Is Pakistan right in welcoming Bollywood back with open arms?

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By: Adil Majid

Finally some people within India and Pakistan have showed maturity in realizing that art does not thrive in bans and sanctions. This situation can be analyzed by understanding the various pros and cons of making such a decision and whether it is likely to benefit Pakistan and its cinema and movie industry in the long run or not.

An Eye on Developments in India

Within India, major Bollywood icons such as Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan as well as industry stakeholders particularly those in cinema and film production houses have very recently come out with positive comments regarding export of Bollywood to Pakistan saying that Pakistanis love Indian films and stars so they should be given the chance to see them.

Obviously this is good for them as both Saif and Kangana are starring in the upcoming period drama Rangoon (which will release in first quarter of 2017) so they are cleverly pushing for additional revenue solutions for their project.

This, however, provides perspective that there is definitely a tangible benefit of Bollywood films releasing in Pakistan. India has realized that the Pakistani cinema industry is in quick growth phase and they want to capture as much market share as possible. Hindi films in Pakistan will always remain popular because of three things: the language and cultures are quite similar; their stars are already extremely popular and they can easily access new record breaking numbers through this strategy.

It should be noted that Indians have come out with this stance only after the small suspension by local cinema industry when they realized the economic repercussions of losing Pakistani market as the loss would at least amount to around 10 to 12 crores INR of earning which most of the recent Bollywood films (particularly Star projects) had made within Pakistan in the last couple of years. In many instances, when movies featuring the three Khans (Aamir, SRK and Salman) were released on festive occasions within Pakistan, major industry benchmarks such as Top Grossers, Opening weekend collection numbers, Cinema attendances all got shattered one after the other. This made Indians realize that if major blockbuster movies can do so well in Pakistan then they are likely to become easy ground for future revenues within Bollywood from Pakistan.

Current Scenario post Uri attacks

In the meanwhile, followed by the Uri attack in Indian occupied Kashmir in September, Pakistani cinema owners decided not to exhibit Indian films and show solidarity with the Pakistani jawans fighting on our borders (This decision was taken when Pink and Freaky Ali were still being played in cinemas and were then subsequently taken down immediately while their shows got replaced with the three local Eid-ul Azha releases Actor in Law, Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai and Janaan).

In many ways, by not allowing Bollywood to come to Pakistan for the last two months, both sides of the borders have seen staling developments. Indian films like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM), MS Dhoni, etc. could not make additional money which they would have if they had actually released in Pakistan as expected before the Uri crisis. Expected collections for ADHM would have been at least around PKR 15 to 20 crore within Pakistan (approximately INR 9-10 crore) due to its extremely popular music, the strong KJo brand as well as the presence of our own Fawad Khan.

The situation changed recently when Pakistani cinemas started showing Bollywood films again from this Monday. Pink and Freaky Ali, which had been cleared by the censor board earlier, re-released in the cinemas in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

As far as the new releases such as Aamir Khan’s Dangal, SRK and our very own Mahira’s Raees etc. are concerned, then it is likely that they will start releasing in Pakistan soon. Perhaps, the release of Dangal seems in doldrums as the film which is releasing on Dec 23rd in India has yet not been issued the NOC by the Government of Pakistan. Decision is expected to be taken by the stakeholders on Wednesday. It is being reported that one of the largest media conglomerates within Pakistan (name withheld for confidential reasons) is actively looking to import Dangal as soon as possible into Pakistan because they want maximum returns from an Aamir Khan venture. However, if the government does not provide them NOC then it cannot release on its scheduled date.

Despite these issues, the most likely scenario remains in favor of new Bollywood films seeing the light of day in local cinemas. Moreover, the aforementioned media giant has a very strong case study in front of them where they can argue with the government that if an Aamir Khan film like PK can provide them somewhere around PKR 20-30 crores back when it released in 2014 when there were far less screens available in the country then they would stand to lose at least around the same or more likely PKR 40-50 crores from Pakistan if the movie is not released timely.

What does this all mean to Pakistani Cinema?

As of right now most of the major cinema owners in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi would be in party mood where they would be celebrating successful suspension of the self-imposed ban.

However, they must remember that as Pakistanis they have to provide equal platform to local ventures so that they don’t get sidelined in face of large scale Bollywood ventures. I also feel that the time is now quite nearby where hopefully Pakistani films will see broad based releases within Mumbai, Delhi and other major centers within India. If we don’t start trading on equal opportunity and fair trade basis of export import like we do in other industries including textile, steel, food etc…. then it’s not fair for the local filmmakers within Pakistan to allow Indians in grabbing prime cinema dates during festive occasions within Pakistan such as the two Eids, Christmas, Independence Days etc.

Overall, the scenario appears to have turned positive for the local cinema and film industry. In the long run more and more private TV channels and corporations will begin to pour much needed investment in the industry. All the big media houses are already in final stages of allocating major chunks of their 2017 budgets to film and movie production business within Pakistan. The year 2017 is likely to see at least 40 to 50 Pakistani films releasing within January 2017 to December 2017. For case purposes, do remember this year we were able to release more than 30 films within a single year which is amazing considering that only a few years back (from 2005 till 2012) we only released around 2 to 3 films at max per year.

In the end, it all should mean more and more money and investment coming into the country and its growing media and entertainment business. This will definitely help us in creating our own film stars and also take along all the veteran Lollywood stars such as Shaan, Moammer Rana, Resham, Sana, Saima, Zara Sheikh and Reema to help our youngsters learn from their experience and exposure of acting, dancing and emoting on the silver screen. As things stand right now, with God’s grace, Pakistani cinema industry as well as Lollywood or as its now being called the New Age Pakistani Cinema will see exponential growth in the coming years.

This is a developing story and might get updated as new information appears in the media.


About the Author

I’m all about juggling work life balance. I’m a banker by profession & a film enthusiast / critic by passion. I can be reached on Facebook or through email.

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