Nepal government bans `Chandni Chowk to China’ (Second Lead)

January 22nd, 2009 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Akshay KumarKathmandu, Jan 22 (IANS) Six years after Nepal banned a section of Hindi films due to erupting violence, the new Maoist-led government Thursday officially banned Bollywood’s first Kung Fu comedy “Chandni Chowk to China” after continued public protests over its misrepresentation of the Buddha’s birthplace.The formal ban by the ministry of information and communications came as cinemas in Nepal had on their own stopped screening the controversial film Wednesday.

The government move followed street protests by students, who said the film was an attack on Nepal’s territorial integrity and sovereignty with its false claim that the Buddha was born in India.

“The Buddha was born in Nepal; learn to respect Nepal’s identity and sovereignty,” students screamed during a protest rally before an engineering college in the valley Thursday. In the Lainchaur area near the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, protesters marched in silence, waving placards.

A group of protesters also handed over a memorandum to the Indian embassy.

All Kathmandu Valley cinemas hurriedly dropped the Akshay Kumar-Deepika Padukone starrer and began showing the earlier Bollywood release “Ghajini” or Nepali films.

“The trouble was created by the narration in the film,” said Nepali film director K.P. Pathak, who heads the Nepal Film Directors’ Association that is urging audiences to boycott all foreign films that project wrong messages.

“About five minutes into the film, the narration introduces the hero as someone born in India, the Buddha’s birthplace,” Pathak told IANS.

The Buddha was born Prince Siddharth in Lumbini in south Nepal in 623 BC. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit the area every year to pay their homage.

Before being released in Nepal Friday, “Chandni Chowk to China” was viewed by Nepal’s censor board which objected to the dialogue. Subsequently, the distributors deleted it.

But though the offending dialogue was removed, the word got around and students stormed the deluxe Jai Nepal cinema Wednesday, tearing down posters of the film.

Remembering the violence that flared up in 2000 after comments were wrongly attributed to Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, the distributors of “Chandni Chowk to China” Wednesday decided to can it.

The protests, however, still continued Thursday with students claiming that the CDs and VCDs of the film that have reached Nepal still have the offending dialogue. They are also demanding an apology from the film’s director, Nikhil Advani.

The controversy has created bad blood between Indians and Nepalis on YouTube, with messages becoming abusive.

The most clinching argument in the heated debate comes from someone signing in as Prynka.

“The bottom line is,” Prynka says, “the movie is very disappointing and it has definitely angered a lot of Nepalis for disregarding a very important part of our history…”

“No one would expect a movie under the Warner Brothers’ banner to have such ignorant mistakes.”

“Chandni Chowk to China”, the first Hindi film to be shot in China, is produced by Sippy Films and Warner Brothers.

The Lumbini Development Trust, that manages the Buddha’s birthplace, said Indian tourist agencies also misguide travellers into believing that the Buddha was born in India.

“Before the Nepal government changed its visa policies, tourists would be brought to Nepal without being told they were entering a different country,” Nepal’s official media Thursday quoted the public relations officer at the trust, Gyanin Rai, as saying.

In 2000, Nepal banned “Mission Kashmir” starring Hrithik Roshan and other films of the Bollywood star after the actor was wrongly reported as having run down Nepalis.

In 2006, the Maoists, who were then a guerrilla party, said they would not allow any film starring Manisha Koirala since the actress supported the election called by King Gyanendra, who had seized absolute power in a bloodless coup.

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