by Ambreen Asim
There was a time when Pakistan film industry was flourishing and there used to be a huge rush at the cinema halls. Artists like Nadeem, Waheed Murad, Mohammed Ali, Zeba Ali, Shabnam, Babra Sharif, Syed Kamal etc ruled the hearts of people. There were great singers, musicians and composers who composed many ever green songs which people still enjoy.
Our industry is credited with having produced some very good films in the past. Armaan, Aina, Tehzeeb, Ashi, Heer Ranjha, Do Ansoo were big hits.
But now, the scenario has changed. The film industry that once was the identity of Pakistan, is in a bad shape. And the misery is that nobody wants to take the responsibility of rebuilding it. Everyone associated with the industry and cinema business is playing the blame game. Cinema owners are of the view that Lollywood directors and producers are not making good films and they are the ones who must suffer the damage. On the other hand, directors and producers have other concerns. They blame cinema owners and film distributors for bringing Indian films in Pakistan and screening them at local cinema houses.
It is true that there have been various factors that contributed to the collapse of local film industry, but the screening of Indian films at the local cinemas has a large part to play in speeding the downfall.
The big names of our industry have been making hue and cry over the issue since the first Indian film was screened here, but to no avail.
Syed Noor, leading Lollywood director, while talking to MAG said, â€œIt is a bitter fact that we are a weak industry but the situation is not that bad. Pakistan film industry is producing some very good films. But unfortunately our people compare our films with the Indian movies which are being screened at local cinema houses.â€
â€œWe canâ€™t blame the masses. They are being provided with the choice of whether to watch an Indian film or a Pakistani movie at the same venue. And the cinema owners and distributors who are bringing Indian movies here, should be blamed for making the condition worse for Pakistani directors and producers,â€ he said.
â€œPakistan is an Islamic country. It has its own values, culture and traditions. The Indian films are doing harm to our society. I donâ€™t understand why the government has allowed the screening of Indian movies here,â€ he added.
He further said that nobody could blame Pakistani directors and producers for the downfall of Lollywood. â€œAt least they are sincere in their efforts. They are making movies for the local audience. They are trying to survive depite diffculties. But the distributors who are buying Indian movies should be blamed for the further collapse. It is a fact that educated people prefer to see Indian films because of their production values and bold scenes. They have a choice now. Let me say that high budget Indian movies have a lead role in the downfall of Pakistan film industry,â€ Syed Noor declared.
â€œThe only reason that good films are not being made here is lack of financers. Why donâ€™t the distributors, who buy expensive Indian films, invest their money in Lollywood?
â€œLet me tell you that there are still many people who want to see our films. And the example is my film â€˜Main Nach Ke Yaar Mananaâ€™ which has done more business than Wanted in Punjab,â€ Noor said.
He was of the view that Pakistanâ€™s film industry direly needs media support. â€œA very strong reason behind the popularity of Bollywood stars is strong media. And Pakistani media is doing the same. Instead of promoting their own actors, they are highlighting the Indian stars which is highly regrettable,â€ he said.
To take the other side of the picture, MAG contacted Nawab Huzoorul Hassan, a prominent name in local cinema industry. He said, â€œIf Lollywood has failed to produce good films, then why should we suffer. At least, screening of Indian movies can attract big crowd to theatres.â€
â€œThe people who are criticising screening of Bollywood movies, donâ€™t want a flourishing cinema industry. There were 63 cinemas in Lahore, 18 in Rawalpindi, 19 in Multan, 19 in Faisalabad, 11 in Gujranwala, 12 in Sialkot, 12 in Peshawar, 86 in Karachi, 22 in Hyderabad, 12 in Sukkur, 2 in Larkana, and 8 in Quetta.â€
â€œNow, the number has reduced to 23 in Lahore, 12 in Rawalpindi, 14 in Multan, 13 in Faisalabad, 10 in Gujranwala, 8 in Sialkot, 36 in Karachi, 3 in Hyderabad, and none at all in Sukkur and Larkana,â€ he added.
He said that it was untrue that cinema owners want to destroy the film industry. We waited for 38 long years, faced the worst economic crisis but stood against all odds because we wanted to see a strong Pakistani film industry. But the situation has become worse now.â€
The number of cinema houses will be reduced from 36 to 10 if the screening of Bollywood films is stopped, he said expressing his concern.
â€œI donâ€™t understand why people are making such a hue and cry over this issue? Whatever the differences between the Pakistani and Indian governments, entertainment has nothing to do with them. Bollywood is a big industry and people want to see their movies and thatâ€™s it,â€ he said.
â€œKhuda Ke Liye was screened in 10 cities of India and it was a huge success there. It was welcomed by the Indian press and Bollywood. Itâ€™s a two way process and we should also accept it wholeheartedly,â€ he said.
â€œI ask the film directors and producers why they donâ€™t make Urdu films. There are more people who understand Urdu than Punjabi. Then why are they making movies for a certain segment. Syed Noor is a very good director and writer. He should make some efforts to produce a good Urdu movie with fresh faces,â€ he said.
MAG then talked to Nadeem Mandviwalla, Chairman of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association (Southern Zone). According to him Pakistani public at large watches only two kinds of films â€“ Bollywood and Hollywood. The spoken language in the country remains Urdu and as such; the majority of public is only interested in Indian films.
â€œWhile we can give some fillip to cinema industry by importing American films, however it will remain very limited to the areas where English is spoken frequently and can contribute to the extent of only five per cent to the cinema industry. So if any development in the rebuilding of the cinemas in Pakistan is to be done, then we can only achieve that with the import of more and mre Indian films on larger,â€ he said.
He was of the view that in the absence of the production of indigenous films for the next five to 10 years the entire rebuilding process of cinemas totally depends on the import of Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
â€œThe fact remains that since the government has allowed screening of Indian films, the process of closure of cinema houses has stopped, new cinemas are being built and the refurbishment of old cinemas has started which had not happened since 1975,â€ he concluded.
MAG Oct. 24 – 30 , 2009