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Pak sheds prejudice for Ash

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By AMIT ROY in Cannes
  • Published 18.05.06
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Cannes, May 18: Posters of Aishwarya Rai “will be put up all over Pakistan” because the censors have allowed distributors to buy Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, it was announced in Cannes today.

“We have got the rights but it took 16 months of negotiations before the government of Pakistan agreed ? Indian films are still banned in Pakistan,” said Lahore-based distributor Hammad Chaudhry.

As he stood in front of the Palais des Festival, Chaudhry, who is the marketing direct of HKC Entertainment ? he is accompanied by his sister, Aniela, the company’s distribution and marketing manager ? revealed that efforts were on to persuade Aishwarya Rai, the film’s star, to attend the movie’s premiere in either Lahore or Karachi.

He is taking heart from the fact that President Pervez Musharraf, who met Rani Mukherjee during his visit to India ? the Pakistani leader’s wife is said to have enjoyed Black ? probably wouldn’t mind being photographed with the “Queen of Bollywood”.

“Although Indian films are banned in Pakistan, the rules are loosening a little,” Chaudhry pointed out.

Neither Mughal-e-Azam, which was shown for only a day with no prior publicity, nor Taj Mahal had been big box office successes in Pakistan but they had paved the way for other Indian films being allowed in, said Chaudhry.

As things stand, it seems unlikely that Aishwarya is ready to make the journey to Pakistan yet but there will be continuing efforts to persuade her to change her mind.

Strictly speaking, Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha’s retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is not a film in the classic Bollywood mould. Nor has it been as big a hit as Chadha’s previous film, Bend It Like Beckham.

“It’s a cross over kind of film, which is part Bollywood and part British Asian, which is why the British Council have indicated they are willing to help stage a premiere in Pakistan,” explained Chaudhry. “I think it’s easier to get permission for cross-over films.”

The mechanics of promoting Aishwarya and the film are being worked out ahead of the June 2 release.

“There are only 270 screens in Pakistan and no multiplexes of the kind you get in Britain or India,” he went on. “We will have 11 to 12 prints, but these will travel from cinema to cinema. Most of the prints will be in Hindi and the film called Balle Balle, rather than Balle Balle: From Amritsar to LA.”

Behind the scenes, there are attempts to widen the cracks a little more.

Chaudhry said one of his uncles “is talking to UTV about getting the rights to Rang De Basanti”.

Chaudhry was intending to attend the premiere of another Aishwarya film. “I am looking forward to seeing Provoked in Cannes,” he said. “That’s another film Pakistan may take.”