In the plush Defence Housing Authority cinema hall, a bag of large popcorn costs 80 Pakistani Rupees. It’s not yet show time, but people are making inquiries about what films are showing.
"Take a look for yourself," a security guard tells Rahat, who wants to book in advance. Rahat settles for a matinee show of Bhoothnath.
Life has, clearly, returned to cinema halls in Pakistan. Courtesy, Islamabad’s decision to allow the screening of Indian films earlier this year. No longer must Pakistanis confine themselves to watching CDs and DVDs — they can just trek to the nearest cinema. This is nothing short of a mini-revolution.
Lollywood, or Lahore’s film industry, is said to be worried, but cinema hall owners and film distributors across Pakistan are smiling. At the Plaza cinema in Lahore, Emraan Hashmi’s Jannat was released on Friday — the first film to be released simultaneously in India and Pakistan. It’s already drawing big crowds.
Naazish Ata-Ullah, principal of the National College of Art, says screening of Indian films would “give a big boost” to Pakistan’s floundering film industry. "I think this is very, very encouraging."
Muniba Kamal, a senior editor at The News, Karachi, agrees: "I think it (the release of Indian films in Pakistan) is a very healthy development. Our two countries have tried to ban cultures, but these have seeped through."
"I’ve seen Tare Zameen Par five times —four times at home and once in a cinema hall (in Karachi). The hall was almost full," says Muniba.
From about 750-odd cinemas in the 1970s, Pakistan has about 300 today. But pundits here believe this could change if Bollywood continues to bring audiences back to the halls.