Film and other forms of art have a direct relationship with the socioeconomic configuration of a society. In Pakistan’s case, for instance, the era of 60s and early 70s witnessed a robust growth in almost all of its socioeconomic indicators while its film industry saw an equally impressive rise. Films ranging from social dramas to Palestine issue were made. Then came the gloomy dark ages until 2010, where the country had to suffer through the decay of its social fabric. The film industry was no exception. For the past five to six years, however, we are gradually yet steadily moving to a stable socioeconomic takeoff position (with setbacks speckled here and there of course) and inevitably, our film industry is showing similar signs of recovery and rise.
2018 will be remembered as a “watershed moment”, whenever the revival of Pakistani cinema comes under discussion, for many tangible and non-tangible factors. We analyze these factors here one by one to give you an idea, of how far the local cinema has come.
Number of films
Comparing the past three years with regards to the number of films produced locally, there is definitely a steady growth, with 2018 witnessing around 22 cinematic releases against 2017 where a total of 14 titles were released. 2016 also saw around 22 films on our cinema screens. It, however, is pertinent to mention that most of the films that came out in 2016 were long-awaited releases, that too on quite smaller scales.
The number of blockbusters
This year, Pakistani cinema saw the highest number of blockbusters in any year, post revival. Films like JPNA 2, Parwaz Hai Junoon,Teefa in Trouble & The Donkey King ensured our cinemas remain crowded with film buffs. 2017 had one blockbuster in the form of Punjab Nahi Jaungi, while 2016 saw two titles namely Actor in law and Janaan that could be classified as blockbusters.
Net revenue from top 10 Grossers
Speaking of hits and blockbusters, an encouraging number of these films in 2018, made the year the most economically viable one for our local cinema, till date for. The aggregate revenue for top 10 highest grossers of 2018 was more than 240 crores (this doesn’t include December releases like Pinky Memsaab and the promising 3 Bahadur series’s last installment). In 2016 and 2017, however, the aggregate revenues for top 10 films were estimated to be around 125 and 140 crores respectively.
Volume of the highest grossing film
Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 is a film that has a lot of firsts attached to it. It is the country’s first successful live franchise with both its installments being the highest grossers of their times. 2018 gives another reason to local cinema to rejoice because this year the highest grosser film left its predecessors miles behind by earning around 67 crores worldwide.
Growth and acceptance of niche cinema
Five years ago, it would have been unfathomable to think that local cine goers and makers would be welcoming to serious cinema that explores off beaten and experimental themes as seen in movies like Cake, Motorcycle Girl and Load wedding. With the success of films like Cake, it has become evident that with strong content, even niche cinema could be financially viable. Moreover, these films also added to the overall substance of local cinema and globally, people started taking it more seriously.
Introduction of diverse genres
Looking at the top five grossers of 2018, we find a diversity of genres. The list has one adventure romantic comedy (JPNA 2), one air force drama (Parwaz Hai Junoon), two action comedies (Teefa and Parchi) and one animated satire (Donkey King). This trend wasn’t seen in previous years where most of the top grossing films are either romantic comedies or social dramas.
Entry of new players
Whenever local cinema is under discussion, the problem of limited number of directors and producers in the arena almost always comes up. All the hopes for quality films have usually been laid either on “Film Walas” or “Six Sigma” productions. 2018 has, however, witnessied the arrival of new and promising directors like Ahsan Raheem (Teefa), Asim Abbasi (Cake), Haseeb Hassan (Parwaz Hay Junoon) and Aziz Jindyani (Donkey King).
HUM films getting back in the production game with a bang after its debut Bin Roye and Ali Zafar jumping in the production line with his Pakistani debut Teefa in Trouble remain the highlights of 2018. What’s encouraging to see is that HUM films is coming with two productions in 2019 as well while Ali Zafar is expected to produce his next film in 2020.
Global approval of Pakistani films
Local releases on Eid-ul-Azha not only stormed the box office in Pakistan but were also successful in grabbing the attention of desi diaspora at many international markets in a never seen before way.
JPNA 2 ,Parwaz and Load Wedding collectively made over 10 crore rupees from key markets like UK ,UAE and USA over their extended weekend alone. Many Pakistani productions saw their international premiers and were able to carve a fan following based on their relatable and entertaining content. A special mention of Cake is mandatory here for the film got standing ovations from international tabloids like the Guardian and Gulf news.
To sum it all up, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that film truly matters for it is the currency of intellectual debates in cerebrally developed societies. As long as people continue to enjoy the peculiar sensation of gathering with strangers in a darkened theater, film will continue to matter. Pakistan needs to catch up with the rest of the world in this particular arena and looking at the trends the same exhibited in 2018, it’s quite plausible and safe to say that it’s heading in the right direction.