Cinema Exhibitor’s Association of Pakistan, post-Balakot incident, has announced to boycott Indian content in cinema houses. In light of the current scenario, we at Pakistani Cinema caught up with Pakistan’s leading mainstream film producers Humayun Saeed (Sixth Sigma Plus), Fizza Ali Meerza (Filmwala Pictures), Hassan Zia (HNY Productions) and Imran Raza Kazmi (IRK Productions) to find out what they think of this ban on Indian content, what strategies they would suggest to deal with the situation and also if they, as producers have any plans to increase production to cope with this shortage of content.
Pakistani Cinema: Recently cinema exhibitors association has decided to boycott Indian films. Is it the right decision in current situations?
Humayun: “We never started this tension. They (Indian producers) started this by not releasing some of their films in Pakistan but right now it was a rightful decision to boycott their films. How can we screen their films when there is war on the border? Loug bach jayn pehly, phir cinemas bhi chal jayegy”
Imran Raza Kazmi: “War is never an answer to a problem, cutting ties has never solved any matter. There should be peace but unfortunately under current situations it definitely is a suitable decision by the exhibitors, and I think now we are in a better position to deal with the absence of Indian content.”
Fizza Ali Meerza: “See our army and politicians and our leadership had made it clear that we want peace and we do not want to start any such war, but unfortunately it has begun from their side. Now that it has already started I believe we Pakistanis from all sectors and walks of life should stand together. The situation has been imposed on us and we had no other option but this.”
Hassan Zia: “The situation definitely is not good for both India and Pakistan as we all know that these two countries cannot afford another war. But if they start it first than naturally, we had to respond back.”
Pakistani Cinema: If the current situation prevails and no Bollywood film releases in Pakistan, what strategy would you suggest for the survival of cinema industry?
Fizza Ali Meerza: See this is the point where finally our distributors and exhibitors should come up and nurture the industry, instead of damaging it. Our exhibitors do not give a fair share of shows to films from local filmmakers .Not everyone is as stubborn as we few filmmakers who didn’t quit despite some repeated bad experiences. Our exhibitors and system crushes the passion of a new maker to an extent that they can never stand up again to make another film.
And it’s not like we do not or cannot produce good films. We definitely can but the production volume does not meet the required numbers and to bridge this gap between production and demand; exhibitors and distribution companies should come forward and bolster this production. Also, we always have demanded a policy to face such inevitable situation, and I think now we are going to have one to support our film industry regardless of Bollywood releases or not.”
Imran Raza Kazmi: “Why do we wait for such situations to finally think about our own industry? Why don’t our exhibitors support local content throughout the year? And by support I am not saying that they always have to finance films. They should reduce exhibitor share which right now is ridiculously massive. They should take 30% share for first week, 40% in second and 50% in third and so on, or at least come down to 50% as we (producers/distributors) are not even getting 50% share. Once there were just 3 films per year and now despite all this we are producing 20 to 25 films a year and the number will only increase if they start supporting local movie producers.”
Hassan Zia: “For cinemas, I think they will manage to go through this phase. They will find a way by reducing their expenses. They can bring down the number of staff members, also a four-screen multiplex can run one or two screens, except for festivals and weekends, so I am sure they will survive and also because now we have started producing more local movies. For the film industry, I think we need to understand that a film is not necessarily made with at least 6 crores. We should start making low budget films with high entertainment value to keep churning out the required feed for cinemas. Also, exhibitors should now start investing in film production.”
Humayun Saeed: “The only strategy for now is to produce more films and also good films. We need to raise our production as that would be the only way to survive such unavoidable situations that are bound to happen again in future as well.”
Pakistani Cinema: As producers what plans you have to help the industry survive such a situation in the coming months or may be years?
Hassan Zia: “I wish I could release “Wrong No. 2” before Eid as I think April would be the ideal time for it but unfortunately our sound design and prints would not be ready so that would not be possible now. But We (I and Yasir Nawaz) previousely had the plan to next make a TV serial after “Wrong No. 2” and now I spoke to Yasir to make a film instead. A small budgeted masala flick that could benefit mass centers because it’s our mass centers that always suffer in such situations because multiplex can always show Hollywood and animated and local off beat cinema but for single screens there remains no option in the absence of Bollywood. Also, we were collaborating with IMGC for a Punjabi film and now I am persuading them to make an Urdu film instead which is actually the need of time more than a Punjabi film.”
Fizza Ali Meerza: “I would definitely love to produce more films under the banner of Filmwala Pictures with new writers and directors. As I said we can make good films and all we need is to multiply the number and for that exhibitors and distributors should come up and play their part.”
Imran Raza Kazmi: “I want to produce two to three films per year but again, for that exhibitors need to support us and I also wish there could be some cross-channel publicity of movies to benefit a film most out of our TV channels. With more business and more films, we, the producers, will be able to hire crew members on salaries throughout the year, instead of hiring freelancers. But even if they (exhibitors) do not support us, I believe our producers have enough passion that we will be producing two or three films per year in next couple of years InshaAllah.”
Humayun Saeed: “I am already working on three to four scripts and I am planning to shoot them back to back to release multiple films next year. Even “Love You Jatta” would have been on set by now but its script was not complete and I didn’t want to rush to shoot the film without having a final script in my hand. Because as I said before, we need more films but more good films and InshaAllah Sixth Sigma productions will be releasing multiple films with different genres and different casts in the coming years.”