Usually, talk of anything ‘new’ is quite bland when it comes to film in Pakistan. This year, however, lady luck may just be kind to the much-maligned state of film, with talk of a new film policy in the offing. The adviser to the Ministry of National Regulation and Services Iftikhar Durrani, who is also one of the co-authors of the document, told The Express Tribune that the new framework looks at the promotion of Pakistani culture, locally and internationally through film.
“[The film policy] looks at how we will create a perception of Pakistan internationally,” says Durrani. He added that the drafting process involved a needs assessment and meetings with stakeholders of the industry. After the fact-finding, the initial proposals for the framework were sent to the Film Censor Board chairman and onward to the ministry. The document will be presented to a standing committee in the coming months.
In the past, the most formal film framework nationally was through the creation of the National Film Development Corporation (Nafdec) in 1970s under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Durrani is quick to clarify that since the Bhutto era, two military regimes have taken over, but that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has always taken an interest in culture.
There were other priorities being dealt with at the time,” he says, explaining the delay. “But the government realises that this is an important sector that can promote Pakistani culture globally,” says Durrani. “So the issue was pushed to the right corners, and the government accepted and identified that this is a sector that needs support and reform.”
According to Durrani, the ministry is also looking to revive a national film council in Pakistan, which will help film-makers find personnel and also create opportunities for returnable loans. It will look to engage with new film-makers that have studied abroad and have skills but lack support.
“It’s very simple; if you can produce so many television dramas, it means the finances are there. Why can’t we produce films? Somebody is not taking an interest,” says Durrani.
Pakistan needs to think big
“You need to produce more and do more to have a healthy competition in the market,” says Durrani. “There is no other choice but to produce better films; and that is something the government will have to help with.”
But help doesn’t mean the government will be barring Indian films anytime soon. Durrani says the issue of Indian films in the local market is now a thing of the past when it comes to a free-trade economy. The goal is to do “whatever is possible” to increase the production and quality of films. “In this type of economy, Pakistan has to think bigger and smarter; we need to produce better films and platforms,” he says.
Scepticism surrounding the film policy
Film-maker Akifa Mian, who is also the head of the Department of Theatre Film & Television at the Beaconhouse National University, is sceptical about how helpful the new film policy will be to cinema in the country. She feels that financial stakes must not take away from the creative control of film-makers in the country.
“The government has not been very proactive when it comes to film — it has never been treated as an industry,” says Mian. “There must be a discussion amongst the stakeholders, including producers, directors, and other film-makers, because they will be the ones implementing the policy. It cannot be a guessing game.”
Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner and managing director of Mandviwalla Entertainment, says he attended a censor board meeting, which was presided over by National Regulation and Services Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, which predominantly focused on the film policy.
“A policy cannot be made in isolation, in which one segment of society is only catered to,” says Mandviwalla. “Probably only 1% of the country watches film in the cinema — others use DVD shops and television.”
Actor Ghulam Mohiuddin welcomes any initiative by the government to help the film industry but says that the issue with such initiatives has always been lack of implantation. Citing an example, he says that former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s promised Rs50 million grant to the film industry never materialised.
“The biggest issue is implementation. This was once a big industry and good work has been done. But there has to be an institution which provides funding and ensures that about 20 films are released each year,” he says.
A new censor board chairman
With newly appointed Chairman Dr Raja Mustafa Hyder, the censorship board is set to see a series of changes. According to Hyder, several older practices are being done away with to make the censorship policy more significant. In the past, critics have held the bureaucratic nature of the censor board responsible for the stunting of independent film-making and cinema in the country.
“We are quietly trying to improve the rules and regulations of the censor board, getting rid of some older and redundant rules,” said Hyder. “We are also in the process of upgrading our screening rooms to accommodate digital screens, as the 35mm film is not being used as much by film-makers today.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2013.
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Banning Indian movies is not the solution: all that needs to be done is crack down on piracy of Indian movies. No one is going to watch a movie in theaters paying Rs 100 per head when they can buy a DVD for Rs 50.
Even the Indian movies barely play to full theaters when there are only 5 cinema houses in a mega city like Karachi.
With so many dramas in pakistan why can one production house decide to dedicate an year on one film one hit film and just like kharbuza kharbuze ko dekh ke rang badalta hai ,ur industry can be back on its wheels too need a bit of spunk and risk cheers