Film museums

01 Oct 2020

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THE KP government’s decision to acquire the ancestral homes of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor and turn them into museums is welcome news indeed. Both personalities are unequivocally two of Bollywood’s greatest legends, and people on either side of the Indo-Pak border take pride in their cultural association with these names. Incidentally, Bollywood stars Madhubala, Prithvi Raj Kapoor and Vinod Khanna were also born in Peshawar. Though the provincial government’s decision is stated to be part of its larger Peshawar Revival Plan, attempts have also been made by previous governments to acquire these sites.

Both buildings, situated near the famous Qissa Khwani Bazaar, are in a dilapidated state and faced with an imminent threat of demolition. In fact, the Kapoor Haveli suffered considerable damage in 2016 during a demolition attempt by its current owner. Thankfully, the provincial archaeology directorate had intervened and pulled the plug on the operation. On the other hand, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had declared the Kumar home a national heritage site in 2014. A dispute over the price had prevented the then KP government from acquiring the property, but it did succeed in declaring the house a protected antiquity to stop the owner from making any structural changes to it. This time, however, the provincial government intends to bypass the owners and use in its favour the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which allows the state to take over private land for public use. One hopes this decision will help restore Peshawar’s cultural hustle and bustle that faded in the years following 9/11. News reports indicate the KP government also plans to acquire the birth home of current Bollywood giant Shahrukh Khan, also in the same Qissa Khwani neighbourhood, and turn the area of these three ancestral houses into a large museum space dedicated to the subcontinent’s rich film industry. If the KP government succeeds in executing this commendable plan, it will provide a golden opportunity to boost tourism and, by association, the country’s film industry.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020