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Meera bites Bollywood

Lahore, Oct. 5: Pakistani actor Meera has kissed her liberal image goodbye and suddenly adopted a hardline stance against Indian films being shown in her country.

“India has a different culture and mindset. Therefore, Indian movies should not be screened in Pakistan,” said Meera, who has been acting in Bollywood films and was till recently projecting herself as an “ambassador of peace” between India and Pakistan.

The actor herself had been a victim of the “different cultures” argument earlier this year, when a huge row erupted in Pakistan over an on-screen kiss between her and fellow actor Ashmit Patel in her first Bollywood film, Mahesh Bhatt’s Nazar.

She received threats, prompting the Pakistan government to provide her with security. A petition was filed in a Karachi court seeking to ban her from acting in Indian films on the ground that she had mocked Pakistan’s religious and social values by performing in “immoral scenes”.

Meera, however, kept insisting that she would go on acting in Indian films and vigorously advocated their screening in Pakistan.

The U-turn came recently in Lahore. “I used to say that I am an ambassador of peace between India and Pakistan, but I won’t say it now,” she said without explaining herself.

“We should produce our own movies'. We are Muslims and we have to make films that depict our own culture,” the actor, who had recently announced plans to permanently settle down in Mumbai, told reporters.

She said her one-year stay in Mumbai has convinced her that Indian films are not suitable for Pakistani audiences. Her second Indian film, Kasak, has just been released.

The Pakistan culture ministry, too, seems to have undergone a similar change of heart. After taking a soft stand till last year -- and even recommending that Pakistani theatres be allowed to show Indian films -- it now rules out such a possibility.

“There is no question of screening Indian movies in Pakistan till the settlement of all political disputes, including Kashmir, between the two countries,” the deputy minister for culture and sports, Muhammad Ali Durrani, said in Lahore on Tuesday.

The Film Exhibitors Association of Pakistan has threatened to shut down cinemas unless they are allowed to screen Bollywood movies. It says Pakistani films do not draw crowds.

Pakistan’s religious Right, headed by the Islamic Opposition alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal (MMA), is also opposed to opening the doors to Indian movies. It has repeatedly threatened to step up its agitation against the government if Islamabad allows Pakistani cinemas to show Bollywood films.

“If this happens, it will reinforce our doubts that the present government is forming policies that fly in the face of the country’s ideology, the two-nation theory and the national interest,” MMA leader Liaqat Baloch said.

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