As Indian movies returned to Pakistani cinemas on Monday following the lifting of a ban imposed by exhibitors, some organisations announced they would challenge the screening of Bollywood productions in court.
The ban, imposed by the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association following heightened tensions after the terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri, was withdrawn after exhibitors and cinema owners suffered losses running into millions of rupees.
But the Film Distributors Association (FDA) and Pakistan Film Producers Association (PFPA) contended that the screening of Indian movies resulted in the neglect of Pakistani films.
Chaudhary Ejaz Kamran, chairman of the FDA and a member of the PFPA, told The Express Tribune: “We will challenge the release of new Indian films in the court.”
There is a stay order dated November 8 on older Indian films that are set for release. Kamran also said exhibitors lacked will to support Pakistani cinema.
“We don’t have a stay order on new films yet but we will definitely challenge them in court. Look, cinema owners don’t support Pakistani films. They allocate prime time shows to Indian films and give Pakistani films shows from 12-3 pm, so who’s going to come watch them?”
Asked whether a quota system would be better than fighting for an outright ban on Indian films, Kamran said, “We need to understand that quota system isn’t followed here. Indian films are played all the time, leaving no space for Pakistani films.”
However, other filmmakers have different views on the issue. Azfar Jafri, director of Janaan, felt the return of Indian films was a positive move.
“I was against the boycott in the first place. We need Indian films at this stage, the cinema owners need to maintain their business so we can have more screens,” he said. “And until that happens, Pakistani filmmakers should work on their films, speed up their process and deliver quality films so that people keep coming.”
Jafri was also concerned about good Pakistani films being affected by a large number of mediocre productions. “If we have one good film after every 10 films, the eleventh film is going to be affected so the ban lift gives us an opportunity to improve our work while maintaining the influx of people in cinemas.”
He said there should be a balance so that Indian and Pakistani films do well at the box office and “one shouldn’t be overshadowed by the other”.
Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay director Anjum Shahzad too accepted the exhibitors’ decision to bring back Indian movies. “If the business flourishes, it’s definitely going to help Pakistani filmmakers. Therefore, if the cinema owners think they can recover the losses of the past few months, it’s a welcome move.”
Manto director Sarmad Khoosat found the situation absurd. “I just find this entire situation, banning and again unbanning Indian films, quite preposterous. I would not go as far to say we ‘need’ them but of course, the cinema owners need to sustain their business so it’s a good move,” he said.