Pakistan’s first political film Chambaili did smooth business, scoring back-to-back housefuls even with pre-election violence in several parts of the country. What made it garner such revenue? Was it the expansive marketing strategy, with trailers frequenting television screens, or was it the apt release date of the film, during the pre-election buzz that roped people in?
“People have always underestimated the local audience’s passion for cinema,” well-known film critic and box office analyst Nawab Huzurul Hasan Siddique tells The Express Tribune. “Whether the roads are flooded with water or there is a strike in the city, hordes of people come to watch films and there was a similar situation during the pre-election days.”
Siddique believes that people, especially Karachiites, have become so habituated to violence and uncertainty that they no longer think twice before stepping out for a film in volatile moments — unless an untoward incident takes place right before them. A testimony to this is the smooth sale of movie tickets for Chambaili, which was released at a time when shutter-down strikes and days of mourning were being observed. “Whenever cinemas were open in those days [strikes], the films screened — Chambaili and Aashiqui 2 — received housefuls,” says Siddique.
Analysing the box office success of Chambaili, the critic says that it performed above expectations wherever it was released. According to sources, the film had crossed the Rs20 million mark before the elections and managed to gross Rs4.5 million at Atrium Cinemas alone. The figures would have been higher had the screening of films not been suspended on Election Day.
Interestingly, the screening of Bollywood flick Aashiqui 2 alongside Chambaili proved fruitful for the latter. “Chambaili got a higher viewing because there were no seats available for Aashiqui 2. So people who would not get tickets to Aashiqui 2, would stay back to watch Chambaili instead,” explains Hassan. “As expected, the decision of releasing a local film with an Indian film helped the former and this trend will continue in multiplexes throughout the country.”
Aashiqui 2 did not harm Chambaili’s business prospects, but there is no assurance of a solid competition and constant business, primarily because only four Pakistani films will be released this Eid sans any Indian flick.
However, neither Siddique nor any other box office analyst is willing to compare Chambaili’s business with that of Bol, a film that grossed Rs110 million in Pakistan after running for more than 15 weeks. But if we look back, Bollywood actor Imran Khan-starrer Delhi Belly was banned in Pakistan when Bol was screened. Much similarly, Shootout at Wadala and Go Goa Gone have been banned for Chambaili.
Censor board’s covert support
Although this trend does not downplay the massive response Bol received, the dots are worth connecting, since the censor board’s role in prohibiting Indian films may not be clear in the case of Bol, but is pretty clear in with Chambaili.
The argument that the films are being banned owing to controversies — Shootout at Wadala is based on the downfall of Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in India for terror bids, and Go Goa Gone is rife with profane language — falls flat, because in the past, a film like OMG — Oh My God! that questions blind faith and Emran Hashmi-starrer Raaz 3 with its racy scenes, made it to screens.
The noticeable trend of banning Indian films at the time of a Pakistani film release signifies an underlying intent of shielding the business of local films — an act which impedes healthy competition at the box office.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2013.
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