Pakistan’s film industry is in revival mode

Decline of film industry began in the 1990s when trend of violence in films picked up


Islamabad: Three years ago Pakistan’s film industry was at its lowest ebb. Hardly a dozen movies were being made annually and those too were mostly in Punjabi and Pushto. Nobody wanted to watch local Urdu films as Indian films had taken over the box office.

The situation has dramatically changed in the last two years after a hiatus of nearly 15 years when the industry was doing well. Now more than two dozen Urdu films are being made besides a large number of films in Pushto and Punjabi. Modern cinemas are opening up in all the big cities of the country.

The decline of the film industry began in the 1990s when the trend of violence in films picked up. Families stopped going to cinemas that had turned into dirty ghetto like places dominated by gangsters and people of ill repute. Cinema business came down sharply and the cinemas began to be demolished.

According to Pakistan Film Producers and Directors Association record, there were 1,323 cinemas in Pakistan in 1988 with 68 of them in Lahore alone. Five years ago there were 11 cinemas functioning in the city. Now 11 more multiplex cinemas with three screens each with latest technology sound and HD visual systems are attracting huge crowds.

This Eid Al Fitr seven Pushto films are being released while three big budget Urdu films are being released. Two Punjabi films are also being released nationwide. One of the Urdu films ‘Bin Roye’ with popular cast is being released in 40 countries across the globe, including India, UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark. Other big budget films in the pipeline like ‘From Karachi se Lahore’, ‘Jawani Phir Nahin Ani’, ‘Salute’, ‘Hulla Gulla’, ‘Moor’, ‘Swaarangi’ and ‘Shah’.

A new industry has come up in Karachi with new directors, new writers, new actors and new thoughts. The situation is changing rapidly. And the agents of change are all young people who are coming up new ideas and subjects for their film projects. They all want to achieve perfection in their work. All this is happening in Karachi.

Film producer and director Rashid Khawaja was of the view that film industry’s revival was all due to revival of cinema industry. “Multiplexes were never part of our culture. It all began when Indian films screening was allowed in Pakistan. Hollywood films that used to make it to our cinemas were only of action genre. Now when uptown crowd has started watching movies in cinemas all types of Hollywood movies are screened in Pakistan, which has one of the largest English speaking population in the region.

“If this trend continues for the next five or six years we would have built the infrastructure for a stable and growing film industry. The corporate sector may start investing in good film projects and that will change everything. A lot of people are planning new projects,” Khawaja said.

He must be right considering the fact that many people have announced that they are going to make films. Many of them are fresh graduates who have studied filmmaking abroad. Politician Imran Khan’s wife has announced a film project while popular fashion designer HSY is also working on a film project.

“All these young people that have taken over the reins of film industry are simply brilliant. I agree that digital technology has changed the game for good but still the brilliance of people who write scripts, act or work behind the camera matters a lot. Jami the director of the film is a complete gentleman and the way he led the team was marvellous. This movie like many others that are in pipeline is issue based. It takes up the challenge of corruption that is seeping in the society,” said Nadeem Mandviwalla, filmmaker, producer and cinema owner, whose film ‘Moore’ is going to hit screens on August 14.

Leading importer of film and promoter Amjad Rashid said he now has a number of local film projects. “I import a lot of foreign films. Since now good movies are being made here we are taking the distribution rights for screening both in Pakistan and abroad. For example we will be releasing on ‘Karachi se Lahore’ on July 31. We have confirmed release in Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and UK. USA, India and some other markets we are negotiating,” he revealed.

To a query Rashid said the reason film industry’s revival had taken place in Karachi was because most of the artistes were living there. “Most of the production houses that produce TV plays and telefilms are in Karachi. Technical people related to this industry as well as the best equipment are available here. All these factors contribute to create a good working culture. The people of Karachi are dedicated and very professional,” Rashid explained.

The second highest grossing films of year 2015 was an animation film ‘3 Bahudar’. It has till now grossed $640,000 (Dh2.34 million) and is still doing good business at the box office. The other films that grossed well were Jalaibee $740,000 and Good Morning Karachi $44,000.

Legendary actor Jawed Shaikh was of the view that it is a beginning and things will improve in coming years. “We have to make good film projects and should not think of trying to enter the race with Bollywood. Indian film industry is large, has a lot of money and has huge market. We should work and excel within our bracket and then move out when we have established ourselves. I have worked in a number of film projects in Karachi. They are all young talented, dedicated and professional in their approach,” Shaikh said.

Pakistan film industry is certainly making a comeback but it has a long way to go. It needs to prove that it is an industry and not pastime affair or fun. It is all about business of entertainment but the film industry people should ensure that all the ethics are doing business are maintained. Otherwise it will be like a bubble that may burst anytime.

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