Bangladeshi cinemas retaliate after actor’s protest over Hindi film

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Theatres to boycott movies starring Shakib Khan, who led opposition to country’s first screening for decades of a Hindi film

Bangladeshi cinemas will boycott movies starring the nation’s top actor after he led protests against the first screening for decades of a Hindi film in the Muslim-majority nation.

The Bollywood blockbuster Wanted opened in cinemas at the weekend after Bangladesh’s censor board cleared its nationwide release, following a 50-year ban on Hindi-language films.

But the screenings sparked protests outside cinemas along with wildcat strikes by hundreds of Dhaka actors, directors and others, who said the release would cripple the local film industry, known as Dhallywood.

The Bangladeshi heartthrob Shakib Khan led the marches on cinemas, where protesters ripped up Hindi film posters and pleaded with fans queueing at ticket booths to boycott the film. “We’ll stop Hindi films at any cost,” Khan was quoted as saying in a local daily newspaper.

Bangladeshi cinema owners reacted sharply, saying they would show not any movies starring Khan or the other protesters and defending their decision to screen Indian films on financial grounds.

“We’ve released Hindi films because we’re now facing [an] existential crisis,” said Saiful Islam Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association. “It’s unfortunate that Shakib Khan, Misha Shawdagar and other actors and directors have used violence to try to prevent us from showing Hindi films.”

Chowdhury said the country’s 350 film theatres “have decided not to show any films by Shakib Khan” along with Shawdagar and several directors.

Last year a court ruled that Wanted could be shown in Bangladesh, despite a prohibition on Hindi films dating back to a brief war between India and Pakistan in 1965 when Bangladesh was part of East Pakistan. The censor board gave Wanted the final go-ahead in November for screening this year.
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Although pirated CDs of Indian films are hugely popular in Bangladesh, the ban on Hindi movies continued after the country gained independence in 1971. The government briefly lifted the ban in 2010 after caving into pressure from struggling cinemas, hundreds of which have shut down in recent years because of poor ticket sales. But it was quickly re-imposed following furious protests by local actors and directors.

Chowdhury said the government had recently lifted the ban again under a free trade deal between south Asian countries. Given the censor board’s clearance of Wanted, he predicted that importers would be more emboldened to start bringing in more Hindi films.

Khan said on Thursday that the ban should remain to protect local movie industry, which produces around 60 films a year.

Source: The Guardian