DHAKA, April 24, 2010 (AFP) - Bangladesh has lifted a four-decade ban on Indian films in a bid to boost attendances at cinemas, a government minister said Saturday, drawing loud complaints from local actors and directors.
Films produced by India's huge entertainment industry centred in Mumbai have been banned from cinemas in Bangladesh since the country's independence in 1972 in a bid to protect the local movie industry.
"We lifted the ban to boost the cinema industry," Bangladesh Commerce Minister Faruk Khan told AFP.
Cinema hall owners, who have been clamoring to be allowed to show Indian films, said they expected to start showing Indian films shortly.
The lifting of the ban comes amid warming relations between India and Bangladesh after ties worsened between the neighbours when an Islamist-allied government was in power in Dhaka from 2001 to 2006.
Pirated DVD copies of Bollywood movies circulate widely in Bangladesh in the absence of them being shown in cinemas.
"The new order scraps the ban and allows screening of Indian and other South Asian films in local cinemas provided they have English sub-titles," the government's Film Censor Board chief Surat Kumar Sarker said.
But not everyone supports the move.
"Indian films will completely destroy our film industry and our culture. At least 25,000 people will be jobless," said Masum Parvez Rubel, a leading star and a co-coordinator of a newly created front against Indian films.
"We have appealed to the commerce minister and the authorities to reverse the decision. Otherwise, we'll protest until the last drop of blood," he told AFP.
India's prolific film industry churns out about 1,000 new releases a year.