Cinemas in Pakistan on Monday began screening Indian movies, over two months after film exhibitors and theatre owners suspended it amidst Indo-Pak tensions following the Uri terror attack and cross-border firing incidents.
Freaky Ali, a romantic comedy of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Arbaaz Khan and Amy Jackson, which was released in September, is the first film being screened in the Pakistani cinemas after the film exhibitors and cinema owners lifted the self-imposed suspension on Indian movies' screening.
Theatre owners are currently screening those Indian movies which are already released and the decision regarding new films will be taken on Wednesday as a lot of people are involved in the process of importing a film, Centaurus Marketing and Call Centre Supervisor Anil Altaf said.
The Pakistan Film Exhibitors and Distributors Association, which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single screen cinemas in the country, had announced to 'temporarily' stop screening Indian films soon after tensions escalated following the Uri terror attack and cross border firing incidents in late September.
The exhibitors and cinema owners had taken the decision voluntarily after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association announced a ban on Pakistani artistes and technicians working in India.
Film Exhibitors Association Chairman Zoraiz Lashari said the association decided to lift suspension with the consent of other exhibitors and film stakeholders.
"A couple of months ago we had stopped screening of Indian movies in reaction to a ban on Pakistani artistes in India by Indian Motion Picture Producers Association. We showed our reaction to India. Now it is time to see other ground realities as well," Lashari said.
Cinema owners across Pakistan have suffered about Rs 150 million loss and some 100 employees lost their jobs since the non-screening of Indian movies, he said.
Pakistani Film Producer Sohail Khan siad that allowing the Indian movies to be screened in Pakistani cinemas should not be seen in the context of patriotism.
"You know business is business and a cup of tea is a cup of tea. We cannot ignore the ground reality which is that our movies are not doing fine and cinemas are getting empty," he said.
Khan said Indian movie Freaky Ali was passed by the Censor Board in September but for screening of new movies the Pakistani exhibitors would need a ‘No Objection Certificate’ and approval certificated from the Pakistani Censor Board.
Film director Shehzad Rafique regretted that the recently released Pakistani movies, including his own Salute, didn’t get good response from the public.
"In my opinion the box office should not close down. It seems the Pakistani film audience had decided that they will not watch local movies," Rafique said.
Filmmaker, actor and director Javed Sheikh said: “It’s very simple. Whichever film would have potential either Indian or Pakistani, it would get shows at cinemas.”
He said among the recently exhibited films Actor in Law was given 16 shows in Karachi and Janan got 12.
"Karachi film industry is producing quality movies. I am working on my new film Wajood. I won't mind if any big banner Indian film is screened against mine," Sheikh said.
Pakistan Film Producers Association Chairman Syed Noor criticised lifting ban on Indian movies, saying ‘it is a commercial move devoid of any patriotism’.
He said when the government has officially banned the Indian content why are the exhibitors not realising this fact.
"There is no uniform policy. I want to know who put a ban on the screening of Indian movies and who lifted it," he said.
Pakistan is considered as the third largest market for Indian films.
Indian movies returned to Pakistani cinema houses in 2008 after a 43-year-long hiatus imposed during the 1965 war.
Representative image. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters