The suspension of the Indo-Pak peace process after the Mumbai terror attacks has left the Pakistani film distributors, exhibitors and cinema owners worried about their business, which was thriving on the Bollywood flicks.
These exhibitors, distributors and theatre owners were one of the biggest beneficiaries of the peace process, as part of which the Pakistan government had lifted a 42-year ban on the exhibition of Indian films in cinema halls in Karachi in 2007.
With relations between the two countries taking a nosedive and the peace process suspended after the Mumbai attacks on November 26, the release of the latest Bollywood movies has been stopped in Pakistan.
"There is nothing officially conveyed to us but the Censor and Culture Ministry have not cleared any new Indian films for release after the Mumbai incident," said Nadeem Mandviwalla, a well-known distributor and owner of Nishat cinema in Karachi.
Pakistani film goers-were eagerly awaiting for the two of the biggest Bollywood releases of 2008, Shahrukh Khan's 'Rab ne Bana di Jori' (RNBJ) and Aamir Khan's 'Ghajni', but the release of these movies has been put off due to the tense relations between the two countries.
A cinema owner declining to be named said both films were due to be released in Pakistani cinemas as well. "But the whole process has stopped after the Mumbai attacks," he said.
For the moment, cinema owners who did roaring business after a number of years due to the release of Indian films since last year, are keeping their business going by again releasing old films.
"Awarapaan, Goal, Welcome, Race were all big hits in Karachi," Mandviwalla said. Such was the boom that at one stage due to shortage of quality cinema halls, the existing ones had started screening special shows to meet the demands of film-goers and to cope with the rapid release of new Bollywood films.
Nishat, in fact, still screens two Indian movies 'Yuvraaj' and 'Dostaana' with different show timings while other cinemas have again released 'Bhagam Bhaag' and 'Golmaal Returns' to keep their business going as they point out there is no competition between the demand for Pakistani and Indian films.
"We don't know how long this situation is going to last but we are fearing for the worst," Raheel Ahmed, a manager at one of the cinemas, said.
While the cinema owners are worried, the video parlours and shops in Karachi, whose business was hit hard by the government's decision to lift the ban on screening of Bollywood films, are once again celebrating.
"People are coming back to us for pirated prints of 'RNBJ' and 'Ghajni' as they are not up for release in cinema halls," one shop owner in Bahadurabad, a posh shopping area of the city, said.
The government had launched a crackdown on sale or renting out of pirated copies of the latest Bollywood and Hollywood releases after these films were allowed to be released in cinema halls.
"It's back to business again because no matter what the state of relations between the two countries, people don't want to miss out on the latest films of superstars like Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan," Liaquat, another shop owner, said.