This Eid seems to be a promising one for the long lost Pakistani film industry, or so we hope. Three local films are set to make their debut in cinemas across the country. A glance at the corridors of Atrium Cinemas makes one feel proud as next to half man, half wolf Hugh Jackman and the sari-clad Sonakshi resting on Ranveer, are the faces of Pakistani talents like Aamina Sheikh, Humayun Saeed and Ahsan Khan, splattered all over posters. We may not have ‘stars’ like those in Hollywood and Bollywood, but we do have capable actors, many of whom will have their very first experience on the silver screen.
Each of the three films releasing this Eid belong to a different genre entirely and hence, their impact on the box office and audience is likely to vary. The line-up includes the most-hyped Humayun Saeed production Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Shahzad Rafique’s long-delayed Ishq-e-Khuda and Iram Parveen Bilal’s internationally acclaimed, small-budget Josh.
Amongst the three, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi has the highest expectations attached to it since it is not only Pakistan’s first sports-centric movie but also one that involves a major chunk of the film industry in its making. However, it remains to be seen if it only turns out to be a potpourri of sorts with Afridi’s name as its best selling point, though we hope otherwise. A blessing in disguise for the film is Shahid Afridi’s brilliant form in the first and last ODI. If he performs well in one of the upcoming T20 matches, the film will incidentally attract hoards to the theatre hall, since he is the only surviving star of Pakistan who is equally acknowledged by the ‘classes’ and the ‘masses’. The Afridi factor, accompanied by its big budget, catchy music and a commercially-layered patriotic theme can possibly make it a gold mine for the local box office.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is releasing on 35 screens across Pakistan and may cross the Rs30 million mark in its first week, barring any major unrest in the country. Keeping that in mind, it might do a total business of around Rs80 million, which, compared to the approximately Rs100 million budget of the film, is inadequate. However, with no mainstream Indian films being released on Eid, the film may gross more than expected.
The other release is the long-awaited Punjabi film Ishq-e-Khuda starring Ahsan Khan and Meera. This, too, will be released on 35 screens across Pakistan. It is expected to face stiff competition from Main Hoon Shahid Afridi at multiplexes and other cinemas in urban and sub-urban areas of Pakistan but is expected to sweep the single screens in Punjab. The film seems like it could prove to be a surprising win for Punjabi cinema like Syed Noor’s Majajan but it won’t do that well on the box office compared to the other big release. Overall business of Rs20 million to Rs30 million will be quite an achievement.
Finally Josh, which despite having gained international fame received the least amount of attention in terms of marketing, will release digitally only on nine screens across the country. Nevertheless, it might just prove to be a surprise package. In terms of business, nine screens can barely result in a good return for the film though we can expect some power-packed performances. Although the budget of the film hasn’t been disclosed and returns can’t really be predicted with such a narrow release, we hope that Josh competes well alongside these commercial films so that other independent film-makers are also encouraged.
Alongside celebrations, this Eid probably brings the biggest test for Pakistani cinema as the return will truly represent how dependant we are on foreign films and how many more screens we need to have in order to make film-making a feasible business in Pakistan. Best of luck to everyone involved!
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.