Patrons visiting the Cinepax in Rawalpindi — the only cinema complex in the twin cities — were not amused when they were made to turn back on June 16 due to the cinema experiencing a power crisis and its backup power arrangements also failing. While films are again being screened at the centre, the repeated power cuts create a host of problems. The power crisis has deprived people of the entertainment they yearn for during the holiday season when children and students are anxious to keep themselves occupied.
However, the problems run deeper than that. For many months, theatres in Lahore, including the giant Alhamra complex — the biggest public sector centre for music, dance, theatre and art in the Punjab capital — have been badly affected by the power crisis. Attendance at these theatres has fallen because the repeated power cuts have left the halls sweltering in heat, with people even fainting in some cases. This is no way to encourage the arts in the country. They are already in a poor state and the power cuts are pushing them back further.
Cinemas have only recently seen a revival in the country with the act of visiting halls to watch films only recently returning as a normal part of life. During the 1980s, it had almost completely vanished as a result of the policies implemented by the government of General Ziaul Haq. This time, it is not official policy but the lack of electricity, which has struck hard. Depriving people of entertainment is a matter to be taken seriously. We must also consider the huge revenue losses suffered by the cinemas and theatres. Will they be able to survive these? For many private owners, this question is up in the air.
It would be a tragedy if we lose what limited means of entertainment we have left in the country as a result of a crisis that simply needs better management. If things continue in this manner, we could see the gradual effort of bringing joy in the form of music and film back into people’s lives fading once more, as the screens and stage lights flicker off.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.
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