Laissez-faire for the film industry | Pakistan Today

Laissez-faire for the film industry

  • Lollywood owes its revival to Bollywood?

It makes perfect sense to help out local industries at every possible opportunity. But intervention and prevention of laissez-faire normally tends to backfire in the long-run by reducing the quality of the produce from the industry that you’re vying to shield.

The same is true for the local film industry, which unlike most other domestic industries has adapted every single emotional cry to bring people to the cinema houses, instead of focusing – in large part – to the quality of films that they are churning out.

In this regard, the ministry of information, broadcasting, national history and literary heritage prohibited the screening of Indian films around Eid, was quite a vociferous declaration of protecting the local movies from the significantly better competition that they would be facing from across the border.

One would want one, or at least a couple, of these films to prove the cynicism wrong, but from what they’ve put forward as a foretaste, there mightn’t be much to write home about for any of these films

However, the fact that the time period for the prevention of screening of Bollywood movies was reduced from two weeks to one, further underscores the flaws in the manoeuvre and indeed the backlash from the local market.

To set the record straight, this so-called revival of the Pakistani film industry almost owes its entirety to the return of Bollywood movies to the local cinemas a decade ago. That is what prompted moviegoers – outside the dedicated fans of a particular genre – to spend their hard earned money and go watch movies on the big screen.

Again, this does not mean that Lollywood should actually be perpetually indebted to Bollywood and let the latter dominate the Pakistani screens. The matter should be dealt with the simple principles of a free market economy.

Yes, the government should help the local film industry compete with movies from Bollywood and Hollywood. But shielding them from competition isn’t the way to go about it.

What needs to be done is for there to be support and investment that enhance the local films, instead of creating a bubble where they only compete with one another. Putting the local films at the deepest end is the sure shot way to help improve their quality – which is precisely what has been happening over the past decade or so.

Ironically, the move to shield local movies on Eid comes after the two latest Lollywood movies were some of the best that South Asian cinema has witnessed in recent times.

White Motorcycle Girl was a top-drawer production by Pakistani standards, Cake doesn’t even need that qualifier. The movie was more than a match for any competition, and incorporated the best of European and South Asian arts, blending it into easily the best production that Pakistan has come up with in the most procrastinated revival phase.

However, if the trailers are anything to go by, it appears as though the four films set for release on Eid might take leaves out of the spree of local movies released before Cake and Motorcycle Girl and hence very well might need some protection.

Mahira Khan and Shehryar Munawar’s Saat Din Mohabbat In and Javed Sheikh directed Wujood spearhead the Eid releases, which also include Moammar Rana’s Azadi and Na Band Na Baraati which has Meekal Zulfiqar, Nayab Khan, Ali Kazmi, Azra Mohiyyuddin and Atiqa Odho.

One would want one, or at least a couple, of these films to prove the cynicism wrong, but from what they’ve put forward as a foretaste, there mightn’t be much to write home about for any of these films. And considering that they were set to compete with Salman Khan’s Race 3 and then the Ranbir Kapoor starring Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju one can understand why these films might’ve needed shielding.

But what needs to be highlighted is that last year Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 also released on Eid, and did not need any Bollywood bans to help them become huge grossers that they ended up becoming.

The lesson here is that you don’t need to go for a sophisticated production like Cake – which again couldn’t match these flicks in terms of commercial success – a well-made entertainer will encourage the local audience to buy the ticket, regardless of the competition.

Now with the Bollywood ban reduced to just a week, the onus really is on these films to get the audiences to come and watch them during their days off around Eid. If the numbers don’t quite tally in this week, it would be a damning verdict on the local film industry.