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<i>Mughal-E-Azam</i> to be shown in Pakistan

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Delhi (UNI): Emperor Akbar and Anarkali have pipped Shah Jahan and Mumtaz in the race to hit Pakistani theatres! Even as there was widespread buzz in recent weeks that Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal-An eternal Love Story would be the first Indian film to make it to Indian theatres on April 28, K Asif's Mughal-E-Azam quietly hits the Pakistan theatres today, thus becoming the first film to be released in Pakistan after 41 years. Talking to UNI, Akbar Asif, son of the late K Asif who produced and directed the legendary classic, said the film would be premiered today at Pakistan's Gulistan cinema.

The film's premiere, the preparations for which began late yesterday, was being held for selected government officials, socialites and other important personalities. As part of the preparations for the film's premiere, Gulistan Cinema was decorated with a special set designed by Tanveer Fatima. Mughal-e-Azam thus becomes the first film to successfully open the cinematic gates of Pakistan for Bollywood films. Considering that the London-based Akbar Asif had planned a grandiose release for 'Mughal-e-Azam', including a hunt to find a new Anarkali through a major television hunt spreading over six months, the quiet move to release the film comes as a surprise.

Initially, the film was to hit the theatres in Pakistan on June 2 amid grand celebrations. Elaborate plans had been made to release the film in the presence of actors from around the globe and royalty, complete with fireworks from Japan. Infact, Asif's initial plans were to make the release as grand as the epic film itself. However, when it became evident that Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal would beat Mughal-e-Azam in the race to hit the Pakistani theatres by releasing on April 28, Akbar Asif dropped plans for a grandiose release as he wanted his film to be the first Indian cinematic venture to hit theatres in the neighbouring country. With this thought, Akbar Asif quietly moved his papers with the Pakistan government and finally the decision to have Mughal-E-Azam as the first film to be screened in Pakistan came through. ''The move to ensure that Mughal-E-Azam turned out to be the cultural bridge between India and Pakistan was to fulfill my father's dream of getting Mughal-E-Azam to be the first film to get permission to be screened in Pakistan,''Asif said.

Asif, who had previously gifted Rs 11,100,000 to the technicians who coloured Mughal-e-Azam and promised the Akbar Asif Ko Anarkali Ki Talash to be the talent hunt of the millennium is elated at Mughal-E-Azam actually being the first Indian film to be released in Pakistan after over four decades. Says Akbar Asif,''the proceeds from Mughal-E-Azam will go towards the earthquake-affected victims in Pakistan . But this is just the beginning of an Indo-Pak bridge. There is a lot in the offing. Anarkali will bring together India and Pakistan. I want to create a sense of friendship that would last beyond our lifetime.'' Asked about his grandiose plans to premiere the film in Pakistan, Akbar Asif said,''it is true that we initially wanted the film to get a grand premiere, but the thought struck me a few days ago that a film of the epic nature of Mughal-E-Azam needs no grandiose in terms of release. The film is itself the biggest and the grandest epic ever made in India.''

Talking to UNI, Nadeem Mandviwala of Nadeem Mandviwala entertainment, which is distributing the film in the neighbouring country, said the film had been launched in Pakistan because of Akbar Asif who wanted his father's masterpiece to be the first-ever Indian film screened in Pakistan over two decades. Mandviwala said Mughal-e-Azam will be screened at Gulistan Cinema from tomorrow, whereas nationwide screening will begin from June 2. Infact, the release in Pakistan of the coloured version of Mughal-e-Azam, that began screening in Indian theatres on Diwali in 2004, had been cleared by Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf in May last year following efforts by Akbar Asif, who had met Mr Musharraf in London during the president's visit there in 2004 and gifted him a reel of the colourised version of the magnum opus.

Then, earlier this year, on February 11, Mughal-E-Azam, starring Bollywood thespian Dilip Kumar and the late Madhubala, became the first Indian film to be cleared by the Pakistani censors, the Central Board of Film Censors in Islamabad, for exhibition in Pakistan. Closely following Mughal-e-Azam in the Pakistani theatres will be Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal, which is slated to hit cinema halls in th neighbouring country on April 28. Also slated for an early release is Umesh Mehra's 'Sohni Mahiwal', which was earlier this year cleared by the censors for exhibition

Trade sources say, release of a film like Mughal-e-Azam will be a "shot in the arm'' for the Pakistani film industry which is in a bad shape due to the theatres going in a loss because of onslaught of cable television and the deteriorating quality of Pakistani films. ''Given the popularity of Indian films and film stars among the Pakistani people, coupled with a high curiousity level for Mughal-E-Azam, the film spells a huge revenue generation potential for theatres in the neighbouring country,''Depesh Salgia of the Sterling Investment Corporation, the negative right holders of the film, said.

Trade sources say a film like Mughal-E-Azam has the potential to generate nearly Rs 50 crore in Pakistan, double the amount it generated from India. Infact, Nadeem Mandviwalla Entertainment, which is distributing Mughal-E-Azam in Pakistan has, in the recent weeks, giving a facelift to the theatres scheduled to screen the film. The owner of the company, Nadeem Mandviwalla recently said Nishat cinema hall in Karachi, as well as other cinema halls to screen the film were undergoing renovations. Mughal-e-Azam is also in news in Pakistan for the "longest ever trailer" that has been specially created for its publicity. Made by Yusuf Khan (who made his debut with Sunny Deol, Sunil Shetty, Celina Jaitley starrer 'Khel') this special trailer has a duration of 7 minutes 35 seconds, unprecedented in the history of Indian cinema. Nadeem Mandviwala said that Rs 20 million had been given to the government for the film's rights and now it was up to the government to decide how much money it wanted to give to the October 8 earthquake victims in Kashmir.

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