LAHORE: In the wake of worsening ties between Pakistan and India, one cannot help but wonder how the Pakistani cinema industry would survive without Bollywood films. In the light of possible ban on Indian content, the entire business is going to be affected as our cinemas rely on them for a steady flow of income.
Whether or not there is going to be a ban remains to be seen; however, one cannot ignore the possible consequences of this decision.
Admitting that there is no alternative, Atrium Cinemas Managing Director Nadeem Mandviwalla said, “70% of the business comes from Bollywood and Hollywood. There is no alternative. If the ties worsen, it is going to affect everything. There’s a possibility that theatres would be shut down temporarily.” Mandviwalla added that even if one considers the argument against Indian content, people will still continue to watch pirated Bollywood films at home.
He feels we can only survive the ban if it’s short-term. “A temporary suspension until the situation gets better is going to affect us, but we can survive. If it doesn’t, cinema owners might have to close shop or shut a few screens down to cut costs. We don’t produce enough films to sustain ourselves throughout the year. We need to produce at least over 50 films annually.”
Moroever, he recalled a similar occasion from the time of the Kargil War. “It happened during the Kargil War. It’s equally going to affect the cable networks. Their in-house video channels playing Indian films all day are going to take a hit. During Kargil, they protested about it and it was solved in a few months.”
Echoing the sentiment, former Sindh Board of Film Censors chairman Fakhr-e-Alam weighed in on the situation, saying the ban would result in going back to the days where our screens were shut down because there weren’t enough movies.
In case of the ban, he suggested the government to setup a fund for production houses to make a set number of film annually. “We need at least 45-50 films annually to sustain the industry. If we are not producing that much content, it’s all going to come to a halt.”
Cinepax Cinemas Assistant Marketing Manager Abid Ali Zaidi said the cinema chain has already lined up an alternative, in case the ban is imposed. “We are planning to run older Pakistani films once again. We already do that on a smaller scale when attendance is low, especially during Ramazan. But this time around, it’s going to be on a bigger scale. We are going to start in October, regardless of the ban.”
Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay director Anjum Shahzad said we must take a stand and not be on the fence over the decision. “Look, this is an emotional reaction. We must either ban them once and for all or don’t. We need a sensible, solid and mature media policy, not an emotional one. You ban the films and go home and watch Indian television serials and cartoon dubbed in Hindi. It’s not going to make a difference. Close the DVD shops selling Indian films. If you think we shouldn’t show Indian content because they over there don’t want to show Pakistani content anymore. That’s not a solution. I think culture and arts should be above all of that.”
Shahzad said if the ban is imposed, it will remain imposed for a couple weeks before being repealed. “Just pick one side. Either ban or do not ban and stand by the decision. This drama of banning it and then un-banning some weeks later is not going to take us anywhere.”
On the contrary, Maalik director Ashir Azeem thought the ban could be a positive step to help domestic local cinema. “I agree with the idea of restricting Indian films because the exhibitors currently favour them over local films. Because of that, producers are afraid to invest; your film will likely be sidelined if an Indian film is releasing round about the same time,” he said. “That’s why we don’t have enough films to sustain throughout the year. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Regardless, I think we will survive the ban. In fact, it might help speed up our productions and create more output.”
Courtesy : Express Tribune