After the disappointing news that none of the funds from this year’s budget were allocated for the film industry, here is another dreary fact: 2012 may just be the year that sees the least number of film releases in the industry’s history. According to a source within the film industry, only two or three Lahore-based productions are scheduled to be released this Eid; film-makers have moved from Lahore to greener pastures, leaving the once busy studios silent and empty.
Producer of last year’s Bhai Log, Chaudhry Kamran explains why. “Why would investors want to make a film which is unable to recover (investments)?” he asks, adding that the movie was a hit when it was released over Eidul Fitr as it drew in large crowds. Kamran has been working on revamping the existing producers association, which he hopes will provide a forum to address film-makers’ grievances. He also added that around eight to 10 films will be produced every year with only two or three being released during Eid.
Lahore was once considered the hub of film-making and television productions. But today, if one walks into any big studio in the city, they will realise that productions have come to a drastic halt. Zoraiz Lashari, Chairman of the Film Exhibitor Association, told The Express Tribune that the release of two Punjabi films on Eid is still not confirmed. He also clarified that the long term scope of Punjabi films has been under scrutiny for quite some time now and the business ethos of minting money will not work in such a high-risk industry.
“If the practice of making poor quality films continues, you will reach a point where investors will find it difficult to fund them. The emphasis on regional films is problematic because they can never recover in today’s viewer market,” said Lashari who is a firm believer of the private sector film industry acknowledging that it needs to raise its standards.
Actor Kanwal, who has been working closely with the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) to support entertainment, feels that the reason behind the downfall in the industry’s output in Lahore is the government’s indifference. She elaborates on how Lahore had sustained itself as the hub of film productions for a long time but is now losing its identity due to pressure from changing markets.
“It can’t flourish without concentration on film as an industry by the government,” says Kanwal, who expects three to four films to be the realistic number of film releases this year.
“People form the support system – technicians, supporting cast members and others. Lead actors or famous personalities can always adjust themselves elsewhere. It is these people, the supporting crew which end up opening chai shops.”
Actor-director Javed Sheikh feels this break in production heralds evolution, not doom and gloom.
He remains positive about the film industry and says that Pakistan is realigning itself like India, where the industry is diverse. He also points out that part of this change is that production is shifting from Lahore to Karachi, since most equipment, actors and resources are now stationed in the city by the sea. “I think any old building eventually has to be replaced with a new building,” he said, adding that 2013 will be a “comeback year” for the industry with about eight films scheduled for release. Some of these new productions include films by Jami, Humayun Saeed and Shoaib Mansoor as well as some by Islamabad-based productions like Waar and Zinda Bhaag.
“This is the beginning of a parallel industry where there will be high quality films and then low grade films as well, which will continue to cater to the regional audiences,” he added. Sheikh is optimistic about this development and the transition from large single screens to multiplexes in the country. He also pointed out that Rawalpindi, which was considered a dormant market for films, has now turned into one worth Rs20million.
At the end, Sheikh said he feels that the Pakistani film industry is really just transforming into a more pro-quality business, with more efforts, work and money being put into producing better films for the masses.
While some may be proclaiming that film industry is dead in Pakistan due to the lowest output this year, it is heartening to see someone from behind the lens talk about a bright future.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.
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