Karachi: It’s a busy night at the Prince cinema in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Movie fans have a rare treat. The Indian film Race is being screened.
Pakistan banned Indian films after going to war with its neighbour in 1965, but over the past few years it has been allowing a trickle of Indian films to be shown in cinemas.
That has delighted movie fans and cinema operators, but Pakistani film producers fear a flood of Indian films could mean the end of the local film industry. “The government must stop the imports. Do you want to make Lollywood a part of the history books?” said Saeed Rizvi, chairman of the Film Producers Association, referring to the Pakistani movie industry, dubbed “Lollywood” because it is based in the city of Lahore.
Pakistan’s film industry made about 30 films last year, mostly Bollywood imitations.
In India, the film industry, including the Mumbai-based “Bollywood” studios, produces about 1,000 films a year.
Karachi cinema owner Qaiser Rafiq is screening Taare Zameen Par, and was expected to pull in the crowds.
Cinema operators are cashing in on the revival of interest in the cinema the Indian films have generated.
Before screenings of Indian films began, a cinema ticket in Karachi cost Rs100 (Indian Rs62). Now it is Rs150. “Before the release of Indian films, a good Lollywood film would make about Rs700,000 in an average week. Now the best week for Race in a Lahore cinema made more than Rs2 million,” said a cinema manager.
Film distributors also welcome the revival of cinemas.
“It’s a ground reality that Indian movies are very much liked in Pakistan,” said film distributor Satish Anand. “(But) we shouldn’t become dependent on Indian films. Our own industry needs to do better to compete with their rivals and our government should protect the industry.”
Pakistan’s new culture minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, said the government had to “decide between the profit of cinema owners and the future of Lollywood”. As Pakistan relaxes its ban on Indian films, Rafique wants to see more Pakistani films screened in India.
“I have asked for proposals to bring our films to a standard where they can compete with the Indian films. Then we will be in a better position to allow more Indian films, and of course, our movies would do better in India too.”