It ended with a kiss: Star flees conservative Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, Meera said she had received death threats and demanded government protection after a scene in her debut film across the border in India, in which she kisses the actor Ashmit Patel. Kissing in public is not considered acceptable in conservative Islamic Pakistan.

But this time Meera has gone further, by announcing she intends to move to the far more liberal Bombay. Some in India hailed her move as evidence of the thaw in relations between India and Pakistan - it would not have been possible a few years ago - but it will not be seen that way in Pakistan. Ordinary Pakistanis have not reacted well to scenes of some of their biggest stars living the high life in India's entertainment capital. The cricketer Shoaib Akhtar in particular has attracted opprobrium for spending much time in Bombay.

And many in Pakistan are not happy that their domestic movie industry, known as Lollywood because it is based in Lahore, is ailing under the onslaught of much more lavish productions from Bollywood.

Meera made no secret that she was moving to advance her career. "I'm so happy with Bollywood that I want to focus on Bollywood projects more and more," she said. "Bollywood films have more of an international market."

The actor made her Bollywood debut earlier this year in Nazar, or Sight, but it was the kissing scene that made the headlines in Pakistan. A Pakistani tabloid got hold of stills of the scene and published them, provoking fury in conservative quarters - and doubtless boosting newspaper sales in more liberal circles. The film was not released in Pakistan. Indian films are still illegal under a blanket ban that dates back to 1965. But Bollywood films are readily available on Pakistan's thriving DVD black market, and Bollywood music is as ubiquitous in Pakistan as it is in India. Critics complain that the popularity of Indian movies is reducing interest in Pakistani productions.

Meera said her parents had been worried about her move. "But I convinced them that I'm a working woman and I'd be fine."

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