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Pakistan's filmmakers are raring to go, if only they had funds

Pakistan's upcoming filmmakers are brimming with ideas and are itching to compete with the world's best -- if only they could find financial godfathers to back them up.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Islamabad
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2008 04:19 PM IST

Pakistan's upcoming filmmakers are brimming with ideas and are itching to compete with the world's best -- if only they could find financial godfathers to back them up.

With Pakistan's film industry putting its best foot forward by showcasing the widely acclaimed Khuda Key Liye at international festivals, young filmmakers seem to hold even more promise. Yet, so far, no one is willing to put money in their dream projects and they have had to deep freeze their ideas.

"Only if you can set the cash registers ringing" is the common refrain of financiers who are not willing to put their money on first-timers who want to make a mark on Lollywood, which is trying to resurrect itself while trying to overcome problems like piracy and lack of theatres.

Over a dozen promising filmmakers are waiting in the wings for that ever-elusive break. Moammar Rana had to shelve his much talked about debut as a director shortly after he had shot a few reels for lack of funds.

Humayun Saeed claims to have got a brilliant script from Bollywood for his most ambitious home production, but is not quite sure if he should rework it to suit the Pakistani palette to that the cash registers start ringing.

There's hardly any one in the private sector willing to stake money on a Lollywood fim. And to make matters worse, banks see film loans as bad investment.

"There is a huge element of uncertainty involved and this keeps people from venturing into the film world," Hasan Zaidi, CEO of Karafilm Festival and an aspiring filmmaker, told The News.

Zaidi's debut film Raat Chali Hai Jhoom Key did not get distributors in Pakistan and he had to make do with festival screenings.
Since then Zaidi has been lying low even though he has another script ready.

Hasan is looking for "a technically proficient and efficient producer" who shares his vision, but so far he has had no success in Lollywood -- the Lahore-based film industry which, many say, is on the verge of extinction.

Another young filmmaker, Saqib Malik, has been sitting on a film for about four years. So is Azfar Ali who has an interesting script on the youth.

"We have not been able to develop a business model for films and people think cinema is about throwing money down the drain. They see no returns," said Hasan.

"We were only two weeks short of taking our film to the floors when our producer backed out," Malik said. Since then it's been one wild goose chase for the "right" producer. The script, which had become "dated", too has been reworked.

The lucky few who do manage to convince a producer, find the going tough on the floors. It is difficult to get a competent technical crew in Pakistan and therefore, of late, many have been crossing the border to India to enhance their production quality.

The infrastructure too is missing and Lahore's dilapidated Multan Road studios can easily be given a miss because of their ancient equipment. Those who have funds take their films to Bangkok or India for post-production.

Some well-to-do filmmakers even purchased modern equipment because hiring is expensive.

"A camera for Rs 75,000 a shift! That's a staggering amount especially if you consider that your average film needs 30 to 40 shifts. Compare this with India and you find that there you can get an entire 35mm shift with technicians for about Rs 20,000," Hasan said.

Pakistan's famous red tape is another irritant. "Our bureaucratic structure is such that it does not facilitate, rather it tries to block things," Hasan said.

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