Culture And Media


Pakistan: Controversial film was made to 'reform fundamentalists'


Even before Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God) was released, radical clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against the movie and its makers.

Lahore, 29 August (AKI) - Despite fatwas and legal threats to prevent the Pakistani film Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God) from being screened, the three-hour long blockbuster has become a box-office smash in Pakistan.

In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), the film's writer and director, Shoaib Mansoor, said that it was made to "reform the fundamentalists in Pakistan in particular, and the Muslim world in general. "

While Mansoor recognises that this is "such a high ambition", he is thrilled by the response that the film has received in his home country.

Reports say that the film took 180,000 dollars in its opening weekend last month and grossed 500,000 dollars in its first three weeks.

The movie tells the story of two brothers who are musicians. One of them gives up music and becomes radicalised, grows a beard and tries get his mother to wear a hijab. The other brother moves to Chicago to study music but ends up getting arrested after 9/11 and is tortured by US interrogators until he is paralysed.

The film cover hot topics in Pakistan such as marital rape, forced marriage as well as jihad and also includes anti-American sentiments.

It is expected to also generate broad debate at international festivals, like this week's Venice International Film Festival which is showing a number of political films this year.

"I have hardly cared or bothered about getting into festivals," Mansoon told AKI. But he admits that screening at an event like Venice would definitely give his Pakistani film greater exposure and credibility.

It would be "an added accomplishment and will inject tins of new blood in me," said the Mansoor, who made his name with a career in Pakistani television. Khuda Kay Liye is his first feature film.

"My first and foremost purpose coming to film-making after having spent thirty years in television was to revive or revitalise our film industry," said Mansoor.

"It was the second step to think of a concept and a storyline which was not a typically Bollywood or Lollywood (the word used to refer to Pakistan's movie industry based in Lahore) romance cum dance and music saga but to have some philosophy and message in it," he told AKI.

"I feel like flying in the sky after having achieved both targets," he said.

The film is playing on 11 screens in 10 cities in Pakistan, even though the radical cleric of Islamabad's Red Mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi issued a fatwa against the film. Ghazi was one of more than 50 people killed in the assault on the mosque in early July.

A petition was also filed at the Lahore High Court earlier this month challenging the screening of the film, but the court eventually ruled against it.

Mansoor doesn't believe that this kind of publicity helped his film.

"If at all, it affected it negatively because the general fear among the masses was aggravated by such fatwas," said Mansoor. "Most of them were afraid that there could be bomb blasts in [the] cinema halls," he said.

"In fact there are many who still haven't gone just because of the fear. I must salute those who despite all the fears and apprehensions have made it to [the] cinemas."

The film has caused debate in Pakistan about Islam with the battle lines drawn out between two groups - the modernised elites who carry the banner of enlightened moderation and the radical segments of society with their calls for jihad.

For Mansoor, the winner in this fight is clear.

"I think we are definitely heading towards a win of the moderate majority," he told AKI. "Up until now this section was totally docile and quiet. I have tried to be a representative voice.

"The wonderful response that I got from people has shown that they are now ready to talk about it. I hope action will follow the talk and this film will be remembered to have initiated it," he said.


 

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