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Pakistani movie to play in India

July 19, 2008


NEW DELHI - A Pakistani film about a boy who inadvertently strays into Indian territory will be the first ever to premiere simultaneously in the rival nations whose ties are often strained, the films Pakistani producer said.

'Ramchand Pakistani', inspired by a real-life incident, examines the emotional turmoil of an 8-year-old boy and his father after they cross into India and are jailed, while the mother in Pakistan is left waiting to see their fate.

The films release in India and Pakistan on Aug. 1 will be a rare event considering political rivalry has limited cultural interaction between the two nuclear-armed nations.

'It is a very rare example of creative constructive collaboration between both countries,' producer Javed Jabbar said at a press conference on Sunday, a day after the film was screened at the Osians Cinefan film festival in New Delhi.

Jabbar, whose daughter Mehreen directed 'Ramchand Pakistani', said Pakistan allowed filming to take place close to sensitive border areas in southern Sindh province while India let the crew visit a jail in western Gujarat state to maintain 'visual and narrative authenticity'.

Indian actress Nandita Das, known for her roles in bold, unconventional productions, plays the mother in the film whose main characters are from Pakistans minority Hindu community.

When Indian troops find the boy Ramchand and his father who comes looking for him, they suspect them of being spies.

Set partly in 2002 when tensions between the South Asian neighbours brought them close to war, the pair end up in a grim jail where Ramchand spends his boyhood. His mother, meanwhile, has no way of knowing where her son and husband have gone.

Instances of innocent people, from India and Pakistan, being jailed for years after accidentally straying into each others territory are common. Such prisoners are released by the two countries from time to time as a peace gesture.

But 'Ramchand Pakistani', made at a budget of 60 million Pakistani rupees (around $855,000), is a story about human emotions and didnt set out to explore a solution to the bilateral problem, producer Jabbar said.

'Inevitably, we knew that there hopefully would be a positive impact, but its not deliberately conceived as a political film,' he explained.

Pakistan banned Indian films after going to war with its neighbour in 1965 but over the past few years, authorities have been allowing some Bollywood films to show in cinemas.

In April 2008, for the first time in years, a Pakistani film 'Khuda Kay Liye' opened in Indian cinemas. With 'Ramchand Pakistani' about to follow suit, Jabbar believes it is a sign the Pakistani film industry may soon shed its reputation of making low-budget imitations of Bollywood fare.

'Ramchand Pakistani represents the emergence of a new Pakistani cinema after several years of decline,' he said.