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Wed 25 Feb 2009 12:03 PM

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Abu Dhabi to screen Hindi films with Muslim themes

Month-long film festival to focus on rich influence of Muslim culture on Hindi films.

A film festival in Abu Dhabi starting Thursday will showcase Hindi films with Muslim themes. The films include acclaimed director Ashutosh Gowariker's Mughal romance 'Jodhaa-Akbar', Muslim social 'Mere Mehboob', a courtesan's tale 'Umrao Jaan' and the poetic 'Mirza Ghalib', according to the IANS newswire."This festival is one of the launch events for New York University's (NYU) new university in Abu Dhabi, UAE," Ira Bhaskar, co-curator of the festival and workshop, told IANS.

The festival titled 'Muslim Cultures of Bombay Cinema' aims to focus on the rich influence of Muslim culture on Hindi films from the 1930s to the present.

Professors Richard Allen, chair of Cinema Studies Department at NYU, and Bhaskar, Cinema Studies Department of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, have jointly curated the festival.

Though all films will be screened with English subtitles, some of these were never subtitled into English before this endeavour. Bhaskar says that films like Sohrab Modi's 'Pukar' and Mehboob Khan's 'Najma' were especially subtitled for the festival.

'Apart from the above two, 'Mirza Ghalib', 'Chaudhavin Ka Chand', 'Mere Mehboob', 'Garm Hawa' and 'Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro' are also subtitled for the festival,' she added.

It was a difficult task to get the rights of the films, especially those over four decades old.

'It was not easy, but we have got good support from the various agencies which are custodians of these films,' said Bhaskar.

Muslim professionals have been an integral part of the Hindi film industry since its inception. In fact, Muslim actors and actresses have reigned supreme on the box-office throughout Bollywood's history. Yet, fewer film productions have depicted general Muslim social life or themes. While the yesteryear productions were family dramas and romantic stories laden with the respect and culture associated with traditional Muslims and the Urdu language, there has been a dramatic change in present times.

Muslim protagonists are often portrayed as being on the wrong side of the law - gangsters, victims of political manipulations or terrorists.

'Films reflect contemporary discourses - for instance the current links with crime and terrorism. But films also counter such misperceptions. 'Jodhaa Akbar', for instance, uses Akbar and his marriage to Jodha through an imaginative retelling of history to highlight the contemporary aspiration for communal harmony,' said Bhaskar.

Although there is a decline in the influence of Urdu, Bhaskar says Hindi films help preserve it in some way.

'Yes, Urdu has been and continues to be nurtured by Mumbai cinema,' she said.

The festival is being organised by the New York University Institute Abu Dhabi in association with Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) and the Indian Embassy.

Film maker Ashutosh Gowariker will preside as the special guest for the opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, Professor Philip Kennedy, faculty director of NYU Abu Dhabi, Indian Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad, Richard Allen and Ira Bhaskar will also be present.

Other well-known Bollywood personalities to attend the the almost month long festival are directors J.P. Dutta, Shyam Benegal, Saeed Mirza, Khalid Mohamed, MS Sathyu and actress Farida Jalal, IANS added.

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