In Pakistan, Bollywood’s loss has been Iranian, Turkish films’ gain

The movie business in Pakistan, previously dependent on Indian and Hollywood cinema, is targeting Iranian and Turkish films to tide over the crisis


Salman Khan’s ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ raked in about Rs15-16 crore at the Pakistani box-office.
Salman Khan’s ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ raked in about Rs15-16 crore at the Pakistani box-office.

New Delhi: Barely a month after Pakistan banned all television and radio content from India and cinema halls stopped screening Indian films, the country has now turned to a new source of entertainment. Pakistani newspapers like Dawn reported this weekend that its theatres are looking to screen Iranian and Turkish films in “a bid to save the declining Pakistan film industry and restore its glory”. The movie business in Pakistan, previously dependent on Indian and Hollywood cinema, is currently in crisis.

“Iranian films are not just making a mark across the world with their storytelling but are also extremely similar to Pakistani culture in terms of backdrop,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.

Mohan added that since 2005, the 100-odd theatres in Pakistan have been dependent mainly on Hindi and Hollywood fare. There are about 40-50 Bollywood releases a year and another 50 Hollywood offerings but the local movie production has hit an all-time low. A decent-sized Bollywood film can make anywhere between Rs5-6 crore in Pakistan. Big-ticket movies, starring actors like Salman, Aamir or Shah Rukh Khan can manage even more—Aamir Khan’s PK had collected over Rs22 crore at the Pakistani box-office, beating the country’s own blockbuster Waar (2013). Yash Raj Films’ action extravaganza Dhoom 3 (2013) did even better than PK with Rs24 crore and more recently, despite apprehensions about how it would be received in Pakistan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan raked in about Rs15-16 crore.

Ten years ago, however, the story was quite different. Not only were Pakistani films running well in the 250-300 screens spread across the country, Iranian and other foreign releases remained few and far between. Over time though, local productions failed to keep up with global standards and home audiences gained exposure to high-quality Hindi and Hollywood fare.

“Pakistan may contribute only about 5-10% of India’s overseas box office revenue but for them, Indian films make up 55% of the overall collections compared to 30% of local Pakistani movie earnings,” said film trade and business expert Girish Johar.

Apart from Iranian cinema, Turkish films have also acquired a following in Pakistan lately, Johar added. Especially after the spectacular success of Turkish romantic drama television series Aşk-ı Memn, dubbed into Urdu as Ishq-e mamnoo that had notched up 11.9 ratings when telecast in the country in 2013.

“Its success has prompted exhibitors (to dabble with Turkish films) who are facing a crunch to make stock gap arrangements,” Johar said.

However, local Pakistani distributors are mostly based in Dubai from where they acquire foreign films to release in Pakistan.

“They will have to obviously have to look for alternate options now. Apart from Iranian cinema, they may look towards Korean and Chinese films and increase their Hollwyood imports in the coming months,” Mohan said.

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