Bollywood set to cross LoC
After all the cricket diplomacy, it is time for Bollywood to take over in Pakistan, writes Meenakshi Iyer.
Talking about the popularity of Bollywood, one just cannot forget the famous punchline given by crazy Pakistani fans in the late 90s.
Madhuri dedo, Kashmir lelo! (Give Madhuri, take Kashmir). Of course, the actress lost a chance to serve the nation! If only, the governments had taken Pakistan's vox populi seriously…
Speaking of India's entertainment Inc, there are signs that the four-decade-old ban on the public screening of Bollywood potboilers in Islamabad is under review.
Film fans and the movie industry reacted with delight after officials said on Monday that cinemas would be permitted to show the 1984 love story Sohni Mahiwal.
After all the cricket diplomacy, it's time for Bollywood to take over. There is, although, no official word on the removal of the ban as of now.
Welcoming the recent development, Pakistan's leading daily The News International says it is a good way to resuscitate Islamabad's "critically debilitated" film industry.
"The Pakistani film industry, which has been struggling for more than two decades and is on the verge of complete collapse, desperately needs new blood and fresh ideas…It may also help ensure that a handful of cinema houses left in the country are used to screen movies…"
The number of movie halls in Pakistan has come down from 1,300 in 1970 to just 270 now. Most of them were converted into shopping malls.
Pakistan had clamped a ban on Indian films after the 1965 war with India. The ban stayed, despite appeals from the ailing Pakistan film industry to allow Indian films to be screened in its theatres and permit the two industries to cooperate with each other.
Despite the restrictions, Pakistanis watch all the latest Hindi films through cheap pirated CDs and DVDs.
"Lifting the ban will open new vistas for the entertainment-starved Pakistanis, giving them a chance to enjoy films on good quality prints. This will put an end to the menace of piracy, which is a lucrative business in Pakistan," the paper further said.
Customs officials in Pakistan recently destroyed thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs to mark International Customs Day.
Investigators name Dubai, Nepal and India as the three major transit countries for illicit DVDs originating from the country.
Meanwhile, Islamic radicals have accused Bollywood films of spreading "obscenity and vulgarity. The detractors argue "such a move will open the floodgates to a cultural invasion from across the border".
Pakistan's powerful alliance of hardline Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), says that Indian movies with their risqué dance routines are not suitable for Pakistani viewers.
The MMA, which governs Pakistan's deeply conservative North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, had previously burnt TVs, videos and DVDs and other "immoral" material.
Like MMA, there are others who argue that local cinema will die if the floodgates to competition are opened up.
"…The film industry is in a deep crisis even without any meaningful competition. The truth is that large proportion of Pakistanis watch Indian films, albeit illegally. Does it make sense for the government to cash in on this reality," the paper asks.