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30 May

Pakistani cinema experts react to restriction on Bollywood releases during Eid

The federal government has decided to put a limited restriction on the exhibition and screening of Indian films during the period around Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha. The statement was issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on May 24. The decision divided the filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors into groups, triggering a debate regarding the matter.

Read More: Government imposes a limited ban on Bollywood movies

In conversation with Something Haute, Nadeem Mandviwala, the owner and managing director of Mandviwalla Entertainment, shared his concerns regarding the limited ban.

“Protective policy by the Government is a BAD policy as whilst it protects one part of the industry (producers) it jeopardises the constitutional and fundamental right of the other part of the industry (exhibitors) to have the freedom to do business,” he said, adding that it is a biased decision which is detrimental to the development of the film industry.

“We are relying on only 120-125 screens, whereas in India alone a big film releases on 3,000-plus screens. So, for an occasion like Eid or 14th August or 23rd March, there is nothing wrong with not having them,” writer and actor Vasay Chaudhry said. His film Jawani Phir Nahi Aani 2 is scheduled for release on Eidul Azha.

He also explained that it’s not about fearing competition. “It’s just about being smart,” Vasay said, adding that there is a huge demand for Bollywood movies and that it the main reason we need them in order to keep our cinema houses running. “YES, they have a bigger demand and that’s how competition is BUT if leverages for establishing the cinema houses (by the govt) was given since 2008 then why not give some special leverage to local films as well.”

 

 

We also spoke to Sheheryar Munawar whose film, 7 Din Mohabbat In is releasing this Eid ul Fitr with the release of Parey Hat Luv being scheduled for Eid-ul-Azha 2019.

Read More: Sheheryar Munawar talks about ‘Parey Hat Luv,’ his third film with Mahira Khan

“It’s not a ban,” he declared, stating that it’s a positive move. “The release has been delayed by two weeks only. With only close to a 100 screens, in order to protect our local industry, we needed to take such measures.”

The actor-turned-producer also explained that protectionist strategies are used in all industries. “Let’s take the textile industry for example. There are a lot of tax rebates and other subsidies given to them as well. The automobile industry in Pakistan has only survived because there are huge import duties on foreign cars. I feel we need even more measures in place to protect our local film industry.”

Sheheryar also suggested a few important strategies that should be taken into consideration:

  1. Import duties on foreign films.
  2. Higher sales tax brackets for foreign films.
  3. Sales tax exemptions on the sale of local film tickets so that tickets for local films are cheaper.

 

“Let’s keep in mind that our film industry is in its infancy and like any other upcoming industry, it needs a helping hand from the government. Therefore, I feel this decision from the government is nothing out of the ordinary. Frankly, I really don’t see a reason for ‘debate’,” he said, hoping that this measure is taken positively.

As for Momina Duraid, she too seems to be in favour of the limited ban. She shifted the release of her film, Parwaaz Hai Junoon to Eidul Azha because she felt it was best for the film industry. Momina feels that a limited ban on Bollywood movies during Eid is another step in the right direction.

Read More: Parwaaz Hai Junoon may not release on Eid after all and here’s why!

“We all know that we have entry barriers from the Indian side for Pakistani releases in India. I mention this because this means we cannot release in a market freely, which could have given us good numbers due to cultural and language similarities. On the international front, we are new in the game and are trying our best to leave a mark with our limited production and marketing budgets. Hence the only market that lets our producers breathe a little is our own country, Pakistan.”

 

 

Previous box office results have proven that Eid revenues are higher than any other time of the year. This has resulted in a phenomenon where most producers want to release on Eid only.

“Our audiences love Indian films and we all know that. We also understand that it is the highest revenue generating time for films,” Momina said, explaining that if a Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan film releases simultaneously, a major chunk of the entire revenue will go towards them and our producers will struggle to even break even.

Speaking about the limited screens and limited local productions, Momina added, “We need more screens and it’s happening but it is not going to happen overnight. We need more films coming out of Pakistan and that is happening too but will take its own sweet time.”

“The government intervention at this point to safeguard our interests is good news for the industry. I feel the distributor’s interest is also being safeguarded as it is only a limited ban during Eid,” she pointed out, stating that it is a win-win situation.

Muna Moini

The author is a Karachi based writer at Something Haute.