Is Pakistan film industry on the verge of collapse?

November 9th, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by ANI  

Islamabad, Nov 9 (ANI): Lollywood, Lahore-based Pakistan film industry, which at one point of time had a distinct identity of its own, is now facing a dearth of producers and directors who could make films to pull the audiences to the theatres.

As the film industry produces less than a dozen movies each year, the city’s Odeon Cinema has been showing just one film-called “Majajan,” a love story- every day, three times a day for the last three years.

Reporting for the LA Times, Alex Rodriguez said that the film industry in Lahore, or Lollywood as it is popularly known, has not always been like this.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Lahore buzzed with movie shoots, red-carpet premieres and box-office hits.

But now, Pakistani cinema has all but vanished, a victim of the VCR, cable television and finally DVD piracy.

In 1985, 1,100 movie houses operated in Pakistan, and today only 120 are in business.

The few directors, producers and cinema owners often rely on second jobs to make ends meet.

Reviving the industry necessitates junking what’s left of Pakistani cinema and starting from scratch, says Jahanzaib Baig, a cinema owner pushing for a revival of film in Pakistan.

Baig has been lobbying the government to clamp down on DVD piracy, a scourge that keeps people from leaving their living rooms to head to cinemas.

“We have hit rock bottom. We can only go up. Whatever we had before is not only destroyed but is obsolete in terms of technology and skills. So we’re setting the foundation for a new film industry in Pakistan,” The Daily Times quoted Baig as saying.

The advent of cable television and VCRs drew Pakistanis away from cinemas, but it is said that President Zia ul-Haq’s religion-based policies is responsible for the industry’s demise.

Many cinemas were shut down, the rest were heavily taxed. New laws that required producers to have college degrees thinned the ranks of moviemakers.

With the top-shelf creative talent dropping out of the flagging industry, scripts got worse and Pakistanis stopped going to movies.

And it was Bollywood, the Indian film industry based in Mumbai, which filled the void, as Hindi Indian movies flooded video stores and clogged cable channels.

Pakistani filmmakers who stayed in the industry found themselves hamstrung by dwindling budgets.

“In India, they spend 12 million dollars on a movie, and we can spend maybe about 120,000 dollars. How can we compete?” said Pakistani film producer Jamshed Zafar, who sidelines as an exporter of South Asian spices. (ANI)

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