Outside the dingy and old Metropole cinema in Lahore, for the first time in years, huge crowds showed up for the premiere of Pakistani films Bhai Log, Love Mein Ghum and Jugni. The quality and effort put in the films contributed to what the producers claim was a successful run for Pakistani films that were released this Eid. “We have not had this much rush in years,” commented Ashraf who works at the ticket sale office at Metropole cinema. “Most of our shows are selling out for the first time in years.”
The huge rush is largely credited to the release of Bhai Log, which has turned out to be a local hit at most single-screen cinemas. According to Chaudhry Ijaz Kamran, the film’s producer, Bhai Log earned over RS9.7million in the first three days of its release, with many claiming it is the ‘highest grossing (Lollywood) film of the decade’. Syed Faisal Bukhari, who made his directorial debut with Bhai Log, feels the success of the film proves that Pakistan can produce quality films; “It was important that we proved that we could also make a quality film.” However, Bukhari rues that many multiplexes failed to give the film adequate screening, showing it at awkward times – for instance at 9am and 2pm.
The film, which revolves around the gangs of Karachi and the prevailing terror situation in the city, is easy to relate to and the action in it makes it interesting for the younger lot as well. Muhammad Atif, a young boy from a middle-class family, who was in line for tickets to the film, said: “This is something we enjoy as it’s got a lot of action. It’s an outing for us boys.”
Sheikh Adeel Imtiaz, the owner of Bambino Cinema, Karachi – which only screened Love Mein Ghum and Bhai Log – claimed that while Bhai Log did well, the former received a rather cold response; “It’s all about Bhai Log and more and more people are coming to watch it, overshadowing Love Mein Ghum’s chances, probably because the latter is more of a family entertainer and Bhai Log is action-packed.”
However, in certain high-end multiplex cinemas, the situation has been slightly different as Reema Khan’s Love Mein Ghum was relatively more popular than Bhai Log. Nadeem Mandviwalla, a known film distributor and also the owner of Lahore’s DHA cinema, noticed that Bhai Log was not as successful in some multiplexes because of two different viewing classes. He said that action films typically did not work in the multiplex audiences, claiming that the divide in audience’s tastes was visible in other countries as well. “Even in places like America and India, there are films that target certain audiences,” explained Mandviwalla. This divide, he says could be called ‘old school’ (which focuses on single screen cinemas) and the ‘new school’ (focusing on multiplexes). He also added that for films that are able to crossover would be massive hits in both markets – something very few films are able to do across the world.
However, despite the ‘relative’ success of these films, insiders have revealed that Indian films still managed to pull a larger audience. Even this week, Bodyguard – featuring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor in the lead roles – saw housefuls while the cinemas screening Love Mein Ghum, were filled to only 80 per cent of their capacity. “Like the past two years, this time around also, Eid belonged to Salman Khan as we are still getting back-to-back housefuls for Bodyguard,” said Asim Qureshi, Owner of Brand TV and Cinema and the exclusive promoter of Atrium cinema, Karachi.
Overall, most cinema owners seemed to be basking in glory due to the recovery of business after Ramazan, with some sharing the opinion that cinemas have properly benefited from the Eid season after quite some time, citing it as a good sign for cinema revival.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.