Pakistani film on Islam in a rare India screening


NEW DELHI -- A Pakistani film about Muslims in a post 9/11 world is slated to open in India next month, a rare event considering political rivalry has limited cultural interaction between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

"Khuda Kay Liye" (In The Name of God) deals with the rift between radical and liberal Islam, an issue that confronts India's 140 million Muslims as well while they fight charges that the community provides recruits for militant groups.

Director Shoaib Mansoor hopes the Urdu film will engage audiences in Hindu-majority India when it opens in theatres on March 28.

"It is the first Pakistani film (in India) after several decades so people should have a natural interest in it," the Lahore-based filmmaker told Reuters in an email interview.

"India has a very big Muslim population which should naturally be interested. And the non-Muslims (would want) to know what real Islam is."

"Khuda Kay Liye" weaves together three stories -- of a pop singer who comes under the influence of Islamic extremists, a Briton of Pakistani origin who is forcibly married to her cousin and a man illegally detained in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The film also features Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah in a cameo as a Muslim scholar clarifying the tenets of Islam during a court case.

Pakistan's film industry has been starved of a natural audience in India due to political differences and the dominance of Bollywood.

But the success of "Khuda Kay Liye" since its release in Pakistan in July last year may be a sign Pakistani cinema is finally emerging from the doldrums.

The film that opened to a standing ovation at the International Film Festival of India last year has premieres planned in New Delhi and Mumbai.

"After many years, 'Khuda Kay Liye' saw packed theatres in Pakistan," said filmmaker Mehreen Jabbar, whose film "Ramchand Pakistani" was screened at the Berlin Film Festival this month.

"It got people talking about the revival of cinema (in Pakistan) and opened doors to other filmmakers to start thinking again about the possibility of making quality feature films."