Taj Mahal, a new Bollywood epic based on the love-affair of a Mughal emperor, has not set hearts beating in Pakistan, though it is the first contemporary Indian film allowed to be shown in decades.

Last month, the Pakistani government relaxed a long standing ban on Indian films and allowed screening of the 1960's classic, Mughal-e-Azam and a brand new epic, Taj Mahal, to revive a shrinking cinema business.

Satish Anand, the distributor for Taj Mahal in Pakistan, said cinemas have not exactly been packed since its release on April 28.

"The response has not been what we expected although we distributed 20 prints on the circuit. Normally we issue around 10 prints of local films," he said.

Taj Mahal is being shown in four cinema halls in Karachi, but only one of them, a 130-seat cineplex in the upmarket Clifton beach area, is attracting crowds. Most of the other cinema owners said business had been dull except on Sundays.

"It is well made but slow. We would rather watch the latest releases with Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan," said Tehmina, after seeing the movie.

Film critic Muneeba Kamal said one reason for the lukewarm response could be that Pakistanis prefer to watch the latest Bollywood releases at home.

Despite a ban on Bollywood movies, Pakistanis watch a lot of Indian movies on DVDs and CDs in an entertainment-starved nation.

Even during the peak of India-Pakistan tensions over disputed Kashmir that brought them to the brink of a fourth war in 2002, Pakistanis never lost their appetite for Indian movies and music, which are also widely available on pirated discs and videos.

Private cable operators in the country also freely transmit Indian movie and music channels.

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