02/09/2008, 00.00
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After more than 40 years, Pakistan opens to Bollywood

The government is gradually lifting the ban on the importing of films made in India, which has been in place since 1965. The initiative is the sign of a more widespread thaw, but is also intended to address the domestic movie industry, which is in crisis. The opposition of the Lollywood competition and Islamic fundamentalists.

Karachi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Films made in Bollywood are returning to Pakistani cinemas after a ban that has lasted for more than 40 years.  Yesterday theatres in Karachi began showing the film 'Welcome', one of the most successful recent movies from the Indian cinema industry.  The event, which takes place in a climate of the gradual easing of tensions between the two neighbours, has already generated fears about the possible reaction of domestic competitors and Islamic extremists, who are scandalised by the bare skin revealed by the sari (editor's note: the traditional Indian women's garment).

The ban on the importing of films from Bollywood has been in effect since 1965, following the Indian-Pakistani war of that year.  In spite of this, Pakistanis have continued to see Indian films thanks to the flourishing black market for DVDs and pirated recordings that has sprung up on the border.  Recently, Pakistan's parliamentary committee on culture asked the government to permit the distribution of the "hated" films, under adequate censorship and for a year-long trial period. After that, says senator Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, who heads the committee, "the arrangements can be reviewed". Meanwhile, the first films are beginning to come out, and only the official pronouncement from the council of ministers is still awaited. 

The initiative also seems intended to compensate for the difficulties being experienced by part of Pakistan's movie industry.  Movie distribution and theatre owners are believed to have asked the government to permit Bollywood to revive the sector, which is now in crisis.  In the 1970's, Pakistan had 1300 movie theatres, compared to about 275 today.  But not everyone is welcoming the vote Indian films with open arms.  The less well known 'Lollywood' (the movie industry of Lahore) fears that the introduction of the Indian competition will seal its demise.  Conservative Muslims, for their part, oppose the showing of Bollywood films not only because they are "Hindu", but also because they show too much of the female body.  The analysts are certain: Bollywood, for now, will remain limited to Punjab and Rawalpindi, and will not arrive in the more "sensitive" provinces of Bolochistan or the North West Frontier.

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