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Bhatt speaks on <i>Taj Mahal</i> screened in Pak

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 

New Delhi, (UNI): A day after K Asif's classic Mughal-e-Azam was premiered in Lahore's Gulistan cinema, renowned filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt today claimed that the screening of Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal - An Eternal Love Story in Pakistan on April 26 will go down the pages of history as the first Indian film to be shown in the neighbouring country after a gap of 41 years.

"I envy Akbar Khan for such a privilege... he will get a special mention in the history of Indo-Pak relationship," the veteran Director said during interaction with journalists ahead of the visit of a 38-member delegation led by Cultural Affairs Minister Ambika Soni for the screening of the Taj Mahal in Lahore on April 26. The film will be released in 20 cinema halls across Pakistan from April 28.

Asked how could Taj Mahal claim the credit of being the first Indian cinema to be shown in Pakistan in 41 years, Bhatt asserted that ''this is the first Indian film. undoubtedly the first Indian film to be shown in Pakistan in 41 years''.

He said the screening of Mughal-e-Azam or the Great Mughul" yesterday was a premiere show. But it is "official release" in the case of Taj Mahal. However, he refused to say anything more on the issue saying that ''we don't want to trivialise the whole movement''.

''We are feeling a great euphoria and entrusted with a great responsibility,'' he said, adding that ''we owe it to history... we should not waste the opportunity.'' Bhatt said Taj Mahal was being officially screened as the first film because it is based on a common Heritage and also because the film dealt with a subject relating to inseparable cultural links between the two countries.

''Moreover, the actress (Sonia Jehan) doing the role of Mumtaz Mahal is the grand daughter of Pakistani singer Noor Jahan,''he said.

Akbar Khan, who has just returned from Pakistan after overseeing all arrangements for the film's release in the neighbouring country, said the screening of his film should be an occasion for the entire film industry to rejoice as it would open up more opportunities for the industry in both the countries.

Akbar told UNI later that he had donated Rs 65 lakhs to a relief fund for victims of the October 2005 earthquake in the Kashmir region.

About 70,000 people died and more than two million in the area are still homeless.

Asked if he had any plan to donate the proceeds from the film for any charity in Pakistan, he said he had no such plan as he had already donated a huge amount for quake relief activities.
Ms Ambika Soni, who joined the delegation at the press conference later, said Indian films were being shown in Pakistan to improve cultural exchanges as part of confidence building measures (CBMs), under the composite dialogue process between India and its neighbour. She said that she would attend the premier show of the film at Lahore.

Ms Soni said she was carrying "goodwill" messages to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

''I will hand over the letters to Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan,''she said.

The film, which was released in India at the beginning of this year, is one of three films cleared for screening by the Pakistani government this year - the other two being K Asif's classic Mughal-e-Azam and "Sohni Mahiwal".

The members of the official delegation expressed the feeling that the relaxation of rules in Pakistan for Indian films will lead to greater understanding between the two countries, who have teetered on the brink of war since 1947.

Actor Zulfikar and actress Sonia Khan, who play the roles Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his queen Mumtaz Mahal, said that since the film was a beautiful love story,''we are taking this message of love to the people of Pakistan''.

Akbar Khan said actress Rekha would join the delegation in Lahore on April 26, while the other members of the delegation, which also includes Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan, would join them this evening.

However, he said it was still not certain if Hrithik Roshan would join the delegation due to some personal exingenies.

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