It is a bumpy road for Bollywood to make its way to Pakistani cinemas! The Indian films not just have to go through tough, and sometimes unfair, censoring process but are also resisted by the local filmmakers and stakeholders. One occasion which always causes a rift between local and Bollywood releases is Eid-ul-Fitr, mostly known for a Salman Khan movie for last few years. This year around the attempts to stall the release of his upcoming film ‘Tubelight’ have already been started, even before its teaser is out.
According to The Express Tribune, the Pakistan Film Distributors Association and the Pakistan Film Producers Association, along with some local filmmakers, are trying to stall the release of ‘Tubelight’ on Eid in Pakistan. The reason behind these obstructive attempts is to support the local releases lined up for Eid. It is feared that the head-to-head contest with a Bollywood biggie would not be in interest of the local content makers. As it has often happened in the past, the local releases may not get their due share this time around as well.
According to the report, the protestors’ demands are in line with the Ministry of Information’s legislation of 2010 that forbids release of any Indian film on a Muslim festival. They are planning to prevent the release of ‘Tubelight’ by moving the ministry to not provide it a NOC and write a letter to the Prime Minister as well. According to the sources, they held a meeting in Lahore wherein they decided to stage a protest to stop ‘Tubelight’ from being released on Eid. They have also decided to take the matter to the court if needed.
This year quite a few Pakistani films are slated to release on Eid-ul-Fitr. The films with confirmed release dates are ‘Yalghaar’, ‘Mehrunisa V Lub U’ and ‘Geo Sir Utha Kay’. The other speculated projects are ‘Jhol’ and ‘Shor Sharaba’. If Salman Khan starer ‘Tubelight’ is released along with these movies, then, naturally, it will badly affect their businesses.
Historically, Salman Khan’s movies have always ruled the local box office. The most recent examples are Eid releases of last two years, ‘Sultan’ (2016) and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ (2015). Bajrangi was released with two Pakistani films ‘Bin Roye’ and ‘Wrong No.’, which did well at the box office despite having a cut-throat competition. On the other hand, Sultan was released without any major Pakistani film hitting the theaters.
The trepidations of the opposers of ‘Tubelight’ carry some weigth, but its not the whole case. In reality, the simulatenous release of Bollywood and Lollywood movies has been beneficial for all parties in the past. Pakistani movies, which are much smaller in scale than their Bollywood counterparts, have not been able to get the massive footfall on their own in most of the cases. The cinemas are made houseful when the viewers have a choice to make between Salman Khan and Humayun Saeed. This worked in case of ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ and ‘Bin Roye’ in 2015.
There are fairly enough chances that this dynamic will work this Eid as well, provided all films get their fair share.
The release of Indian movies in Pakistan has become a thorny business especially after the ban of Pakistani artists to work in India post Uri attack. The ban resulted in the suspension of Indian movies, self-imposed by Film Exhibitors Association of Pakistan, in Pakistan in October last year. The moratorium on Bollywood films lasted for four months until Government of Pakistan formally allowed the release of Indian movies earlier this year in February.
The nod of Federal Government to Bollywood movies was not enough to determine the fate of long awaited and highly speculated Shahrukh Khan-Mahira Khan starer ‘Raees’ in Pakistan. The film got banned by the Central Board of Film Certification for the reason of depicting Muslims in bad light.
It would be only a matter of time to see if ‘Tubelight’ suffers the same fate. The film is a period drama set against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian war of the 60s. It is highly probable that if the film is against China then it might get banned in the light of Pakistan-China friendship. On the other hand, if the content is not objectionable to the authorities then it would have to face the wrath of local filmmakers and film associations who have joined hands to obstruct its release at least on Eid.
Let us wait and see how the dust settles.