Pak govt halts funds for Jinnah film
Suparn Verma in Bombay
So it's a no! The Pakistan government will not allow the state-owned
Pakistan television to fund, any longer, the film being made by Professor
Akbar Ahmed on Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
The film ran into hot water when Ahmed picked Christopher
Lee, of Dracula fame, to play the role of Jinnah. To make matters
worse, the script of the film received its share of brickbats,
with Imran Aslam, editor of The News, accusing the author of writing
it in a "haze of hashish."
The beleaguered Professor Ahmed permitted the minister of cultural
affairs to scrutinise the script, and received an all-clear. However,
the Pakistan government's decision to stop funding the film has
caused its producers to begin looking for outside finance. And
this, in turn, has fuelled fresh controversy, with local newspapers
alleging that Indian movie star Shashi Kapoor, who plays
Archangel Gabriel in the film, is funding it to the tune of $ 1 million.
"I would like to clarify that Shashi Kapoor is NOT funding the
film," says Professor Ahmed, just back from a shooting stint in
Lahore. "Such rumours have been floating around for a while,
but even Shashi Kapoor himself has gone on record denying them."
He says that the curtailment of funds from PTV, thanks to the
government fiat, has not hampered the shooting. "We are going
on as planned, in fact we have been shooting continuously for
almost two months and have just three days shooting time left
in Palistan before we go to England to finish the shooting. The
controversy surrounding our project has been deliberately raised
by a section of the media here, but we are not letting that affect
us," the professor told Rediff On The NeT, in a telephone interview.
He is thrilled that while a crusade of sorts has been
mounted against his film by the media, no less than Jinnah's grand
nephew, Liaquat Merchant, has joined hands with other members
of the family to help raise funds for the project. Two fund-raising
functions have already been organised, and the biggest one, to
be attended by 250 members of the elite of Pakistani society, is slated
for Tuesday, May 6.
Not, mind, that it is all smooth sailing. The cash crunch consequent
on withdrawal of official funding has meant, says Professor Ahmed, that
they have been forced to chop some of the more ambitious scenes
planned. What is interesting, however, is his revelation that
while the government has withdrawn funding, it is permitting the
use of official locales for shooting, and co-operating with the
film unit in every other way.
Jamshed Rahim, who heads Quaid Project Ltd, for his part says
the scenes that are being axed are peripheral, and not integral
to the core of the film itself. "I do not think the cuts
will not affect the final look and feel of the film.," he says.
Talking of the progress of fund-raising efforts, Rahim says, "When
the government turned off the taps we were about Rs 10 million short
-- now we have more or less made up that amount, there is just
a short way to go yet."
Interestingly, Professor Ahmed has not approached Jinnah's grandson,
Indian tycoon Nusli Wadia for financial
-- or any other form of -- assistance. "Mr Nusli Wadia is
an Indian, it is not wise to involve him in this and expose him
to needless controversy," argues Rahim.
Merchant for his part has no such qualms. "I am helping
Professor Ahmed because he is a friend of mine of many years standing.
Besides, I have a personal interest -- the film is on Mr Jinnah,
to whom I am closely related, and I would like to do everything
possible to ensure that his image is projected in a positive,
constructive fashion all over the world."
Shashi Kapoor, meanwhile, spent three days in Pakistan recently
as the personal guest of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief. After a
couple of days spent in the prime ministerial bungalow at Islamabad,
Sharief accompanied Kapoor to Peshawar, to show the Indian star
the house where he had been born.
Meanwhile, the race against time is on as the film-makers
struggle to finish the project to coincide with the celebration
of 50 years of Pakistan's Independence.
"Inshallah," says Professor Ahmed,
"the film should release on time."