Pakistan rolls back the ban on Bollywood films

Updated: Dec 20, 2016, 10:34 IST | Usman Ghafoor in Lahore

Following losses, theatre owners in Pakistan open doors to Hindi films. Are we still fussing over Mahira Khan in 'Raees'?

Mahira Khan
Mahira Khan

Cinema owners in Pakistan have lifted the self-imposed ban on Bollywood movies. Starting yesterday, theatres restarted shows, initially of earlier releases. Newer films will be screened after they are duly imported from India, via Dubai or the UK, which involves acquiring NoC from the Information Ministry.

The ones in the pipeline include Aamir Khan-starrer 'Dangal', whose distribution rights have reportedly been acquired by an influential media group of the country.

Producers, directors and studio owners of good ol' Lollywood are raising their voice against cinema owners. Filmmaker Syed Noor calls it one big "ban drama" that played out against the backdrop of Indo-Pak tension: "At the time when they self-imposed it, cinema owners knew the government's stance; they knew the spirit of antagonism [towards India] that was in the air. The month of Moharram was starting, and there were no interesting films lined up. So, one fine morning, they decided to show their 'national spirit' by announcing the ban. The entire world knows Indian films were being imported as a 'foreign' item. Who are they misleading?"

Cinema owners, on the other hand, seem united under All Pakistan Film Exhibitors' Association (APFEA), an umbrella organisation led by Zoraiz Lashari of a noted cineplex in Lahore. They were major stakeholders in the entire situation, where some of them were forced to shut their cinemas and lay off staff. Zoraiz says, "It was a reaction to what
India did. They banned our artistes, which wasn't agreeable. We wanted to show our resentment. Looking back, I think the matter just got blown out of proportion, on both sides. Frankly, art should not have boundaries. Even if you want to control it, you can't."

Can't the Pak cinema industry survive without Bollywood? Zoraiz says, "It's not exactly about Bollywood; it's the question of survival of our cinema industry in the face of a situation where Pakistan isn't churning out sufficient number of films sufficient to run theatres round the year. We're making about 15-20 films, and not all are expected to be blockbusters. The ratio of box office success is generally the same, if you talk about Bollywood movies also. But their movie turnout is great. That ensures people keep coming to the cinemas. The highest grossing film in Pakistan incidentally is the locally produced Jawani Phir Nahin Ani (2015)."

Producer-director Shehzad Rafiq agrees: "We don't want our cinema to die of suffocation. Since the ban on Indian films, we've seen the public response — they are missing Bollywood. It won't be an exaggeration to say that they haven't returned to theatres ever since. Two recent releases, Dobara Phir Se and Lahore Se Aagay, bombed at the box office although they'd been heavily promoted and backed by a top TV network."

 

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