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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 September, 2003, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Frontier first for Bollywood stars
By Asit Jolly
BBC correspondent at Wagah crossing

Unusual scenes were played out on Saturday when a galaxy of Bollywood stars from the western Indian city of Bombay (Mumbai) descended on Wagah - the only official road crossing point between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani rangers (grey uniforms) and Indian BSF soldiers get their photographs taken with Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar
There were truly remarkable scenes at the crossing

The cinema wallahs came all the way to announce the completion of their new film and release the music for the work, Pinjar, which is based on a popular Punjabi novel by one of Punjab's best known authors and poets, Amrita Pritam.

The film is set against the bloody background of the riots that preceded the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

The makers of Pinjar, which means "skeleton" in Punjabi, believe their film will fit in well in the context of improving India-Pakistan relations.

'Good news'

Both, India's Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers and the Pakistani border Rangers were equally elated at what was a truly unprecedented event at the Wagah border check-post on Saturday.

A crowd on the Pakistani side of the border
Crowds came to catch a glimpse of the stars across the border

Bollywood films are equally popular on both sides of the international border, and the arrival of an entire troupe of film wallahs from Bombay was good news.

It took the monotony right out of their repetitive daily routine.

They were all there.

Zealously guarded by the BSF men, glamour actresses Urmila Matondkar and Isha Kopikar, upcoming Hindi films hero Prianshu Chatterjee and the director of Pinjar, Chandraprakash Dwivedi, braved the scorching sun and sultry weather to formally announce the completion of the film.

The story is set against the backdrop of the violent frenzy and rioting that engulfed the whole of Punjab in the months preceding the partition of India.

According to Mr Dwivedi, Pinjar is not a film about partition but only uses the period as a backdrop to retell history through the lives of its characters.

The film specifically focuses on the lives of young Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women, who became hapless victims of abduction, rape and other untold miseries during the fury of the riots.

Coming to Wagah was significant, Mr Dwivedi said, was significant because the check-post was the point through which countless caravans of refugees crossed over from one side to the other, but also because this was later where India and Pakistan exchanged abducted women under a mutual agreement.

Bollywood's appeal

The release of Pinjar's music at Wagah was a truly remarkable marketing exercise.

Pinjar film poster
The film tells the story of young Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women

For the first time in many decades, the Pakistan Rangers and the BSF commanders agreed to switch off their competing medleys of patriotic songs.

Instead, they listened most appreciatively to the haunting poetry by Amrita Pritam and film lyricist Gulzar being recited and sung.

On the Pakistan side, scores of civilian spectators vied with each other for a better glimpse of the Bollywood stars on the Indian side.

A favoured few were also permitted close to the Zero Line, when Urmila Matondkar walked up with a bouquet of flowers for the Rangers as a gesture of friendship.

The message here, according to the organisers of the event, "was to ask the people and the government to give Bollywood a chance in Pakistan".

Alluding to the millions Bollywood loses every year because of the illegal sale of pirated Hindi film copies in Pakistan, Mr Dwivedi said he looked forward to the day when he could hold a premiere for his films in Lahore and Islamabad.

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