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Saturday, September 26, 1998 Published at 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK


World: South Asia

Troubled Jinnah movie opens

The film marks the 50th anniversary of Jinnah's death

A film about Pakistan's founding father being premiered in Hollywood on Saturday has endured a storm of protests over the casting of actor Christopher Lee in the title role.


BBC's Razia Iqbal: Pakistan's anger over Dracula actor
Pakistan was enraged by the choice of Mr Lee to portray Muhammad Ali Jinnah because of his long association with Count Dracula movies.

The government withdrew its funding halfway through the film, entitled Jinnah, and Mr Lee received death threats.


[ image: Lee received death threats]
Lee received death threats
Activists also demanded the actor's arrest and deportation.

Mr Lee, best known for his Hammer horror roles during the 1950s and 1960s, had to be surrounded by armed bodyguards throughout the shoot.

Jinnah is revered as the man who forced the partition in India in 1947 and thereby created the state of Pakistan.


BBC Correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones reports on the controversy surrounding Jinnah
His face graces Pakistan's bank notes and his portraits hang in shops and houses all over the country.

The movie is the first major international feature film to come out of Pakistan and is also due to show at film festivals in Montreal and London.

But Pakistan's media has led a vociferous campaign against the casting of Mr Lee.

BBC Arts correspondent Razia Iqbal says it is the fact that Mr Lee is associated with Count Dracula and not that he is a European playing an Asian that has exercised people.

Image problem

Jinnah died a year after partition and unlike Indian independence leader Gandhi, his name has faded into obscurity in the West.

Producer Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic scholar at Cambridge University, aims restore Jinnah's profile and address his humourless, starchy image.

Mr Ahmed also hopes the movie will go some way to dispel the demonology surrounding Jinnah in India.

'No need for fanatics'

The film's release comes at a critical time for Pakistan as it debates the adoption of Islamic law.


[ image: Activists called for Lee's deportation]
Activists called for Lee's deportation
The core of the film, for Ahmed, is a scene in which a Muslim extremist tries to attack Jinnah, calling him a traitor for supporting religious minorities and women.

"You are an ignorant fool," Jinnah tells him. "Islam does not need fanatics like you. Now grow up and serve Pakistan."

The film portrays Jinnah's early life as an ambitious lawyer in London, his doomed marriage to a non-Muslim and his growing involvement in pre-independence politics.

The young Westernised Jinnah with a penchant for Savile Row suits metamorphoses into an elderly statesman in trademark cap and high-buttoned sherwani coat, who believes India must be split to avoid civil war between Muslims and Hindus.





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