Pakistani singer-actor Ali Zafar says Pakistani cinema is going through a bad patch for want of good stories but feels that with the entry of new age directors and the social media, the content quality is expected to improve.
"Pakistani cinema is going through a rough patch, but slowly it is getting better, with new age directors getting into filmmaking and producing films like 'Bol' and 'Khuda Kay Liye'," Ali told IANS in an interview.
The 31-year-old actor admits that the new generation in Pakistan is opening up to fresh and realistic stories.
"People have rejected those bogus old ways of telling stories as they want something new. Pakistan is witnessing a new wave, thanks to social media. With the help of social media, people have rejected the old norms through commenting, conducting debates and discussion," Ali said.
"For example, there was a video of a woman who goes to a park and raids couples, asking them whether their parents know about their relationship. People didn't like it and they stood against it; as a result that girl was held accountable and got fired.
"It feels very nice to see that youth and people are aware, they are more politicised. They all want change. It is a myth that Pakistan is a conservative country," he added.
Once a prolific moviemaking country, Pakistan had 1,300 cinema halls in the 1970s with an average annual production of around 300 movies. But by 2005, the country had only 270 cinema halls and made about 18 movies a year. The rest of the movie halls have been converted into gas stations, shopping malls or car showrooms.
In 2010, just eight Pakistani movies were produced.
Movie buffs in Pakistan had a hearty appetite for Bollywood movies, but they had to watch pirated copies of Hindi films as the release of Indian films had been banned in Pakistan.
In 2008, the Pakistan government lifted the ban on Indian films and that has given a much-needed boost to the cinema business, says Ali.
"Since Indian films have started coming to Pakistan, people are going to cinemas more often. Now more cinema halls are being constructed. The government has made the rule that every mall should have a theatre and screens and it is certainly getting better," he added.
In recent times two Pakistani films - "Bol" and "Khuda Kay Liye" by Shoaib Mansoor - were not only appreciated on their home turf but also won critical acclaim in the international arena. Mehreen Jabbar's "Ramchand Pakistani", which had Indian actress Nandita Das, too was appreciated globally.
Pakistani filmmaker Mian Adnan Ahmad's short film "Heal" won the Best Science Fiction-Fantasy Film award at this year's Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival.
Although Ali hasn't done any films in Pakistan, he worked as a model for several commercials. He has also acted in Pakistani TV serials like "Lunda-Bazar" and "Kanch Ke Par" and teenage sitcom "Kollege Jeans". He is delighted to see the quality of shows being produced in the country.
"I did TV shows to make pocket money so that I can create music. But television is doing great. We have some really good shows being made, so quality work is being produced. There was a time when the quality went off-track, but now it is doing really good," said Ali, known for giving hit songs like "Rangeen", "Sajaniya" and most recently "Madhubala" from "Mere Brother Ki Dulhan".
Ali made his Bollywood debut with Abhishek Sharma's critically acclaimed "Tere Bin Laden" and later won accolades for his performance in "Mere Brother Ki Dulhan".
He is now gearing up for the release of another Bollywood venture "London, Paris, New York". It is releasing March 2.
" 'London, Paris, New York' is a sweet romantic comedy based in these three cities and has cute bantering between two people (Ali and Aditi Rao Hydari). I play the role of Nikhil Chopra, a rich kid whose father is a film producer and who goes abroad to study filmmaking, thinking he will become a big director one day. He meets Lalitha and things transform into a love story," he said.