Pakistan cinema beats terrorism and Bollywood invasion

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A view of the Pashtu movie posters outside the Arshad cinema at provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawer.Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Cinema, Peshawer Izhar Ullah Copyright © News Lens Pakistan

Lahore: The enriched local flavor of the Pakistani film industry has revived the entertainment sector, despite looming threats of terrorism and Bollywood Invasion.

Indigenous films have revived the entertainment business in Pakistan to a great extent. Movies are establishing new box office records and the diminishing cinema circuit has also seen unprecedented growth. Gone are the days when cinemas were the prime targets of fundamentalists and exhibitors, who used them to discard the local talent. According to film trade experts, the law and order situation has improved significantly, especially after the ongoing ‘Zarb-e-Azab’ military operation; its results are visible in every segment of the society, including the entertainment industry.

Recently released Jawani Phir Nahi Aani has made history by earning 270 million rupees in just four weeks of its screening at the box office. Other films such as Wrong Number, Bin Roye, Karachi Say Lahore and Jalaibee also did substantial business while movies aimed at a serious audience, such as Manto and Moor, earned critical acclaim.

Bollywood movies are no longer the prime source of entertainment for Pakistani movie enthusiasts. Nadir Minhas a cinema owner said, “If we check the box office earnings of films released in the last 10 months, it will be clear that only one film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ did phenomenal business of 24.75 crores. Whereas all other Indian films failed to generate sufficient buzz at the box office. Bajrangi Bhaijaan even broke the record of Two Bollywood blockbusters named PK, which earned 24 crores and Dhoom, which earned 22 crores. Currently, Pakistani films are on a winning streak.”

Along with quality enriched films, the cinema business in Pakistan is also booming, as the audience has shown a sense of ownership towards local products. Although Chinese and Continental food is very popular among Pakistanis, traditional cuisine such as Biryani and Nehari are the ones with mass appeal. A similar trend has been observed by stakeholders associated with the movie business in the last two years.

Jahanzeb Baig, former Chairman of the Pakistan Film Exhibitor Association and the owner of plaza cinema in Lahore which was totaled in the terrorist attack aimed at the Lahore ISI Office in 2009, is very optimistic regarding this new found improvement. In a telephonic interview with News Lens, he said that the Pakistani entertainment industry has shifted to state of revival and growth after remaining in a mostly dormant phase for almost two decades.

After the restoration of the cinema circuit in urban centers, this wave has also reached secondary cities where various groups are taking over old cinema houses and renovating them in accordance with the new market standards. They too are generating a lot of business.  “Judging by the pace with which things are improving, and as long as this process remains smooth and continual, it will become an even more profitable business in the coming two years,” Baig said.

IMAX theater is the most advanced form of cinema viewing which provides ultimate experience for moviegoers in Pakistan now days. According to official statistics by the IMAX Corporation, this technology is currently available in just 57 countries, with 837 theaters in total. Pakistan has also joined the IMAX club with its very first IMAX screen which was inaugurated last year in Lahore, while two more will open in Islamabad and Karachi soon.

Faraz Choudhry, the man who has revolutionized the cinema business in Pakistan with the addition of IMAX theaters, says, the entertainment industry is going through a phase of Innovation. “The infrastructure is improving, new screening technology has replaced outdated projectors, risk free security measures have been set up, educated and courteous staff welcomes the audience in the theater,” Choudhry acclaimed. All these factors combined have contributed towards gathering mass appeal from moviegoers.

He mentioned that although the cinema business is a business of demand and supply based business, the local industry has shown remarkable growth and it will flourish even more by producing quality content.

Such favorable results have also forced celebrities to work in local movies. Ali Zafar, a well-known Pakistani singer, who began his acting career by starring in Bollywood movies, and has performed in hits like Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Chashme Badoor, has also announced his maiden production with the title of ‘Deosai’. It will be his first film in Pakistan, which he has planned to execute on a lavish scale.

Sheikh Abid Executive of IMGC Global Entertainment, the leading group behind the import of foreign films in Pakistan, has a different train of thought. He said, “The local industry of Pakistan is at its budding stage and cannot produce 50 to 60 films every year. Therefore, at this moment dependency on foreign content will continue.” Nevertheless, things are moving in the right direction and new filmmakers will be able to fulfill the demand of the cinema circuit in a couple of years. According to Abid, one plus point is that Pakistani products are becoming the first choice of the audience as they can relate to it.

More so, evolution of the entertainment industry is also creating new opportunities for the talented youth. “After a gap of several years, I got chance to control the camera for a song production,” said Kashif Rizvi, a talented cinematographer of Lollywood who was striving for work. He said that the stars from the television industry have overtaken the old faces of Lollywood while the audience also feels a renewed sense of freshness which is why they are willing to spend money and time.

Up gradation of the cinema circuit has been warmly received by the youth of Pakistan. Advance bookings of tickets are a relatively new trend and they enjoy the movie screening along with groups of friends. Ali Zeeshan, a movie lover told News Lens, “Latest technology, variety in the content, and upgraded theaters have created a lot of buzz for youngsters as they have limited entertainment resources in the conservative society of Pakistan, hence the rapid success of this sector.

Tax exemption to the cinema industry in the past one decade is also a major factor that contributed heavily to the recent revolution in the entertainment sector. Film Trade experts are of the view that now Government will implicate entertainment tax soon, as this sector has been revived to a great extent. That particular time will show the true potential of Lollywood and will determine whether it will be able to take a solo flight forward, or need foreign support in the form of imported films to continue the journey.

 

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