Mideast peace to help Bollywood

Normalized trade may help piracy dilemma

NEW DELHI — Peace moves between India and Pakistan could help the ailing Bollywood film industry, which is losing millions of dollars to pirates, according to media analysts.

Indian films and music have been banned in Pakistan since 1954, and black-marketers are making a killing selling the lively Hindi movies preferred by Pakistanis above their own rather austere homegrown pics.

This is a sensitive subject for the Pakistani government — “the sorest point after Kashmir,” according to Amit Khanna of media group Reliance Entertainment.

Should trade between the neighbors be legitimized, the Indian industry could recoup some of the annual losses to piracy estimated at around 17 billion rupees ($35 million) annually.

“We are losing (millions) from the Pakistan market alone,” said Trade analyst Taran Adarsh, editor of Trade Guide magazine.

“Pakistani viewers love Hindi cinema. Pirated versions are available on the date of release in India,” he added. “Bollywood films collect millions from abroad, it would be great to add Pakistan to the list.”

The easing in tensions was triggered by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s April 18 offer of a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan and an invitation to sit down to talks.

The nuclear-capable neighbors have fought two of their three wars over the disputed state of Kashmir since 1947, and came to the brink of a fourth last year.

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