LAHORE: Prior to Eidul Fitr, quite a few Lollywood films have been gaining a magnitude of hype, especially with the scheduled release of Syed Noor’s Jugni, Reema’s Love Mein Ghum and Syed Faisal Bukhari’s Bhai Log. It had been expected that the films, which boast a high budget and an impressive cast, would be screened everywhere including multiplexes. However, it is unlikely for Pakistani films to be screened in multiplexes as cinema owners, whose business caters to the privileged society, contend that Pakistani films simply don’t have public appeal and the modern multiplexes gain revenue from foreign films.
Pakistan’s leading directors and producers have pushed the Punjab government for support in the films’ premieres on Eid. According to Empire Cinema owner Tanveer Bhatti Eid is one of the most popular days for watching films and, in recent times, has become more popular than independence day on August 14. He states that the newer cinemas are more likely to give only one screening to Love Mein Ghum while the release of Bollywood films like Bodyguard, starring Salman Khan, was far more anticipated by the public.
A meeting was held recently between representatives of the film fraternity comprising of Syed Noor, Moammar Rana, Reema, Parvez Kaleem and Pakistan Muslim League — N MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. Lollywood required assurance from the Punjab government to revoke Bollywood films during the Eid season so that Pakistani films are given a boost. According to Lollywood insiders, Sharif had said that he would look into the matter but couldn’t make any promises regarding the issue.
Following the meeting, the producers gave an ultimatum that if in the next couple of days, regular screenings of Pakistani films in leading cinemas on Eid were not ensured, the possibility of protest and legal action would be foreseen. “I am a patriot and it’s important that we provide support to our films this Eid,” said Parvez Kaleem, the scriptwriter of Bhai Log and Love Mein Ghum, who is leading the efforts to ban Indian films on Eid. “We have tried to get the attention of exhibitors so that our films can be screened but all they are offering is one-off screenings because they prefer Indian films.”
Kaleem revealed that he had asked Sharif for a commitment to ensure that private multiplex cinemas, such as those in Bahria Town, DHA and others which are popular with the public, are pressured to screen Pakistani films during Eid. Kaleem also said that the government would have to revoke the screening of Indian films in the long-term to ensure that Pakistani films were screened more regularly.
Chairman Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association Zoraiz Lashari said that if foreign or Indian films were banned, the local cinema would be unable to provide a steady supply of quality films. In such a case, business would sorely suffer. “This experiment of banning Indian films has been tried before with the release of Dabangg and the cinemas ended up losing Rs50 million,” said Lashari. He said that banning Indian films lowered competition thus allowing more local producers to develop a monopoly. This in turn allows them to dictate the terms of business to cinemas. “If the government bans Indian films, the cinemas might as well close down and we will challenge it.”
PML-N Culture Wing Member and actor Kanwal states that the Punjab government could directly force private cinemas to screen Pakistani films but says that the government has certain mechanisms which can be used as incentives to enhance the film industry. “The government is serious about supporting the film industry and its revival is something we are committed to,” emphasised Kanwal.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.