Bollywood Needs Pakistan Market to Grow Business

Amid the Hindu Nationalists calls for sending Pakistani actors home, what is being overlooked is the fact that Bollywood needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs Bollywood.  Why? Let me explain.

Pakistan is Bollywood's second biggest foreign market. Last year, Pakistan's box office receipts jumped by 28% while India's domestic box office collection fell 6.7%.

Decline in Bollywood's revenue at home is forcing the Indian movie industry to look to Pakistan for growth. Part of the Indian strategy is to feature Pakistani actors and artists in its productions to increase Bollywood's appeal to Pakistan's growing moviegoers market.

The money earned by Pakistani actors working in Bollywood is minuscule compared to the business Bollywood films are doing in the rapidly growing Pakistan market.

Pakistani Actors in Bollywood: Fawad Khan,  Mahira Khan, Mawra Hocane

Bollywood ticket sales fell by 6.7% to INR 2,568 crore ($385m) from 2014’s total of  INR 2,754 crore (US$413), according to figures published by India's Business Standard. Alarmed by declining sales, Disney Studios have decided to pull out of India.

After suffering huge losses at the domestic box office, the most recent one being Ashutosh Gowariker's Mohenjo Daro, Disney India - the company formed after Disney acquired controlling stake in UTV - has pulled the plug on all things Bollywood. Instead, Disney will only focus on its Hollywood films distribution, licensing and merchandising business in India, according to India Today.

On the other hand, Pakistani cinema, though small, is growing very rapidly with the explosive growth of multiplex theater screens. Pakistan's "The News Sunday" estimates that box office receipts in the country jumped 28 per cent in 2015 as compared to 2014 and this figure is only expected to grow in coming years. On Eid ul Azha this year, the top 3 highest-grossing films were all produced in Pakistan, according to


Here's how Indian media and entertainment analyst Akar Patel describes Bollywood's business opportunity in Pakistan:

"In Pakistan, there is a big market for Indian movies in their multiplexes. For decades this revenue was lost to Bollywood because the movies were pirated. Under former president Pervez Musharraf, the official screening of movies was allowed, benefiting both nations. Today all Bollywood movies are shown there. Unfortunately, the current state of ties between the two countries has been allowed to deteriorate so much that we should not be surprised if Musharraf's wise decision is reversed."

It is a win-win arrangement with Pakistani artists working with their Indian counterparts in Indian movies and increasing Bollywood revenue from Pakistan market.

If the anti-Pakistan rhetoric and the attacks on Pakistani artists in Mumbai continue, it is very likely that Pakistan will respond by banning the showing of Indian films in a rapidly expanding market market for Bollywood entertainment. In addition to increasing estrangement between the two neighbors, stopping cooperation and collaboration will be a significant blow for the entertainment industries in both India and Pakistan.

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Riaz Haq said…
A Military Attack on #Pakistan Will Lead to #India's Worst Nightmare. #Kashmir #Modi … via @thewire_in

The key to peace in the region is to tackle the roots of the tension, which is the dispute over Kashmir.

Delhi’s decision, in the aftermath of the Uri attack, to ‘go on the strategic offensive’ against terrorist attacks launched with the support, if not connivance, of the Pakistan government has been noted all over the world. Few commentators had expected any other reaction. But unless it is planned meticulously with a precise definition of its objective and a careful appraisal of the alternatives for achieving it, such a shift is fraught with danger.

Indian TV has been baying for blood, but the goal of the Modi government should not be to ‘punish’ Pakistan for its sins, but to force it to give up using terrorism as a tool of foreign policy altogether. Such an effort is long overdue, but cannot be made by India alone, for the circumstances of Pakistan’s birth ensure that the entire nation will willingly commit suicide rather than bend its knee to India.

India can achieve this goal only in concert with other nations and heads of government. As the almost empty UN General Assembly hall to which Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave his address so eloquently showed, the time for a concerted effort to get Pakistan off this track is ripe. So the relentless, ugly, jingoistic drum-beating that is being indulged in by TV channels vying for TRP ratings, and the threats of disproportionate retaliatory strikes being voiced by RSS/BJP functionaries, is not only unnecessary, but is also likely to prove self defeating because it is arousing dormant fears in the rest of the world not only of a nuclear war in South Asia, but of the prolonged nuclear winter that will follow in its wake.

Lest this sound fanciful, we need only remember that a mere 20,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide spewed into the stratosphere by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1990 brought down the global average temperature in 1991 by half a degree Celsius and caused a severe drought in sub-Saharan Africa. We have no precise idea what a full-scale nuclear war will release into the atmosphere, but it is also worth remembering that 650,000 years ago, during the coldest ice age of the past million years, the global average surface temperature was only five degrees below what it is today.
Riaz Haq said…
MUMBAI: Bans imposed on each other by the film industries in India and Pakistan threaten to endanger a burgeoning cross-border business that's worth more than Rs 100 crore even by conservative estimates.
Try this for size: about 50 Bollywood films release in Pakistan now every year and on an average, each makes at least Rs 1.5 to 2 crore. The biggest grossers in Pakistan in the last three years include the Aamir Khan thriller Dhoom 3, which earned Rs 16 crore, Raju Hirani's PK which spoke out against organized religion, Bajrangi Bhaijaan which dealt with an Indian youth's journey into Pakistan to reunite a child with her parents, and Sultan which muscled its way past all the others at the box-office (Rs 22 crore).
The ban on screening Indian films in Pakistan was formalised at a meeting of exhibitors and distributors in Karachi on Thursday and was in reaction to a resolution by a film producers' body in India against use of Pakistani artistes in Indian films. Analysts say the ban in Pakistan will hurt the country's domestic market as well, which is showing signs of recovery after decades of Islamisation and strict censorship.
A four-decade embargo on Indian films (imposed after the 1965 war) was lifted in 2007. "For either to take such a decision now means they've put commercials on the backburner after building bridges," says Avtar Panesar, vice president-international operations at Yash Raj Films in London. "From an overseas theatrical revenue perspective, Pakistan wasn't even in single digits 10 years ago and now it's gone up to 12 percent. In fact, for big Bollywood releases, it's often the number three highest-grossing territory after US and UAE. They're a substantial market for us and only becoming bigger. In fact, Pakistan has climbed the ranks so rapidly that once their market is more mature, it should theoretically become the largest international market for Indian films," he says.
Pakistan's love for Hindi films continued through the years when Lollywood (derived from Lahore, its city of origin) went into decline, total number of movie halls fell to about 30 and the industry produced not more than two releases in a year. The Pakistani viewership depended on piracy to sustain its interest in Hindi films.
"For us, it was about bringing legitimacy to Hindi films being watched in Pakistan via pirated circles," recalls Mukesh Bhatt who along with his brother Mahesh were part of a bilateral team of filmmakers and exhibitors who initiated a dialogue to allow Indian movies into Pakistan once more.
It was during Pervez Musharraf's regime that the iron curtain finally lifted. Audiences returned to the theatres, new investors stepped in and deteriorating Pakistani creative content too saw a revival. State-of-the-art multiplexes are currently the toast of every town.
Today, the Pakistani film industry boasts a $30 million box office and 116 screens. Six to ten Pakistani films have been releasing every year with the biggest grosser not less than $4 million.
Riaz Haq said…
A dark cloud has hung over Delhi these past few weeks, and it isn’t just the pollution. Ever since a September attack by militants in Kashmir killed 19 Indian soldiers, war has been in the air. And, as with the pollution, no part of life here is unaffected. A 65-year-old water-sharing pact between India and Pakistan is apparently being reconsidered. The famous Wagah checkpoint – where audiences watch Indian and Pakistani border guards trade high kicks and handshakes – was briefly shut to the public, reportedly after Pakistani revellers pelted the Indian side with stones.

And last week, after India announced its troops had launched “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association said it, too, was on a war footing. The legion of Pakistani actors and technicians in Bollywood, and other Indian cinema hubs, would be banned from working “until normalcy returns”, it said. The organisation’s president, TP Aggarwal, went even further, saying Pakistanis would be banned from the industry “for ever”, and asking the Indian government to boot them from the country.


Divya Spandana (also known as Ramya), another Indian actor turned politician, was threatened with a civil sedition charge after visiting Pakistan in August. Her crime? Saying India’s rival was “a good country, not hell”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s cinema lobby has called the restriction on its nationals “deeply regrettable”, and announced its own embargo, pulling all Indian films from Pakistani screens. Indian cinema was already banned in Pakistan for 43 years, after the second Kashmir war between the countries, and only permitted again in 1998. On Thursday, Indian sitcoms and soap operas – already restricted on Pakistani television to 86 minutes a day – were also completely banned by the country’s media regulator.
Riaz Haq said…
Battleground Bollywood: India-Pakistan Tensions Hitting Film Industry

Undoubtedly, Bollywood has long been a way to thaw the frosty relations between the two countries. 
And it is also a huge business. Indian films make more than $10 million in annual receipts in Pakistan — the country is the No. 3 foreign market for Indian movies after the U.S. and the UAE. And for many Pakistani theaters, Bollywood movies account for more than half their revenues. According to the All Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association, Bollywood brings in around 60% of cinema revenue in Pakistan. 
In November, an editorial in the Dawn had said that “in terms of being crowd-pullers on a large scale, nothing beats the content being generated by the mammoth industry next door.”

A medium-budget Bollywood film is able to earn $800,000 in Pakistan, while big-ticket movies, starring Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan generate more. In 2014, Aamir Khan’s PK grossed over $3.3 million at the Pakistani box-office, beating the country’s first big-budget movie Waar, that depicted every volatile aspect of Pakistan's rocky relationship with India. 
In 2013, Dhoom 3 grabbed $ 3.7 million and Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan got $2.2 million.
Riaz Haq said…
Global box office barely grew in 2016. Blame it on China

lobal movie box office revenue growth slowed last year as international receipts declined for the first time in 12 years, reflecting a cooling in China’s once-red-hot film market, according to a new report.

The total worldwide box office rose 1% to a record $38.6 billion in ticket sales last year, according to a report from the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the lobbying group that represents the six largest film studios. In 2015, global revenues jumped 5%.

The leveling off at the box office underscored sluggish movie ticket sales in countries outside the United States and Canada. Foreign box office totaled $27.2 billion in 2016, down from $27.3 billion in 2015, thanks to a dramatic slowdown in box office growth in China. The increased value of the U.S. dollar compared with other currencies also dampened ticket revenues, the association said in a report released Wednesday.

"The Chinese market is a little concerning,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. “They thought it was going to be some magical potion, and it's not."

Though the drop in foreign ticket sales was less than 1%, it’s the first time the international box office has failed to grow since 2005. That’s a worrisome trend for an industry that has grown increasingly dependent on the global marketplace. International markets made up 71% of the global box office in 2016, compared with 63% a decade ago.

The slowdown in China was particularly jarring for the industry, coming after years of speculation that the country would soon surpass the United States and Canada as the world’s largest film market.

Revenues from China fell 1% to $6.6 billion in 2016, in U.S. dollars, a surprising downturn from 2015, when ticket sales grew by 49%. A variety of factors hurt the box office in China, including a series of sub-par movies, a lack of discounts by China’s online ticket sellers, and greater government scrutiny of bogus box office statistics.

Foreign currency declines in countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Britain also depressed revenues in U.S. dollar terms. The British pound, for example, fell 12% against the dollar last year.

“A major issue is currency,” said Julia Jenks, vice president of worldwide research for the MPAA. “It’s hiding a lot of growth,”

The statistics were brighter for the domestic market.

Box office receipts hit a record $11.4 billion in the United States and Canada, up 2% from 2015, thanks to blockbusters such as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Nonetheless, the industry is facing some troubling head winds, including long-term stagnation in the number of tickets sold. Admissions totaled 1.32 billion last year, flat compared with 2015, and down from 1.4 billion a decade ago. The slide in attendance underscores the rising competition cinemas face to lure younger audiences who have more entertainment options in the home. Per capita attendance in the United States and Canada slipped 1% to 3.8 last year.

Despite the flattening attendance, revenue still grew because of an increase in ticket prices. The average ticket price hit a record $8.65 in 2016, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, the result of cinema chains adding more advanced screening technology and more luxurious accommodations such as recliner seating.

“The question is, what's going to drive the North American box office to the heights we saw 10 to 20 years ago in terms of attendance?" Bock said.

Some young people went to the theaters more often last year. People ages 18 to 24 bought an average of 6.5 movie tickets in 2016, up 10% from 2015. Yet, the movie business took a hit among 12-to-17-year-olds, who went to the movies 16% less frequently than in 2015.
Riaz Haq said…
70 years of Pakistan’s film industry
A look at the good old days of the Pakistani film industry, which gave us immortal tunes, self made stars, and award-winning directors
The film industry in Pakistan is as old as the country itself. It has seen the best of its days, but sadly, the present situation is nowhere near to what it had been.
The good old days had given Immortal tunes, excellent films, self made stars and award-winning directors, but mostly depended on individuals.
The initial decade (1948-1957):
Despite lack of equipment and resources, country’s first film, Teri Yaad, was released in August 1948. Nasir Khan, brother of the famous actor Dilip Kumar, was the hero, with Asha Posley playing his love interest. Pakistan’s first Golden Jubilee film, Sibtain Fazli’s Dupatta, was released in 1952. The film was also appreciated in India at release. It had Noor Jehan as lead, while the music was composed by Feroz Nizami, who had earlier composed for Noor Jehan-Dilip Kumar starrer Jugnu in undivided India five years back. Like Nizami sahab, musicians Ghulam Haider, Rasheed Atre, GA Chishti and Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, opted to Pakistan and played an important role in establishing the industry.
Many stalwarts from India, namely Munshi Dil, Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, Fazli brothers, also migrated, and by the end of the 50s, Pakistan had its set of directors. A young Allauddin, who played the role of Nargis’s father in Mela (1948), remained active for over 30 years, performing memorable roles in his career. The struggling days of the industry would have been different, if there had been no Santosh Kumar or Sabiha Khanum. The ‘first couple’ of the industry eventually tied the knot after giving hits like Do Aansoo (1950), Ghulam (1953) Qatil, Inteqaam (1955), and Sarfarosh (1956). Actor Sudhir was labeled an action hero with hits like Baaghi (1956) and Akhri Nishan (1958), while Syed Kemal, a replica of Indian superstar Raj Kapoor, came on the scene with Thandi Sarak (1957). He could dance as well as made you laugh. Phenomenal Rise of Aslam Pervez, first as a hero and later as a villain, was termed legendary in any phase of life.
The peak years (1958-1967):
It is credited as the golden period of the industry. With limited ban on Indian films, local productions thronged. Field Marshall Ayub Khan’s rule had restrictions on nearly everything, but it was the creative team of director Khalil Qaiser- music composer Rasheed Attre- writer Riaz Shahid who accepted the challenge and gave out exceptional films like Shaheed (1962), Firangi (1964) and Hukumat (1967) until Qaiser’s death in mysterious circumstances.
Riaz Haq said…
#Dubai's Abraaj invests in #Pakistan #cinema operator; Plans to build 80 new screens in next 4 years. #FDI #Theaters

Dubai-based Abraaj Group has announced it has invested in Cinepax Limited, Pakistan’s leading cinema operator.

With Abraaj’s investment, the value of which has not been disclosed, Cinepax plans to develop 80 new screens across multiple locations over the next four years and also grow other entertainment related ventures, Abraaj said in a statement.

Arif Baigmohamed and Pir Saad Ahsanuddin established Cinepax in 2006 and launched their first multiplex in 2007. Since then, the company has established itself in the market and today has 29 screens in 12 locations.

Pakistan’s entertainment industry has significant growth potential, with a low ratio of cinema screens (0.5 per million population).

Abraaj said it will support the company in establishing international standard multiplex cinemas in new and upcoming areas.

Omar Lodhi, partner for Asia at The Abraaj Group, said: “Our investment into Cinepax demonstrates our faith in the opportunity that Pakistan’s young growing population and expanding middle class represents.

"As one of the most active investors in Pakistan, with a strong on-the-ground presence, we see a long-term market opportunity in the cinema operator and video streaming business.”

Arif Baigmohamed, chairman of Cinepax, added: “We are delighted to welcome Abraaj as an investor into our business and look forward to partnering together to reach more people across the country, providing much needed entertainment options.”

The Abraaj Group has been present in Pakistan since 2004. This transaction marks Abraaj’s ninth investment into Pakistan across a number of sectors including healthcare, power distribution, renewable energy and industrials.
Riaz Haq said…
A new golden age
The fall and rise of Pakistani film
Islamisation put paid to the first great era of cinema in Pakistan. But new directors with edgy social content are leading a revival


But a new generation of directors and producers is now leading Lollywood’s recovery. The nickname has endured, but little else remains the same. Production has moved from Lahore to the coastal city of Karachi. The ban on Indian films was lifted, and it is these and Western offerings that keep Pakistan’s cinemas open today. But Pakistani films are, slowly, returning to the screen.

Shoaib Mansoor is the director credited with reversing the film industry’s fortunes, but his reputation is partly built on savvy marketing. In 2007 his film “Khuda Kay Liye” (“The Name of God”) was advertised as marking the official revival of Pakistani cinema. The move was a public relations masterstroke that took advantage of softening government control and tapped into a public hunger for local films.

“Khuda Kay Liye” follows the lives two young Pakistani men in the aftermath of 9/11. The film is darker than classic films, and the plot is sometimes convoluted. Yet Mr Mansoor found an audience eager for a modern Pakistani Urdu production and the film played to packed cinemas. Pakistani audiences had been promised a revival, and by showing up to cinemas across the country, they made it happen.

Mr Mansoor followed up with “Bol” (“Speak”) and 2017’s “Verna”. Both focus on gender issues, and the latter triggered a national debate. The plot of “Verna” follows a sexual assault survivor, a subject that caused enormous political controversy after Pakistan’s censor board took issue with what it called “edgy content”, and considered banning the film. The ensuing debate touched a public nerve, as it coincided with widespread protests held over the rape and murder of Zainab Ansari, a seven-year-old girl. When it was eventually screened, the film’s skewering of misogyny was applauded. Mr Mansoor typically focuses on content over style, choosing to pack his films with social criticism, sometimes to a fault. Both “Verna” and “Bol” were criticised for erratic pacing and weak cinematography.

But Mr Mansoor’s example has been followed and improved on by other directors. “Cake” (see picture), directed by Asim Abbasi, was released at the end of March. It’s a far cry from 1960s films, known for their melodrama and impressive song and dance numbers, yet is all the better for this. The plot revolves around the lives of two sisters caring for their ailing parents. One has remained in Pakistan and the other has just returned from Britain, a common scenario in Pakistan’s wealthier neighbourhoods (accordingly, critics have praised it for its realism). Mr Abbasi focuses on the conflicted relationship between the two women as they gather to celebrate their parents’ wedding anniversary, and neither muffles their anger nor exaggerates their rivalry. Refreshingly, their romantic ties remain secondary. “Cake” became the first Pakistani film to premiere at London’s Leicester Square.

Much work remains to be done. Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors continues to wield enormous power over which films are seen. And although the rising numbers of subversive films are encouraging, the social consequences of their release fall disproportionately on the women involved. The lead role in “Verna” was played by Mahira Khan, who has long been a target for sexist trolls online. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Oscar-winning documentary maker, has faced similar problems for her work on honour killings and acid attacks.

But despite the obstacles, a resurgence is finally underway in Lollywood. Fresh-faced directors such as Mr Abbasi have access to high production budgets, talented casts and scripts that avoid clichés. The new wave of Pakistani cinema may well eclipse its golden age.

Riaz Haq said…

Moviegoers should rejoice as the government is planning to increase the number of cinema screens from 127 to 1,000.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that more cinema screens will create 20,000 jobs and give a boost to the film industry.

Pakistan welcomes any joint venture in the arena of exchange of films and co-productions, he said.

Chaudhry met with the US Chargé d Affaires Paul Jones on Tuesday. The two agreed to boost cultural cooperation revival of Pakistani films. The revival of the cinema would not only provide entertainment to the people, but would also generate economic activity, he remarked.

He further added that media was enjoying unprecedented freedom in Pakistan, and the current government believes in freedom of expression.

Riaz Haq said…
#Bollywood and the politics of #hate: The #Indian film industry has displayed remarkable bias in favor of PM #Modi and the ruling #BJP ahead of #India's general elections. @AJEnglish

In the two-hour feature called Kesari, meaning saffron - a colour associated with the ruling party and the right wing in India - Kumar plays Havildar Ishar Singh, the commander of a Sikh regiment within the British imperial army which fought to death against rebelling Pashtun tribesmen from Afghanistan. Based on the historical battle of Saragarhi in 1897, the film portrays the Sikh soldiers as brave patriots and the Muslim Pashtun as fanatic jihadis, all as the context of colonial oppression is almost completely erased.

Kumar is not the only Bollywood star to have so ardently supported Modi and the BJP. Over the past five years, the Indian film industry has grown increasingly compliant with the political agenda of the ruling party, while many of its best-known actors have come out in full support of its members. Those few who have dared speak out against the threat that Hindu nationalism poses to the cohesion of Indian society have faced severe public harassment and little support within the industry.

Making films the BJP likes
Another recent blockbuster which served BJP's nationalism-themed electoral campaign quite well was Uri: The Surgical Strike released in mid-January this year. The film is based on events that took place in 2016, when India launched a "surgical strike" against Pakistan in response to a deadly attack on the Indian army base in Jammu and Kashmir state the same year.

The motion picture of course portrayed Modi in a positive light, as a patriotic strongman bound on pursing revenge against the enemy state (Pakistan) for harbouring anti-Indian terror groups. With its nationalistic narrative and feel-good revenge theme, it became so popular that it topped the box office with spectacular earnings of 2.4 billion rupees ($34m). Cinemas across the country reverberated with chants like "Bharat mata ki jai!" (Glory to the motherland!) during screenings.

A short exchange between a commander and a soldier in one of the scenes even coined a now widely used patriotic phrase - "How's the josh [energy/enthusiasm for defending the country]?" In the weeks following the release of the film, the prime minister, the defence minister and almost every other member of the Indian cabinet used the popular phrase in official tweets and government events to boost its image of a resolute leadership.

A month after the film was released, the public josh for revenge was re-ignited once again after a rebel group attacked an Indian military convoy killing dozens of soldiers. Staying true to his cinematic image, Modi immediately ordered another "surgical strike" against Pakistan, targeting a military camp allegedly belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) armed group. "How's the josh" filled Indian social media yet again, as Indians celebrated the valour of their prime minister who "saved" the country and its pride.

Apart from Uri, a number of other recent films have pandered to BJP's political agenda, particularly its smearing of the opposition. Both The Tashkent Files and The Accidental Prime Minister, released just ahead of the elections, portrayed the Congress party as weak and divisive and unable to lead the country in the right direction.

But Bollywood's increasingly noticeable political bias is not limited to writing scripts that propagate certain political ideologies. In January, just three months before the elections, the BJP released a photo of Modi surrounded by leading lights from the film industry including Karan Johar, Ranbir Kapoor, and Ranveer Singh, which, according to the Huffington Post, was an image-building exercise for the prime minister ahead of the vote and was widely shared by BJP-controlled social media accounts.
Riaz Haq said…
Despite numerous efforts to introduce movies from other cultures, including dubbed versions of Turkish films, Bollywood remains the primary choice for moviegoers in Pakistan. The loss of Indian movies stung so hard because Pakistan was not yet able to produce and distribute enough movies to fill theaters every week. Though the number of screens in Pakistan increased from 30 in 2013 to almost 100 in 2017, producers and investors were being cautious. And most filmmakers realized that reaching larger audiences wasn’t possible.

A few months later, Pakistani theater owners ended their self-imposed ban and Indian films returned to Pakistani screens in 2017. But investors started questioning whether the movie business was feasible if it suffered after every crisis between the two countries.

The first ban on the exhibition of Indian films was imposed by military ruler President Mohammad Khan Ayub after the second India-Pakistan war in 1965. The woes of the local cinema industry were further exacerbated during the era of Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s presidency, when higher taxation and strict censorship policies made it impossible for cinema to grow.

During those decades, as cinema was gradually fading away, Pakistan’s television soap operas boomed and provided entertainment for the middle classes. Most actors, directors and screenwriters focused on producing them. Film lovers had the limited choice of either watching second-rate vanity projects or pirated versions of Hollywood and Bollywood movies. The decimation of Pakistani cinema — particularly under the rule of General Zia — meant that the country lost most of its 700 single-screen cinemas.

Pakistani cinema began to emerge from its long coma in 2006 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed the ban on showing Indian movies that had been in place since 1965. Within a few years new multiplexes sprung up in all major cities to meet the high demand for films.

By 2011 Pakistan had around 35 multiplex screens; more than a hundred more were being built. Sadly this new infrastructure was restricted to multiplexes as distributors focused almost entirely on attracting the middle classes who could afford higher ticket prices. Single-screen cinemas, along with their less-privileged audiences, were completely ignored and excluded.

The availability of screen space in turn encouraged local filmmakers to venture out and produce films. A turning point came with the success of Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol, the story of a religious family with a transgender daughter, which was produced in 2011 with a local cast and crew. It inspired more Pakistani filmmakers to jump into the fray.

Two years later, Pakistan had produced 20 films and many more were being planned. International festivals started showing interest by curating special segments on Pakistani films. The filmmaking fraternity was upbeat that Pakistan would soon be able to tell its own story through movies.

The removal of the ban on Indian films in Pakistan also led to talent sharing and creative cooperation between the two countries. Pakistani actors became stars in India; almost every major Indian movie commissioned Pakistani musicians to sing for them (songs are a key element of films in South Asia).

And then fate delivered another lethal blow: India and Pakistan almost went to war in February after a suicide attack on Indian forces in Kashmir. An official ban was imposed on exhibiting Indians films in Pakistan. Three and a half months later, theaters in Pakistan are almost empty again and their owners are now considering laying off employees.

The arrival of online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon is helping film industries in various other countries grow and attempt new storytelling formats — but they have hesitated from exploring Pakistan and commissioning projects from Pakistani filmmakers.
Riaz Haq said…
The streaming site has had success with three original productions: anthology film Lust Stories, horror miniseries Ghoul and most assertively advertised, Saif Ali Khan series Sacred Games. While none of them have managed to blow up internationally, all three have proved to be extremely promising. Sacred Games continues to be a hit with Indian viewers and Lust Stories has been seen in India more times than House of Cards in the US.

Pakistani Dramas
So what does this imply for our own entertainment industry? Quite a lot, if the stars align for us. In recent years, Pakistani dramas have taken off in a way that no one could have foreseen. With TV dramas like Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai becoming mega hits in Pakistan, India and the Middle East, and other shows doing well locally and on YouTube, the question isn’t whether Pakistani dramas can do well internationally but rather when we will get the opportunity to showcase our talents.

Another Pakistani hit, Daastan, a love story, featuring Fawad Khan and Sanam Baloch, stuck in the chaos of Indo-Pak partition, broke many hearts in the entire sub-continent. One does not have to look past the millions of views our shows enjoy on YouTube to ascertain that. Most recently, Khaani became the biggest Pakistani show, with its YouTube views exceeding 150 million.

The resurgence of interest in our local films should also prompt Netflix to invest into Pakistani entertainment portfolio, especially considering that unlike most of the world, our movie stars are essentially our TV stars, so there won’t be any sort of snobbery associated from them about working on TV shows. Netflix shows are marketed internationally and can provide a global platform for our stars.

Not to mention, studios here will have the option of selling their content to Netflix instead of Pakistani TV channels and movie distributors, bringing international revenue into the country. To Netflix’s credit, it isn’t like that they haven’t noticed all this untapped potential. The entertainment titan has attached Pakistani actor Zahid Ahmed to star in the first Pakistani original drama and hired actress Sana Fakhar to be part of another Netflix original.

Read more: Netflix criticized for banning anti-Saudi Arabia content

But as Ahmed recently stated to The News, the reason for the slow progress of the Pakistani Netflix show is the minimal subscription numbers in our country. According to the PTA, only 30% of all Pakistanis have access to broadband Internet. To foster growth, the company has signed a deal with PTCL and most recently, allowed Pakistani users to pay in Rupees, but these small steps and at Rs1500 per month, ultimately won’t do much to attract new customers.

Netflix in India is also facing similar problems where it only has mere 5 million subscribers and its two main competitors in the region Amazon (with $11 million subscribers value) and 20th Century Fox’s Hotstar ($150 million subscribers value) are faring much better. But Netflix plans to spend more than $8 billion on content in India alone, which ¬is likely to bring glad tidings across the border too. With Netflix slashing its prices to meet demands in different regions (like in India), the subscription in Pakistan could potentially grow.

Furthermore, the addition of Jazz’s Starz Play to Pakistan’s streaming service list of Iflix, Netflix and Amazon Prime, only encourages more competition, an environment where streaming emerges as the norm. Most likely, this will happen when TV Channels begin investing in exclusive streaming content, something that we haven’t heard of yet.

So it may be some time before we see Netflix produced Pakistani content but as the audience for Pakistani series continues to grow — in part due to the catalog of Pakistani Dramas available on Netflix —so will Netflix’s desire to produce Pakistani content.
Riaz Haq said…
BBC News - #Bollywood and #Lollywood come together in #Scottish film. "The idea is to bring the two communities together from #India and #Pakistan. They can't work together in their own countries so we have to bring them over here." #SouthAsia #movie

A new film shot entirely in Scotland has brought in talent from Pakistan and India to showcase the best of Bollywood and Lollywood movies, according to its director Zulfikar Sheikh.

He said he had produced 17 serial dramas for Pakistani TV, all set in Scotland, and had always wanted to make a film.

"The idea is to bring the two communities together from India and Pakistan," he says. "They can't work together in their own countries so we have to bring them over here."

The film, Sacch, opens at selected UK cinemas, including Glasgow's Silverburn Cineworld, from Friday.

The film is scripted by Bollywood screenwriter Kumud Chaudhry and has dialogue by Pakistani playwright Haseena Moin.

Moin's only credit on a Bollywood film was Raj Kapoor's Henna, which was released in 1991.

The film was a box office success and was chosen as India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars but Moin removed her name over tensions between Muslims and Hindus after a mosque bombing.

What are Bollywood and Lollywood?
Bollywood is the nickname given to much of the Indian film industry.

The B comes from Bombay (now known as Mumbai), the base for the Indian Hindi-language film industry.

Bollywood makes up to 800 films a year - twice as many as Hollywood.

The most well-known type of Bollywood film is "masala" which combines songs, dances, love triangles, comedy and dare-devil thrills.

The scripts are usually written in an unadorned Hindi-Urdu, known as Hindustani, which would be understood by the largest possible audience.

Much of the Pakistani film industry has traditionally been based in the city of Lahore and is now often referred to as Lollywood.

First Pakistani film
The new film is produced by the director's wife, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, the former SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire.

She says: "As far as we know this is the first Pakistani movie shot in Scotland."

Ms Sheikh is the daughter of an academic and an actress who toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She grew up in Edinburgh and studied law at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

She says that soon after her marriage in 1993 she appeared in Des Pardes, a drama portraying Scottish-Asian life, directed by her husband.

After that she returned to the law, working as a solicitor and later as a politician.

Most recently, she had been a producer and presenter on The Alex Salmond Show on RT.

She has now returned to working with Zulfikar, producing a "feelgood" movie in the best traditions of both Indian and Pakistani films.

"We wanted to produce something that young Scottish Asians could watch as well as an elder generation and indigenous Scots," she says.
Riaz Haq said…
Meet Pakistani cinema's stars of tomorrow
From Eman Suleman to Rehmat Ajmal and Parisheh James, here are some up and coming names

Last year, there were some definitive trends set for the entertainment industry in Pakistan. Where there was a surge in production, an influx of talent was witnessed. As the first quarter of the year comes to a close in a few weeks, Gulf News tabloid takes the occasion to look at some of the most dynamic new entrants in the fields of acting and modelling. They are young, educated and self-assured individuals who are game for challenges and have no care for stereotypes, just as the millennials are expected to be. No wonder they are the industry’s best bets for the new decade. In no particular order…

Eman Suleman, model & actor: Model turned actor Eman Suleman exudes an old-world charm and at the same time has the disposition of a progressive, 21st century feminist. Perhaps, that’s what attracted acclaimed Indo-Canadian filmmaker Mira Nair to her when she was casting for BBC 1’s period play, ‘A Suitable Boy’, based on Vikram Seth’s novel of the same name. Suleman had to opt out because the project required her to shoot in Agra, India. At her much-talked-about wedding recently, she made the most unconventional — albeit gorgeous — Pakistani bride, for she refused to be a passive participant in the proceedings, as is the common practice.

Ali Kureshi, model & actor: Ali Kureshi’s defined jawline and lean, muscular physique have top menswear brands in Pakistan beating a path to his door — at Hum Bridal Couture Week ‘19, he walked the ramp for 10 different couturiers. At 6’ 2’, Kureshi stands taller than most male models in the industry. Though, he wouldn’t claim credit for anything except his body transformation, having slogged his way up from being a chubbier version of himself in his mid-twenties, to a fitness and Yoga fanatic (he even calls himself a “Yogi”). Kureshi recently gave a shot at acting in writer-director Sarmad Khoosat’s hotly-anticipated feature,

Amar Khan, actor & screenwriter: It takes a young, pretty woman real guts to play the witch in her debut TV show. But Amar Khan is a bit of an anomaly. A film graduate from BNU, Lahore, Khan took up the eponymous ‘Belapur Ki Dayan’ (2018) most fearlessly, following it up with the period drama ‘Ghughi’, where she played a Hindu girl, and Dil-e-Gumshuda, as the antagonist. Her brilliant repertoire of work may be attributed to her training in theatre which had also led her to India where she attended masterclasses with film greats such as Shyam Benegal and Naseeruddin Shah. Her mother, Fareeha Jabeen, a noted TV actress, has been an influence too. This year, Khan will be seen in a movie, ‘Dum Mastam’, which is also scripted by her. Though, she studied to be a filmmaker, direction isn’t on the cards for now — “not in the next five or six years,” she says.

Momin Saqib, actor, activist & Instagram blogger: UK-based Momin Saqib, 26, admits to having “multiple personalities.” His much-loved “online family” (as he fondly addresses them in his Snapchat/Instagram stories) of nearly 200,000 followers looks up to him as their friend, philosopher and guide; while for some he’s a high-energy entertainer whose videos luckily broke the internet (remember the one where he’s ranting about Pakistani cricketers overindulging themselves ahead of a World Cup match that affected their performance?). The party circles of London see him as more of a socialite, while those who’ve attended his TED talks, perceive him as a motivational speaker. And if that’s not enough, people in the media are already rooting for his ability to act.

Mushk Kaleem, model: Smart and elegant, Mushk Kaleem is redefining standards of beauty in an industry obsessed with fair skin. Over the past two years since she began to model, she’s already been adjudged the Best Emerging Model at the LUX Style Awards and Rising Star at the Hum Style Awards. Make-up artists,..
Riaz Haq said…
Netflix India Content Chief Monika Shergill Discusses Local Strategy – APOS India

Post pandemic, the Indian streaming audience is willing to consume varied content, and Netflix plans to serve them from around the world, as well as offering a plethora of local content, according to Monika Shergill, VP, content, Netflix India.

Speaking at the APOS India media conference on Tuesday, Shergill said, “Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a dramatic growth … what we’ve really seen and learned over the last couple of years, particularly, is that the Indian audience is really ready for a lot of experimentation.”

Shergill, who originally hails from the world of linear television, with stints at Star (then operated by Fox) and Sony, said that since the medium catered to a broad audience, it resulted in a “homogenized creativity, where [creators] had to stick to certain kinds of storytelling,” but that’s now changing rapidly.

Shergill points to a nearly 400% uptick in viewing of Korean content, a massive take up of Spanish programming, a 100% increase in kids content consumption and a 250% increase in nonfiction and unscripted content viewing from different parts of the world, in recent times, on Netflix India.

Catering to the core market with Indian programming, however, still remains a key pillar for Netflix.

“The one thing that matters to us most is how do you push the known and the familiar,” said Shergill. “You program to the audience taste and you push back on the audience taste and you make them have an acquired taste.”

The strategy for India, therefore, is to have a “deep and broad” range of Hindi-language programming, including commissioned original series and films and licensed films, while also growing documentary and unscripted formats and content in the South Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

“Netflix is perceived as a global brand, telling global stories and in every country having the kind of impact that it has, but if I just look at the core of Netflix and what the service is designed as, I would say that it is so well designed to be a very Indian service, because if you look at Indian audiences, we are such a heterogeneous audience, the tastes that we have, culturally, we are such a diverse population,” says Shergill.

“I feel Netflix is so culturally relevant to India, because we are geared up as a service to program to different formats, genres, tastes, moods,” Shergill added.

The executive said the demand for streaming content has also led to an expansion in the creative talent pool.
Riaz Haq said…
‘The Legend Of Maula Jatt’: #Pakistani Epic Sets Global Opening Weekend Record. Opening on over 500 screens in 25 markets, the action fantasy grossed PRK 51cr ($2.3M) globally, a new benchmark launch for a Pakistani title worldwide.#MaulaJatt via @Deadline

A reboot of the 1979 cult Punjabi classic, Maula Jat, Bilal Lashari’s The Legend of Maula Jatt is coming off of a record-breaking weekend for a Pakistan-made or Punjabi-language film. Opening on over 500 screens in 25 markets, the action fantasy grossed PRK 51cr ($2.3M) globally, a new benchmark launch for a Pakistani title worldwide. Check out the trailer below.

The movie (which The Guardian called Game of Thrones meets Gladiator) follows the titular Maula Jatt, a fierce prizefighter with a tortured past who seeks vengeance against his arch nemesis Noori Natt, the most feared warrior in the land of Punjab. Loyalties are challenged and families torn apart in an epic tale of truth, honor and justice. Fawad Khan (who appeared in Disney Plus series Ms Marvel), Mahira Khan, Hamza Ali Abassi and Humaima Malik star. Brian Adler (Avatar: The Way of Water, Avengers: Endgame) served as VFX supervisor.

From Encyclomedia and Lashari Films in association with AAA Motion Pictures, and overseas distributor Moviegoers Entertainment, this is said to be the largest-mounted Pakistan-made, Punjabi-language film to date.

In Pakistan, it took $517K, and in the UK picked up $355K from 79 locations. The latter is the highest opening weekend for any Pakistani or Punjabi film in the market where it entered at No. 9 on the chart.

In the U.S., The Legend of Maula Jatt grossed $290K and in Canada $235K, kicking off at No. 6. The UAE saw a No. 1 start with over $515K. In Australia, it opened at No. 6 with $160K. Other releasing markets included Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and South East Asia.

The filmmakers tell us demand has been extraordinary with exhibitors adding screenings throughout the weekend and into the week.

Lashari — who directed, co-wrote, lensed, edited and produced the movie — enthused, “I’m beyond overwhelmed by the love the film has received from audiences and critics alike the world over. We are so proud that The Legend of Maula Jatt has been instrumental in putting Pakistan-made cinema on the global map as it continues to win over hearts in theaters across the world.”

Producer Ammara Hikmat said, “The Legend of Maula Jatt has been our labor of love for a number of years. The pandemic came and returned but we knew we had to hold out for a theatrical release, as the film is undoubtedly a big screen experience… We’re so delighted that our film has broken previous records and set a new benchmark for Pakistan-made cinema, loved and lauded not only domestically but by audiences and critics globally.”

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