Pakistani teenager Mohammed Salim joins the crowd waiting at one of Karachi’s cinemas to see the blockbuster Indian thriller Ghajini — Bollywood’s biggest grossing movie ever.
The action movie starring actor Aamir Khan and based on the Hollywood film Memento spins a complex tale of a man with amnesia who tattoos himself and takes Polaroid pictures to remember people and places.
“I loved this movie, not just because it was made in India but because we don’t produce such quality stuff here,” Salim said afterwards.
Just a year ago, the screening would not have been possible, as Pakistan had barred films from its rival neighbour for more than 40 years.
Lifting the ban helped revive Pakistan's suffering cinemas, luring film buffs away from televisions in their living rooms and into the movie houses.
But cinema operators now fear that the spike in cross-border tensions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks could doom their businesses, especially after Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram suggested business links could be suspended.
“The entire industry is looking at fresh tensions between India and Pakistan with great worry. We are certainly anxious to see how the situation develops,” said Nadeem Mandviwala of Pakistan's association of film exhibitors.
“Indian movies have got people back into Pakistani cinemas and have played a great role in saving cine culture in the country.”
Bollywood stars are wildly popular in Pakistan, where people watched their films on pirated videos and DVDs for decades until the ban was lifted. The country's press is filled with gossip about Indian film stars.