KARACHI: The owners of six of Karachi’s cinemas that were burnt in the anti-Islam film protests on Friday have called on the government to set up a panel of architects and experts to assess the damage.
“The people who did this took away even the covers of the manholes,” said Farukh Chaudhry of Capri Cinema at a press conference Monday. “They stole air conditioners, wires and anything they could carry. Then, they burned it down.”
Prince, Capri, Nishat and Bambino off MA Jinnah Road and Gulistan and Nargis in Quaidabad and Landhi were ravaged by a mob that ran into the thousands. The men came prepared with bottles of petrol. Many of them covered their faces with handkerchiefs.
“I think Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would have been upset with what has been done. The four cinemas targeted on MA Jinnah Road were a source of entertainment for the poor,” said Chaudhry. “They catered to 3,000 people at a time for a nominal ticket. Cineplex and Atrium don’t have that capacity.”
He was standing across the road when his cinema was being torched.
Bambino, Nishat and Prince have been completely destroyed while Capri is badly damaged. Two other cinemas - Gulistan at Quaidabad and Nasreen in Korangi were also ransacked. (This newspaper previously reported that Firdous of Landhi was destroyed. That has emerged not to be the case.)
Nishat’s sponsor Nadeem Mandviwala said the owners don’t have the ability to pay for repairs as a screen alone costs Rs50 million. “This is where the government has to see who the beneficiaries of these cinemas were? These were assets for the public,” he eloquently argued. “We still have the property and it is easy for us to open up offices there instead.” Indeed, the cinemas are located on prime real estate and their plots could fetch handsome amounts in the current market.
Many of these cinemas were not economically feasible but the owners kept them running as they were part of our heritage, he said. “It seemed that the government and police had given demonstrators a freehand that day.”
On a lighter note, he optimistically predicted, however, that he believed these incidents would not stunt the growth of the cinema industry. “Other cinemas will continue to open.”
Adeel Imtiaz of Bambino said there was no point in attacking cinemas, which were closed five days prior to September 21 in protest. “Why did you target us? It was not like we were showing the anti-Islam movie.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2012.