Veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who calls himself a facilitator of the cultural dialogue between India and Pakistan, says Bollywood is responsible for reviving the interest in cinema in the neighbouring country, where a play based on his 1989 film "Daddy" was recently staged.
In a tete-a-tete with IANS, the 66-year-old, who was in the capital to promote his forthcoming production venture “Mr. X”, said that with the Pakistani film industry “almost non-existent”, the popularity of Bollywood films and stars is what has motivated them to revive their own exhibition industry.
“Pakistani people have Indian actors figuring in their lives like in India... when you walk on the streets of Karachi, you have advertisements of Priyanka Chopra or Shah Rukh Khan endorsing some product or the other adorning the walls there,” Bhatt said.
“Their movie halls exhibit films starring Indian actors... because their own film industry is almost non-existent. Their film exhibition industry has been revived because of Bollywood offerings. They live with it... people there have got a new lease of life because of Bollywood,” the National Award-winner added.
Indian movies were banned in Pakistan in 1968 and as a result the film industry across the border suffered recession. While the ban was eased in 2006, most theatres in the country couldn't survive the self-imposed drought. In fact, just earlier this year, the 66-year-old Taj Mahal cinema in the country's Abbottabad city was shut down due to lack of clientele.
That said, there are filmmakers who have come up in recent times, and got noticed for their work. Be it Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won the first Oscar for her country with "Saving Face", or names like Mehreen Jabbar ("Ramchand Pakistani") and Shoaib Mansoor ("Khuda Kay Liye") -- their differentiated filmmaking has struck a chord with global audiences.
In India also, there is a heightened interest in Pakistani works ever since movies from the other side of the border have started releasing here. Then, there is also accessibility to TV content from Pakistan -- courtesy Zindagi channel.
Bhatt sampled Pakistan's love for Indian art and culture when he was there to present "Daddy", which was staged at the International Theatre Film Festival 2015, organised by Karachi's National Academy of Performing Arts.
All three shows went houseful and "people really gave it a very powerful response", he said.
“I was personally happy that it touched a lot of hearts and people were very happy to have us amidst them but it was more triumph for the director (Danish Iqbal) and Imran (lead actor Imran Zahid). I went there since the material was sourced from my film and I am a facilitator in the cultural process between India and Pakistan,” he added.
Bhatt is currently busy promoting his nephew Emraan Hashmi's new 3D sci-fi thriller “Mr. X”.