Just when we convinced ourselves that all’s well between India and Pakistan (culturally, of course), we realise that we might have dared to be too optimistic, too soon.
Pakistani producers are up in arms against the screening of Indian films in their country. This move will supposedly strengthen their local film industry.
The Pakistan Film Producers’ Association has asked their federal government to take a 90 per cent cut in the screening of Indian movies.
An Indian daily quoted the Pakistan Film Producers Association’s chairman, actor and producer Syed Noor, warning the government of consequences if the ban is not implemented.
“We will take out rallies and organise hunger strike camps if the government does not take any action to save the local industry,” he said.
Bollywood productions have been a craze in Pakistan even though it has its own home-grown film industry.
However, Pakistan’s film distribution and exhibition sector has always suffered from poor health, even before the country’s government allowed the screening of Indian films.
Bollywood movies were banned in the aftermath of a war between the two countries in 1965.
The lifting of the ban in 2008 has legalised the screening of Indian films in Pakistan. Earlier, the Indian films would be watched on the sly by the countrymen and women.
Multiplexes that screen Indian blockbusters throng with audience while the hall owners rake in the moolah. However, there are hardly any takers for the homemade films.
The Pakistani cinema industry, based in Lahore (Lollywood), is miniscule compared to Bollywood. Critics suggest movies coming from Lahore, usually in Punjabi, have poor production quality and scripts compared to their Indian counterpart.
As the producers raise their voices against Bollywood movies, there is another phenomenon which hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Many Pakistani actresses who have crossed the border and given up their (non-existent) career in Pakistan and moved base to India, owe their name and fame to the Indian film industry.
Over the years, Bollywood has witnessed many aspiring actors from the neighbouring country making a foot-hold in Mumbai.
A bevy of beautiful Pakistani actresses have charmed their way into the big as well as the small screen. And they have been more than welcomed and encouraged to showcase their skills.
The likes of Veena Malik, Nargis Fakri, Mona Lizza, Humaima Malick, Mehreen Saeed, Muskan Khan, Sayeeda Imtiyaz have joined the ever increasing list of actresses from Pakistan who have taken refuge in Bollywood.
Bollywood playback singing now forms a large chunk of the earnings of Pakistani singers, who’ve delivered some of the biggest recent Hindi film hits.
Shafqat Amanat Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Adnan Sami and Atif Aslam are a few established Pakistani singers who have become famous thanks to Bollywood.
Atif Aslam had conceded that Pakistani artists do look to India for greater visibility, commercial success and opportunities.
Artists believe India offers more exposure in terms of both films and music, thus creating better opportunities for true talent there.
As Pakistan puts Indian films under the scanner and shows a more hostile attitude towards Indian artists, things could get awkward for the Pakistani artistes working actively in Mumbai.
Saif Ali Khan’s ‘Agent Vinod’ and Salman Khan’s ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ were banned from screening.
Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ was also placed under the scanner as it showed Shah Rukh playing the role of an army officer in Kashmir. However, once the movie was passed by the censor board, it was allowed to be screened.
The latest movie to face the censor board is Akshay Kumar‘s ‘Khiladi 786’. The movie will be released in Pakistan as ‘Khiladi’.
The Censor Board of Pakistan had objected to the title of the film as it included the number 786 which is of significance for Muslims.
Calling for a formal ban of Indian films will only shake the bilateral trades between the two nations and boost the sale of pirated DVDs.
If Indian films are banned, the cinema industry in Lahore will surely go into decline, which needs a financial boost.
This would also result in unemployment, which is a serious issue facing Pakistan. Furthermore, it would reduce entertainment opportunities available to Pakistanis.
If Indian cinema has been harbouring Pakistani artists and reaping from the rich talent, Lahore can also extract better deals with collaboration instead of shutting the door on them.
Bollywood has a strong fan base in Pakistan and earns a good margin from it’s distribution there. Pakistan’s untapped talents gets great exposure in Mumbai.
If the two nations cannot forget their enemity, they can at least be friends with benefits.