Indian films are back in Pakistani cinemas, three months after Uri and the subsequent ban on Bollywood films due to endangering tensions between the two countries. Atrium Cinemas have Freaky Ali, which was imported and screened in early September, scheduled for one show starting Monday, December 19. It’s a start, a gentle declaration of the end of the suspension.
“Films that had already been imported will be screened as a token,” Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner Atrium Cinemas, said in a brief conversation with me. “The government had not given any directives to take Indian movies down but it was the need of the moment, given the hostility. It’s what the people wanted. Temperatures have now cooled down and sanity has prevailed.”
Mandviwalla added that this was the beginning of a conversation, which would undoubtedly have many twists and turns. However, the larger picture needs to be kept in priority and that larger picture is rebuilding our film industry.
“To shut cinemas down for three months is no joke,” Mandviwalla added. Unofficial statistics show the extent of the damage. Cinema footfall had decreased by 60% effecting the viewership of Pakistani films. 1700 cinema employees were reportedly fired in November. 40% multiplex screens were closed due to lack of content and so on. “Cinemas have been suffering for the last 40 years. So far only 10% of the industry has been revived. We cannot stand on our feet yet. When 90% of our industry is revived only then will we be able to say that we don’t need Indian films.”
To reintroduce Indian films back into cinemas is the only way to ensure that the revival of Pakistan’s film industry does not come to an abrupt halt. And if things continue to cool down and no further border tensions erupt, then it looks like we may be able to watch Raees on the big screen in Pakistan after all. Can we just request our distributors to import the uncut version? We’d like to see a whole lot more of Mahira Khan than the final film will probably show.