KARACHI: Pakistani cinema owners and film distributors say Pakistan needs to produce more local content to fill the void created by the ban on Indian movies and ensure the country’s film industry recovers from its slump.
Pakistan’s film industry and cinema theatres across the country are finally limping back to normalcy post coronavirus as films slated for release a couple of years earlier are finally seeing the light of day.
While the hustle and bustle of crowds have indeed returned to Pakistani cinemas and crowds once again queue in line to watch their favorite stars on the silver screen, box office reports haven’t been as promising.
Two of the most anticipated films released on Eid ul Adha 2022, ‘London Nahi Jaunga’ and ‘Quaid e Azam Zindabad’ failed to surpass previous records. Movie buffs are now keenly awaiting the release of ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ which is said to be Pakistan’s most expensive film to date. It is scheduled to be released on October 13.
Movie distributor and cinema owner Nadeem Mandviwalla told Arab News movies that have hit theatres recently had “piled up because of COVID-19”, adding that Pakistan cannot make more than 15-16 movies a year.
“Cinema needs content. We need to fill the void created by the ban on Indian films,” Mandviwalla said. “The industry was running well for 12 years when 100 films [a year] came from India, 100 came from Hollywood and 15-20 used to be Pakistani,” he added.
“The total requirement was 215 but the number has shrunk to 115 due to the ban on Indian films,” he said. “We either need to bring Indian films back to Pakistani cinemas or produce additional 50-60 local films each year to fill the gap.”
Following heightened tensions with India, Pakistan banned the screening of Bollywood films in February 2019. After over a decade since Pakistan witnessed the revival of cinema, thanks mainly to the critically acclaimed 2007 film ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, Pakistan’s film industry was thriving till 2018.
Then came the ban in 2019 and cinema business in the South Asian country witnessed a drop of over 50% in sales.
Mandviwalla said the government restricted Indian films hence it should come up with a solution to the declining cinema business. “They should offer grants to make films. If the government does not have the strength to offer grants to filmmakers, then [it] stop crying,” he added.
Over 30 Pakistani films were scheduled to release in 2020, which would have made up for the losses suffered by the cinema industry due to the Bollywood ban. However, the advent of the coronavirus pandemic meant cinemas in Pakistan were robbed of life and films meant to enthral audiences were shelved till 2022.
Four films released on Eid ul Fitr 2022, namely ‘Ghabrana Nahi Hai’, ‘Dam Mastam’, ‘Chakkar’ and ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’ were unable to earn profit. The movies’ shows were reduced after a week while Marvel’s blockbuster Dr Strange was released in cinemas across Pakistan on the first weekend after Eid ul Fitr.
Pakistan’s acting powerhouse Humayun Saeed told Arab news footfall in cinemas has been adversely affected as people are no longer used to going to cinemas.
“Therefore, films that released on Eid ul Fitr 2022 did not fare well at the box office," Saeed said.
Saeed said not only did the movies ‘London Nahi Jaunga’ (in which he starred) and ‘Quaid e Azam Zindabad’ make money, they also managed to pull crowds.
"There should be films, back-to-back, without a gap. I'm afraid there aren't many films to release next year; filmmakers whose films faced losses are not able to make more films,” he added.
Saeed expressed hope that the ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ and ‘Tich Button’ do we at the box office when they release.
"I believe if good films are made, they will pull crowds. The Legend of Maula Jatt should be able to make up to Rs 100 crore and it is likely to achieve that number," he said.
"This will benefit producers like me who can attempt to make two films instead of one film a year, and also consider expanding their budget,” Saeed added.
“A lot of money is going to waste because the 25-30 films made each year are not fit for cinema,” Irfan Malik, a filmmaker and distributor, told Arab News. “The cost of these films is going down the drain which, in turn, discourages a first-time investor to make more films. All of the money is misguided.”
He said Pakistan’s film industry does not have enough writers and that the entire pool of talent comes from the TV industry. Malik said there is a dire need to have an authority or organization, comprising members from the private sector and the film industry.
This authority or organization should provide guidance in terms of investment, scripts and filmmaking, he said. “The industry needs 15-20 filmmakers to stand on its feet. The day we do that, it will be a total restructuring for the industry,” he added.