Pakistan looks to India to save its cinema

Moviehouse owners request that 40-year ban be lifted

KARACHI — Pakistani cinema owners and actors have vowed to continue talks with the government to allow the screening of movies from India.

This pledge came after a showbiz delegation called on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to accommodate the demands of the industry.

So far their pressure has been to no avail.

Struggling under an onslaught of Bollywood movies through smuggled DVDs and CDs, the owners of Pakistan’s empty moviehouses have been requesting their government lift a 40-year ban on India’s movies, which are highly popular. Indian TV also beams Hindi movies into the country from border towns.

Audiences used to queue for Pakistan’s own homemade Lollywood films (made in Lahore), but now exhibs see Indian movies as the sole potential source of their survival.

“It has become urgent for us to convince the government to allow the importation of Indian films,” says Jehanzeb Baig, a cinema owner and chairman of Pakistan’s Cinema Exhibitors Assn. “This is the only way to give a boost to our dying industry,” he says.

In the heyday of Pakistani cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, several studios in Lahore and Karachi released regular hits, some 300 movies in five languages a year.

But since then Pakistan’s studios have been in decline due to falling production values, simplistic and bloody plots and censorship under various increasingly conservative regimes.