Karachi: The ban on screening of Indian films has "badly hurt" Pakistan's cinema industry which is not in a position to support the film business as a whole, a leading Pakistani daily said today, underlining that political concerns should not come at the cost of cultural exchanges.
"Political concerns are indeed genuine, but they should not come at the cost of cultural exchanges that bring benefits to both sides of the border," said an editorial in the Dawn.
The Pakistan Film Exhibitors and Distributors Association which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single screen cinemas in the country had announced a ban on screening of Indian films soon after tensions escalated between Pakistan and India over cross border firing incidents in late September.
The exhibitors and cinema owners had taken the decision voluntarily after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers' Association (IMPPA) announced a ban on Pakistani artists and technicians working in India.
But the move has badly hurt the Pakistani cinema industry which had started to flourish after a decades-old ban on screening of Indian films was lifted during the last days of former President Pervez Musharraf.
Since September cinema houses have constantly lost business and cineplexes have been forced to cut the number of shows and even screens as the public has shown no interest in just watching Pakistani or the latest Hollywood movies.
The daily said in its editorial that current low point in Pakistan-India relations has not just been damaging in terms of diplomacy but the fallout is also evident in cultural ties.
On the decision to suspend screening of Indian films, it said, "The reality is that as a result of this decision by stakeholders, cinema houses in major Pakistani cities are losing money. Several cineplexes that were a short while ago doing booming business have had to shut screens down because of the lack of footfall."
"Certainly, domestically made films and those from abroad are being screened, and there are proposals to, for example, bring in Iranian or Turkish films. But in terms of being crowd-pullers on a large scale, nothing beats the content being generated by the mammoth industry next door," it said.
"Such cultural protectionism vis-?-vis India has been tried before, and failed in rather spectacular fashion ? Indian films were formally banned here for years, which is arguably what led to the demise of the cinema-going culture in the first place. It is only recently that cinemas have become decent investment, and the culture of going out to watch a movie has shown revival," it said.
Underlining that Pakistani cinema industry is not yet in a position to support the film business as a whole, it said political concerns are indeed genuine, but they should not come at the cost of cultural exchanges that bring benefits to both sides of the border.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani cinema owners and film distributors are now contemplating importing Turkish, Iranian, South Korean and Chinese films to halt their falling businesses.
Film distribution company IMGC's Chairman Shaikh Amjad Rashid and Mohsin Yaseen of Cinepax management said in interviews that it had been decided to screen films from Iran and Turkey to fill the gap of Indian films.