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November 26, 2001

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Exit Taliban. Enter Bollywood

A decade ago, Bollywood's churners were a raging hit in Afghanistan.

With the expected collapse of the fundamental Taliban regime, the industry is anticipating a revival of sorts.Khuda Gawah

While superstar Amitabh Bachchan continues to be a darling of the Afghans, Aishwarya Rai has replaced Sridevi from the top slot.

Mukul Anand's Khuda Gawah that was shot extensively in Afghanistan and other Hindi films are in great demand after the opening of cinema halls in the country.

"Agar mera Munna ghar vapas nahin aaya to mein tumhe maar daloongi (If my son does not not return I will kill you)." This typical Hindi film dialogue came as a warning in 1991 from Teji Bachchan to producer Manoj Desai, when he came to take her son Amitabh to Afghanistan to shoot for Khuda Gawah.

That was a decade back when Najibullah was in power and Afghanistan was reeling under a war.

In fact, soon after the fall of Taliban, Desai got a call from Afghanistan seeking his permission to screen the film.

Besides Bachchan, the caller said they wanted people to see what Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif were like before Taliban took over.

For the past six years, no Hindi film has been officially released. However, come January and the Afghans will get to see latest Hindi films, beginning with actress-turned-producer Aruna Irani's Yeh Dil Aashiqana.

Director Kuku Kohli said negotiations with distributors were in final stages.

Ironically, the film is inspired by the IC-814 Indian Airlines hijack in 1999 when the hijackers took the plane to Kandahar.

"The money we get from the shows would be donated to give a better life to Afghan children affected by war," Kohli says.

Though there have been few inquiries, the excitement is visible considering that after United Kingdom and United States, it was the the third biggest market of Hindi films.

"It is a good market and in the past Hindi films have collected good revenue," Kumar Mohan editor, Trade Information states.

He adds that it is too early to comment on the present scenario and the picture will be clear only after an alternative government assumes power.

The Indian Overseas Distributors Association is also planning to take up the issue of sending film prints to avoid future hassles.

"For the past six years nobody bothered about Afghanistan rights. Now that films are being screened the producers will sell rights of their films," Association Secretary Sen says.

In the absence of official releases, Hindi film fanatics in Afghanistan attained film cassettes smuggled from UAE.

Hindi films were the only mode of entertainment available to the Afghans. Though the territory is not vast, it has got good returns, Pravesh Mehra of Eagle Films says.

At present, producers are only contemplating screening their movies. Even as Desai is hopeful that shooting in the beautiful locales could also be a possibility in the near future. "I was the first one to go and shoot there" he adds.

For Hindi film aficionados in Afghanistan, where, during the 22-day Khuda Gawah schedule, the national televison showed one Amitabh starrer every night, the celebrations have just begun.

PTI

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