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Boost to Bollywood

Thesps Sinha, Khanna named to cabinet

NEW DELHI — Bollywood cheered on Monday as thesps Shatrughan Sinha, dubbed “Shotgun Sinha,” and Vinod Khanna were appointed to India’s cabinet as part of a sweeping government shakeup.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee named Sinha health minister while Khanna took over as minister of state for tourism and culture. The industry hopes the two stars will raise issues of concern to the film industry — especially cable and satellite piracy.

“It’s the most wonderful thing that has happened for the country’s film industry in a long time,” said Karan Johar, who directed “Kabhi khushi kabhie ghum” (Sometimes Joy, Sometimes Sorrow), last year’s international B.O. hit and one of the costliest Bollywood movies ever made.

Bollywood has been badly hit by illegal broadcasts of new movies by cable operators who violate copyright legislation, but the issue has never ranked highly on the political agenda.

Actor-producer-director Aamir Khan was forced to seek a court order to safeguard his Oscar nominee “Lagaan” from cable operators.

Move to create X rating

The news comes as the radical new head of India’s film censors fights to create an X rating to make it legal to show porn films in the country.

Porn films are part of a booming back-street industry that Vijay Anand, chief of the National Film Censor Board, believes is impossible to stamp out.

“Porn is shown everywhere in India clandestinely,” he said. “The best way to fight this onslaught of blue movies is to show them openly in theaters with legally authorized licenses. This would be the best way of policing the industry rather than using the scissors.”

Anand said the plan requires changes to the law that he hopes to steer through Parliament in the next few months.

He said his plan was modeled on movie theaters in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany.

At the moment, films are categorized in India as “universal,” “parental guidance” or “adult.” “It’s time we left behind the hypocrisy that Indians are known for and became realistic,” Anand added. “There is a demand for such movies in India, and we as censors cannot always keep a tap on pornography. By setting up X-rated theaters, we would offer an outlet to people who want to see such movies.”

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