Pakistan's Bollywood affair marred by piracy
Karachi: People in Pakistan swoon over Shah Rukh Khan`s dimples and love the melodrama of a Karan Johar movie but like a typical Hindi film there`s also a villian in the script - piracy.
"Screening of Bollywood movies is still restricted in a lot of cinema halls because of the huge print costs. And on top of that, we have to battle with piracy here as well, which is quite rampant in Pakistan,"the managing director of Mandviwalla Entertainment, Nadeem Mandviwalla, told reporters.
He says that Bollywood has been popular in Pakistan for over 30 years, but piracy is killing the movie-watching experience.
"The day a movie releases here, you can get its pirated version as well. Hence it affects our business and not many cinema hall owners can afford to do that. Piracy is the biggest deterrent in our industry," he added.
Mandviwalla, who is also the owner of Nishat and DHA cinema complexes in Lahore, says that Karachi had around 36 stand-alone theatres, and one multiplex with five screens, Universe Cineplex.
While pirated CDs and DVDs may make Hindi films accessible to a larger audience, the shoddy quality is too huge a price to pay.
The menace of piracy is so rampant that theatre owners say they can tackle it only by giving an "enhanced viewing experience" to film buffs.
Mandviwalla said he wanted to give a complete cinematic experience to movie buffs in Pakistan, and was launching a digital cinema multiplex in Karachi.
"There is no 3D cinema in Pakistan; so we are introducing it by this month`s end in Karachi. We will give our audience a world class experience. This will be the first ever in our country," he said.
"It`s the elite class and some of the middle-class people who come to watch movies in cinemas and our sole focus is now on giving them a different experience. Many people will buy pirated copies and won`t ever come to a theatre, but real movie buffs won`t mind going that extra mile to get a good experience," he said.
The tickets at a multiplex cost 350 Pakistani rupees, while for a stand-alone theatre, tickets cost 250, 150 and 70 Pakistani rupees respectively for gallery, dress circle and stall.
So, what is it about Bollywood that makes Pakistanis such fervent adherents of the `love thy neighbour` philosophy?
"I love everything about Bollywood. We relate so much to the culture and the way it is presented. There is so much drama into it, so much style and glamour...it is simply amazing," gushes Zahra Lotia, a student.
While for the older generation, Shah Rukh Khan rules the popularity charts, the youngsters prefer stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.
Among the filmmakers, Karan Johar is an overwhelming favourite.
"He is a rock star. Look at his movies, he knows how to hit the nail on the head. His larger than life movies take us to into another world altogether, where we have happy endings," said Anam Sheikh, another student.
In a nation where people have learnt to live with uncertainty and chaos, it`s these Bollywood masala fares that provide much-needed relief.
"We have learnt to live our life the hard way, so our love for Bollywood gives a breather from the regular news of bloodshed and killings. Sometimes, one needs to live in the reel life as well," said beauty saloon owner Ruquia.