The Global Social Network
Amid the Hindu Nationalists calls for sending Pakistani actors home, what is being overlooked is the fact that Bollywood needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs Bollywood. Why? Let me explain.
Pakistan is Bollywood's second biggest foreign market. Last year, Pakistan's box office receipts jumped by 28% while India's domestic box office collection fell 6.7%.
Decline in Bollywood's revenue at home is forcing the Indian movie industry to look to Pakistan for growth. Part of the Indian strategy is to feature Pakistani actors and artists in its productions to increase Bollywood's appeal to Pakistan's growing moviegoers market.
The money earned by Pakistani actors working in Bollywood is minuscule compared to the business Bollywood films are doing in the rapidly growing Pakistan market.
Pakistani Actors in Bollywood: Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Mawra Hocane
Bollywood ticket sales fell by 6.7% to INR 2,568 crore ($385m) from 2014’s total of INR 2,754 crore (US$413), according to figures published by India's Business Standard. Alarmed by declining sales, Disney Studios have decided to pull out of India.
After suffering huge losses at the domestic box office, the most recent one being Ashutosh Gowariker's Mohenjo Daro, Disney India - the company formed after Disney acquired controlling stake in UTV - has pulled the plug on all things Bollywood. Instead, Disney will only focus on its Hollywood films distribution, licensing and merchandising business in India, according to India Today.
On the other hand, Pakistani cinema, though small, is growing very rapidly with the explosive growth of multiplex theater screens. Pakistan's "The News Sunday" estimates that box office receipts in the country jumped 28 per cent in 2015 as compared to 2014 and this figure is only expected to grow in coming years. On Eid ul Azha this year, the top 3 highest-grossing films were all produced in Pakistan, according to EasyTickets.pk.
Here's how Indian media and entertainment analyst Akar Patel describes Bollywood's business opportunity in Pakistan:
"In Pakistan, there is a big market for Indian movies in their multiplexes. For decades this revenue was lost to Bollywood because the movies were pirated. Under former president Pervez Musharraf, the official screening of movies was allowed, benefiting both nations. Today all Bollywood movies are shown there. Unfortunately, the current state of ties between the two countries has been allowed to deteriorate so much that we should not be surprised if Musharraf's wise decision is reversed."
It is a win-win arrangement with Pakistani artists working with their Indian counterparts in Indian movies and increasing Bollywood revenue from Pakistan market.
If the anti-Pakistan rhetoric and the attacks on Pakistani artists in Mumbai continue, it is very likely that Pakistan will respond by banning the showing of Indian films in a rapidly expanding market market for Bollywood entertainment. In addition to increasing estrangement between the two neighbors, stopping cooperation and collaboration will be a significant blow for the entertainment industries in both India and Pakistan.