Bollywood Needs Pakistan Market to Grow Sales

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


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.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on October 8, 2016 at 5:41pm

MUMBAI: Bans imposed on each other by the film industries in India and Pakistan threaten to endanger a burgeoning cross-border business that's worth more than Rs 100 crore even by conservative estimates.
Try this for size: about 50 Bollywood films release in Pakistan now every year and on an average, each makes at least Rs 1.5 to 2 crore. The biggest grossers in Pakistan in the last three years include the Aamir Khan thriller Dhoom 3, which earned Rs 16 crore, Raju Hirani's PK which spoke out against organized religion, Bajrangi Bhaijaan which dealt with an Indian youth's journey into Pakistan to reunite a child with her parents, and Sultan which muscled its way past all the others at the box-office (Rs 22 crore).
The ban on screening Indian films in Pakistan was formalised at a meeting of exhibitors and distributors in Karachi on Thursday and was in reaction to a resolution by a film producers' body in India against use of Pakistani artistes in Indian films. Analysts say the ban in Pakistan will hurt the country's domestic market as well, which is showing signs of recovery after decades of Islamisation and strict censorship.
A four-decade embargo on Indian films (imposed after the 1965 war) was lifted in 2007. "For either to take such a decision now means they've put commercials on the backburner after building bridges," says Avtar Panesar, vice president-international operations at Yash Raj Films in London. "From an overseas theatrical revenue perspective, Pakistan wasn't even in single digits 10 years ago and now it's gone up to 12 percent. In fact, for big Bollywood releases, it's often the number three highest-grossing territory after US and UAE. They're a substantial market for us and only becoming bigger. In fact, Pakistan has climbed the ranks so rapidly that once their market is more mature, it should theoretically become the largest international market for Indian films," he says.
Pakistan's love for Hindi films continued through the years when Lollywood (derived from Lahore, its city of origin) went into decline, total number of movie halls fell to about 30 and the industry produced not more than two releases in a year. The Pakistani viewership depended on piracy to sustain its interest in Hindi films.
"For us, it was about bringing legitimacy to Hindi films being watched in Pakistan via pirated circles," recalls Mukesh Bhatt who along with his brother Mahesh were part of a bilateral team of filmmakers and exhibitors who initiated a dialogue to allow Indian movies into Pakistan once more.
It was during Pervez Musharraf's regime that the iron curtain finally lifted. Audiences returned to the theatres, new investors stepped in and deteriorating Pakistani creative content too saw a revival. State-of-the-art multiplexes are currently the toast of every town.
Today, the Pakistani film industry boasts a $30 million box office and 116 screens. Six to ten Pakistani films have been releasing every year with the biggest grosser not less than $4 million.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 9, 2016 at 8:10am

A dark cloud has hung over Delhi these past few weeks, and it isn’t just the pollution. Ever since a September attack by militants in Kashmir killed 19 Indian soldiers, war has been in the air. And, as with the pollution, no part of life here is unaffected. A 65-year-old water-sharing pact between India and Pakistan is apparently being reconsidered. The famous Wagah checkpoint – where audiences watch Indian and Pakistani border guards trade high kicks and handshakes – was briefly shut to the public, reportedly after Pakistani revellers pelted the Indian side with stones.

And last week, after India announced its troops had launched “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association said it, too, was on a war footing. The legion of Pakistani actors and technicians in Bollywood, and other Indian cinema hubs, would be banned from working “until normalcy returns”, it said. The organisation’s president, TP Aggarwal, went even further, saying Pakistanis would be banned from the industry “for ever”, and asking the Indian government to boot them from the country.


Divya Spandana (also known as Ramya), another Indian actor turned politician, was threatened with a civil sedition charge after visiting Pakistan in August. Her crime? Saying India’s rival was “a good country, not hell”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s cinema lobby has called the restriction on its nationals “deeply regrettable”, and announced its own embargo, pulling all Indian films from Pakistani screens. Indian cinema was already banned in Pakistan for 43 years, after the second Kashmir war between the countries, and only permitted again in 1998. On Thursday, Indian sitcoms and soap operas – already restricted on Pakistani television to 86 minutes a day – were also completely banned by the country’s media regulator.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 18, 2017 at 10:31am

Battleground Bollywood: India-Pakistan Tensions Hitting Film Industry

Undoubtedly, Bollywood has long been a way to thaw the frosty relations between the two countries. 
And it is also a huge business. Indian films make more than $10 million in annual receipts in Pakistan — the country is the No. 3 foreign market for Indian movies after the U.S. and the UAE. And for many Pakistani theaters, Bollywood movies account for more than half their revenues. According to the All Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association, Bollywood brings in around 60% of cinema revenue in Pakistan. 
In November, an editorial in the Dawn had said that “in terms of being crowd-pullers on a large scale, nothing beats the content being generated by the mammoth industry next door.”

A medium-budget Bollywood film is able to earn $800,000 in Pakistan, while big-ticket movies, starring Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan generate more. In 2014, Aamir Khan’s PK grossed over $3.3 million at the Pakistani box-office, beating the country’s first big-budget movie Waar, that depicted every volatile aspect of Pakistan's rocky relationship with India. 
In 2013, Dhoom 3 grabbed $ 3.7 million and Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan got $2.2 million.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 18, 2017 at 10:40am

As 2016 ends, Bollywood at the edge of a cliff

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

This was the year Bollywood slowed down and, in some cases, slammed the brakes.

For the third straight year, the Indian film industry did not grow. As some studios shut up shop, Hollywood films such as “The Jungle Book” trumped most Hindi films at the box office. Big-ticket movies didn’t strike a chord with audiences and the industry finds itself scrambling for a long-term solution.

Apart from Salman Khan’s wrestling drama “Sultan”, the year’s top grosser with more than 3 billion rupees ($44 million) in revenue, most Bollywood films couldn’t woo audiences or recover their money.

The Bollywood industry made around 23 billion rupees ($338 million) in domestic box-office revenue in 2016, a significant drop from the 27 billion rupees ($397 million) in 2015, according to Shailesh Kapoor, who runs media consulting firm Ormax Media. The 2016 figures are till Dec. 22 and do not include box-office returns for Aamir Khan’s “Dangal”, which released last Friday.

Bollywood is hugely dependent on its male stars to deliver blockbusters, specifically the trio of Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, who have delivered some of the industry’s biggest hits. But this year, even Shah Rukh Khan’s “Fan”, a thriller about a man obsessed with a movie star floundered at the box office.

“There are two kinds of films that work at the box office, the big star vehicles like ‘Sultan’ and the niche content films like ‘Piku’ last year. There weren’t too many of either this year. ‘Fan’ not making it past the 100 crore ($14 million) mark was a huge setback,” Kapoor said.

More than 200 Hindi films opened in cinemas this year. Of these, some 60-odd films got a proper release and had a marketing budget. Only 12-14 films made a profit, Kapoor said.

What must strike fear in Bollywood’s heart though is that the number two position in terms of box-office revenue was taken by a Hollywood film. “The Jungle Book”, Disney’s live-action film based on Rudyard Kipling’s book made around 1.8 billion rupees ($26 million) in India, surpassing every other Hindi film except “Sultan”. Marathi film “Sairat” (Wild) also enamoured audiences, crossing the 100 crore rupee ($14 million) mark, more than what most Bollywood films managed.

Biopics might have been the saving grace in 2016 with films such as Ram Madhvani’s “Neerja”, based on the last hours of flight purser Neerja Bhanot, and “M S Dhoni: The Untold Story”, finding audiences. Raja Krishna Menon’s “Airlift”, based on true events surrounding the evacuation of Indians during the Gulf War was one of the first big hits of 2016, making more than a billion rupees at the box office.

“Films like ‘Neerja’ and ‘Pink’ prove that ultimately, content is what matters. Star vehicles are few and far between and even those work when the story clicks,” said trade analyst Amod Mehra.

The problem with star vehicles is that Bollywood doesn’t have too many of them. Other than the Khans, and Akshay Kumar, who had two big films this year (“Rustom” and “Airlift”), no other actor delivered a big weekend opening.

The lack of consistent success took its toll on the industry. In September, media reports said Disney India had decided to shut down its Hindi production department, and would not greenlight any films in 2017.

Balaji Motion Pictures, owned by Ekta Kapoor, which burned its fingers with films like “Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3”, “Azhar” and “Great Grand Masti” also reportedly shut down its film production wing, with the film adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s “Half Girlfriend” likely to be its only film in 2017.

“No individual producer has the money to make a film - they have to go to the studios for funding. The biggest problem is the stars - they need to scale down on fees and bring down the cost of making films, but none of them will do that,” Mehra said.--------

As companies such as Netflix and Amazon try harder to draw Indians away from TV and theatre screens, offering the same content at half the cost, Bollywood will have to use every trick in the book to make sure it retains its audiences in the coming year.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 18, 2017 at 10:59am

Bollywood revenue has declined from $413 million in 2014 to $385 million in  2015 to $338 million in 2016 

Down 6.7% from 2014 to 2015,  Down 12% from 2015 to 216 
Comment by Riaz Haq on April 19, 2017 at 9:56am

Global box office barely grew in 2016. Blame it on China

lobal movie box office revenue growth slowed last year as international receipts declined for the first time in 12 years, reflecting a cooling in China’s once-red-hot film market, according to a new report.

The total worldwide box office rose 1% to a record $38.6 billion in ticket sales last year, according to a report from the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the lobbying group that represents the six largest film studios. In 2015, global revenues jumped 5%.

The leveling off at the box office underscored sluggish movie ticket sales in countries outside the United States and Canada. Foreign box office totaled $27.2 billion in 2016, down from $27.3 billion in 2015, thanks to a dramatic slowdown in box office growth in China. The increased value of the U.S. dollar compared with other currencies also dampened ticket revenues, the association said in a report released Wednesday.

"The Chinese market is a little concerning,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. “They thought it was going to be some magical potion, and it's not."

Though the drop in foreign ticket sales was less than 1%, it’s the first time the international box office has failed to grow since 2005. That’s a worrisome trend for an industry that has grown increasingly dependent on the global marketplace. International markets made up 71% of the global box office in 2016, compared with 63% a decade ago.

The slowdown in China was particularly jarring for the industry, coming after years of speculation that the country would soon surpass the United States and Canada as the world’s largest film market.

Revenues from China fell 1% to $6.6 billion in 2016, in U.S. dollars, a surprising downturn from 2015, when ticket sales grew by 49%. A variety of factors hurt the box office in China, including a series of sub-par movies, a lack of discounts by China’s online ticket sellers, and greater government scrutiny of bogus box office statistics.

Foreign currency declines in countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Britain also depressed revenues in U.S. dollar terms. The British pound, for example, fell 12% against the dollar last year.

“A major issue is currency,” said Julia Jenks, vice president of worldwide research for the MPAA. “It’s hiding a lot of growth,”

The statistics were brighter for the domestic market.

Box office receipts hit a record $11.4 billion in the United States and Canada, up 2% from 2015, thanks to blockbusters such as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Nonetheless, the industry is facing some troubling head winds, including long-term stagnation in the number of tickets sold. Admissions totaled 1.32 billion last year, flat compared with 2015, and down from 1.4 billion a decade ago. The slide in attendance underscores the rising competition cinemas face to lure younger audiences who have more entertainment options in the home. Per capita attendance in the United States and Canada slipped 1% to 3.8 last year.

Despite the flattening attendance, revenue still grew because of an increase in ticket prices. The average ticket price hit a record $8.65 in 2016, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, the result of cinema chains adding more advanced screening technology and more luxurious accommodations such as recliner seating.

“The question is, what's going to drive the North American box office to the heights we saw 10 to 20 years ago in terms of attendance?" Bock said.

Some young people went to the theaters more often last year. People ages 18 to 24 bought an average of 6.5 movie tickets in 2016, up 10% from 2015. Yet, the movie business took a hit among 12-to-17-year-olds, who went to the movies 16% less frequently than in 2015.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2017 at 10:58am

70 years of Pakistan’s film industry

A look at the good old days of the Pakistani film industry, which gave us immortal tunes, self made stars, and award-winning directors

The film industry in Pakistan is as old as the country itself. It has seen the best of its days, but sadly, the present situation is nowhere near to what it had been.

The good old days had given Immortal tunes, excellent films, self made stars and award-winning directors, but mostly depended on individuals.

The initial decade (1948-1957):

Despite lack of equipment and resources, country’s first film, Teri Yaad, was released in August 1948. Nasir Khan, brother of the famous actor Dilip Kumar, was the hero, with Asha Posley playing his love interest. Pakistan’s first Golden Jubilee film, Sibtain Fazli’s Dupatta, was released in 1952. The film was also appreciated in India at release. It had Noor Jehan as lead, while the music was composed by Feroz Nizami, who had earlier composed for Noor Jehan-Dilip Kumar starrer Jugnu in undivided India five years back. Like Nizami sahab, musicians Ghulam Haider, Rasheed Atre, GA Chishti and Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, opted to Pakistan and played an important role in establishing the industry.

Many stalwarts from India, namely Munshi Dil, Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, Fazli brothers, also migrated, and by the end of the 50s, Pakistan had its set of directors. A young Allauddin, who played the role of Nargis’s father in Mela (1948), remained active for over 30 years, performing memorable roles in his career. The struggling days of the industry would have been different, if there had been no Santosh Kumar or Sabiha Khanum. The ‘first couple’ of the industry eventually tied the knot after giving hits like Do Aansoo (1950), Ghulam (1953) Qatil, Inteqaam (1955), and Sarfarosh (1956). Actor Sudhir was labeled an action hero with hits like Baaghi (1956) and Akhri Nishan (1958), while Syed Kemal, a replica of Indian superstar Raj Kapoor, came on the scene with Thandi Sarak (1957). He could dance as well as made you laugh. Phenomenal Rise of Aslam Pervez, first as a hero and later as a villain, was termed legendary in any phase of life.

The peak years (1958-1967):

It is credited as the golden period of the industry. With limited ban on Indian films, local productions thronged. Field Marshall Ayub Khan’s rule had restrictions on nearly everything, but it was the creative team of director Khalil Qaiser- music composer Rasheed Attre- writer Riaz Shahid who accepted the challenge and gave out exceptional films like Shaheed (1962), Firangi (1964) and Hukumat (1967) until Qaiser’s death in mysterious circumstances.

The eldest brother of the Fazli clan, after being forced out of his job by President Ayub Khan, turned to film making, producing Chiragh Jalta Raha (1962). The film gave the industry faces such as Zeba, Deeba and Muhammad Ali, who were to shine in the coming days.

Indian films were completely banned in cinemas after the War in September 1965. Local films got an audience to itself, as late Shabab Kairanvi’s production house churned out quick films, to cater for the loss. The era also saw the rise of Waheed Murad and Nadeem, from Armaan (1966) and Chakori (1967) respectively. Armaan was country’s first Platinum Jubilee film and second super-hit film from the team of Waheed Murad-Pervez Malik-Sohail Rana-Masroor Anwar. Chakori was the biggest Urdu film from East Pakistan, which had earlier given films like Chanda (1962), Talaash (1964) and the first color film Sangam (1964). West Pakistan’s first Colour film Naela, directed by Sharif Nayyar, was released a year later. Naela had Santosh Kumar paired with Shamim Ara, who went on to become the country’s first lady producer and director. Pakistan’s first film to be shot abroad, Rishta Hai Pyar ka (1967), was filmed in Europe. It had Waheed Murad and Zeba in the lead. Jaan Pehchaan, country’s first ever co-production, was produced the same year by Mohsin Shirazi. Muhammad Ali was his choice for the lead while Shahpara was imported from Iran to play the love interest. Ali and Zeba tied the knot in 1966 in real life, and went on to become country’s most celebrated pair for nearly 40 years.

The sixties saw a shift in music scene as well. Nisar Bazmi, Sohail Rana, Lal Muhammad-Iqbal and Robin Ghosh took over while Ahmed Rushdi, Masood Rana and Mehdi Hassan displaced Munir Hussain and Saleem Raza. Noor Jehan was given tough competition by Mala, Naseem Begum and Runa Laila while legendary music composer Khwaja Khurshid Anwar ventured into production and gave hits like Ghunghat (1962), Chingari (1964) and Humraaz (1967), with an equally amazing soundtrack.

From a living dream, to a nightmare: (1968-1989):

Thriving in the late 60s, Pakistan film industry was rubbing its shoulders with their Indian counterpart. Rising star Nadeem gave tough competition to establish actors Waheed Murad, Kamal and Muhammad Ali. Kamal bowed out gracefully in early 70s, Muhammad Ali took to character roles by then, but Waheed Murad stayed till his death. The year 1970, saw another Pak-Iran co-production, ‘Jane Bond: Operation Karachi’ , where Raza Fazli, an Iranian actor/ producer vows Pakistan’s top model Rakshanda Khattak who played the female version of famous British Spy James Bond.

Riaz Shahid, father of current filmstar Shaan Shahid, produced and directed Zarqa (1969), Gharnata and his last film Yeh Aman (both in 1971), highlighting struggles of nations around the world. Zarqa, starring her wife Neelo, went on to become Pakistan’s first diamond jubilee film.

With the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, the film industry suffered dearly. With this disconnect, atmosphere of ‘competitiveness’ was gone forever. Pakistani cinema also got deprived of a major market and production centre as there was no place for Urdu films in Bangladesh. Firdausi Begum, Bashir Ahmed, Subul Das were the casualties from the music department, while the production department lost gems like Captain Ehtisham, Mustafeez and Zahir Rehan. Music composer of many hit Urdu films produced in West, Muslehuddin, opted to settle in U.K. with his West Pakistan wife Naheed Niazi after the tragic split.

Pakistan’s greatest film ‘Aina’ (1977) was released amid political turmoil. It was a time when the country was going through the worst political crisis. It began with the general elections in March, the movement from opposition parties that followed and the eventual takeover by Army Chief Zia-ul-Haq in July. ‘Aina’ was directed by Nazrul-Islam, Shabnam was the heroine while her husband Robin Ghosh, the music composer. All three started their careers from former East Pakistan. Shabnam formed a hit pairing with Nadeem which continued till late 80s, while the soundtracks from Robin Ghosh’s movies Bandish (1980), Nahin Abhi Nahi can still give competition to the current movies produced in Pakistan.

The ‘Islamization’ by military dictator Zia-ul-Haq began in the 80s. This was the second blow in recent times to the industry after the failure to counter the influx of films on VCR. People from an entire locality could watch an Indian film at home on a rented VCR for 100 rupees, while taking a family of 4 to watch a Pakistani film would cost around the same. This was followed by new Censor laws and entertainment taxes, resulting in the closure of some cinemas, while many were turned into shopping centers.

Deaths of iconic figures like Santosh Kumar, Waheed Murad, Allauddin, Aslam Pervez, Khurshid Anwar and Ahmed Rushdi in the early 80s heralded the beginning of the end. A vacuum was created which was filled by Punjabi and Pashtu films. In a desperate attempt to keep the studios running, these films were dubbed in Urdu. The experiment of double version films failed, further distancing the audience further from cinemas. Region’s first sci-fi film Shanee (1989) gave hope to the viewers, but the industry could not capitalize on its success.

There were mini-revivals for the ailing industry in 1995 with Syed Noor’s Jeeva , Shamim Ara’s Munda Bigra Jaaye and Javed Shaikh’s Mushkil, but it was legendary TV producer Shoaib Mansoor who was successful in bringing people back to the cinemas with Khuda ke liye (2007) and Bol (2011).

The Indian films were being allowed to screen in mid-2000s in Pakistan theatres and cinema business was thronging, but those who ruled the films in 80s, instead of improving their quality, went into hibernation.

It is finally people from TV who are trying hard to uplift the industry with some success. With Indian films getting major screenings at multiplexes, Pakistan industry needs to do a lot more to attract audience. The current crop of film makers have, on one hand, to fight technology as well as to come up with a script as powerful as Riaz Shahid’s, music as sweet as Nisar Bazmi’s, performances as natural as Nadeem and Shabnam’s and direction as thought provoking as Pervez Malik’s.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 2, 2019 at 9:36am

Despite numerous efforts to introduce movies from other cultures, including dubbed versions of Turkish films, Bollywood remains the primary choice for moviegoers in Pakistan. The loss of Indian movies stung so hard because Pakistan was not yet able to produce and distribute enough movies to fill theaters every week. Though the number of screens in Pakistan increased from 30 in 2013 to almost 100 in 2017, producers and investors were being cautious. And most filmmakers realized that reaching larger audiences wasn’t possible.

A few months later, Pakistani theater owners ended their self-imposed ban and Indian films returned to Pakistani screens in 2017. But investors started questioning whether the movie business was feasible if it suffered after every crisis between the two countries.

The first ban on the exhibition of Indian films was imposed by military ruler President Mohammad Khan Ayub after the second India-Pakistan war in 1965. The woes of the local cinema industry were further exacerbated during the era of Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s presidency, when higher taxation and strict censorship policies made it impossible for cinema to grow.

During those decades, as cinema was gradually fading away, Pakistan’s television soap operas boomed and provided entertainment for the middle classes. Most actors, directors and screenwriters focused on producing them. Film lovers had the limited choice of either watching second-rate vanity projects or pirated versions of Hollywood and Bollywood movies. The decimation of Pakistani cinema — particularly under the rule of General Zia — meant that the country lost most of its 700 single-screen cinemas.

Pakistani cinema began to emerge from its long coma in 2006 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed the ban on showing Indian movies that had been in place since 1965. Within a few years new multiplexes sprung up in all major cities to meet the high demand for films.

By 2011 Pakistan had around 35 multiplex screens; more than a hundred more were being built. Sadly this new infrastructure was restricted to multiplexes as distributors focused almost entirely on attracting the middle classes who could afford higher ticket prices. Single-screen cinemas, along with their less-privileged audiences, were completely ignored and excluded.

The availability of screen space in turn encouraged local filmmakers to venture out and produce films. A turning point came with the success of Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol, the story of a religious family with a transgender daughter, which was produced in 2011 with a local cast and crew. It inspired more Pakistani filmmakers to jump into the fray.

Two years later, Pakistan had produced 20 films and many more were being planned. International festivals started showing interest by curating special segments on Pakistani films. The filmmaking fraternity was upbeat that Pakistan would soon be able to tell its own story through movies.

The removal of the ban on Indian films in Pakistan also led to talent sharing and creative cooperation between the two countries. Pakistani actors became stars in India; almost every major Indian movie commissioned Pakistani musicians to sing for them (songs are a key element of films in South Asia).

And then fate delivered another lethal blow: India and Pakistan almost went to war in February after a suicide attack on Indian forces in Kashmir. An official ban was imposed on exhibiting Indians films in Pakistan. Three and a half months later, theaters in Pakistan are almost empty again and their owners are now considering laying off employees.

The arrival of online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon is helping film industries in various other countries grow and attempt new storytelling formats — but they have hesitated from exploring Pakistan and commissioning projects from Pakistani filmmakers. 

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 2, 2019 at 9:41am

The streaming site has had success with three original productions: anthology film Lust Stories, horror miniseries Ghoul and most assertively advertised, Saif Ali Khan series Sacred Games. While none of them have managed to blow up internationally, all three have proved to be extremely promising. Sacred Games continues to be a hit with Indian viewers and Lust Stories has been seen in India more times than House of Cards in the US.

Pakistani Dramas
So what does this imply for our own entertainment industry? Quite a lot, if the stars align for us. In recent years, Pakistani dramas have taken off in a way that no one could have foreseen. With TV dramas like Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai becoming mega hits in Pakistan, India and the Middle East, and other shows doing well locally and on YouTube, the question isn’t whether Pakistani dramas can do well internationally but rather when we will get the opportunity to showcase our talents.

Another Pakistani hit, Daastan, a love story, featuring Fawad Khan and Sanam Baloch, stuck in the chaos of Indo-Pak partition, broke many hearts in the entire sub-continent. One does not have to look past the millions of views our shows enjoy on YouTube to ascertain that. Most recently, Khaani became the biggest Pakistani show, with its YouTube views exceeding 150 million.

The resurgence of interest in our local films should also prompt Netflix to invest into Pakistani entertainment portfolio, especially considering that unlike most of the world, our movie stars are essentially our TV stars, so there won’t be any sort of snobbery associated from them about working on TV shows. Netflix shows are marketed internationally and can provide a global platform for our stars.

Not to mention, studios here will have the option of selling their content to Netflix instead of Pakistani TV channels and movie distributors, bringing international revenue into the country. To Netflix’s credit, it isn’t like that they haven’t noticed all this untapped potential. The entertainment titan has attached Pakistani actor Zahid Ahmed to star in the first Pakistani original drama and hired actress Sana Fakhar to be part of another Netflix original.

Read more: Netflix criticized for banning anti-Saudi Arabia content

But as Ahmed recently stated to The News, the reason for the slow progress of the Pakistani Netflix show is the minimal subscription numbers in our country. According to the PTA, only 30% of all Pakistanis have access to broadband Internet. To foster growth, the company has signed a deal with PTCL and most recently, allowed Pakistani users to pay in Rupees, but these small steps and at Rs1500 per month, ultimately won’t do much to attract new customers.

Netflix in India is also facing similar problems where it only has mere 5 million subscribers and its two main competitors in the region Amazon (with $11 million subscribers value) and 20th Century Fox’s Hotstar ($150 million subscribers value) are faring much better. But Netflix plans to spend more than $8 billion on content in India alone, which ¬is likely to bring glad tidings across the border too. With Netflix slashing its prices to meet demands in different regions (like in India), the subscription in Pakistan could potentially grow.

Furthermore, the addition of Jazz’s Starz Play to Pakistan’s streaming service list of Iflix, Netflix and Amazon Prime, only encourages more competition, an environment where streaming emerges as the norm. Most likely, this will happen when TV Channels begin investing in exclusive streaming content, something that we haven’t heard of yet.

So it may be some time before we see Netflix produced Pakistani content but as the audience for Pakistani series continues to grow — in part due to the catalog of Pakistani Dramas available on Netflix —so will Netflix’s desire to produce Pakistani content.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 2, 2019 at 9:49am

Pakistani films and dramas reaching global audience through Netflix
* The Pakistani film industry that once was deemed to be dead has started its revival in recent years which caught the attention of international audience

Several Pakistani films and television series are being streamed on Netflix, helping Pakistani cultural boundaries to expand their horizon to global audiences.

Renowned for their gripping storylines, strong characters and impressive performances over the years, Pakistani drama contents were being broadcast across Pakistani channels, but were not legally streamed which was now fixed through Netflix.

The Pakistani film industry that once was deemed to be dead has started its revival in recent years which caught the attention of international audience as many Pakistani films were also successful in grabbing space on Netflix.

To now be placed on the world’s biggest streaming website with English subtitles magnifies Pakistani contents’ reach for global appeal. It also appears as a visual feast for oversees Pakistanis who were often deprived of seeing their national content on TV screens.

California-based streaming pioneer Netflix launched the super hit Pakistani drama serials on its application for streaming. The television and streaming app giant was launched in Pakistan in January this year.

To now be placed on the world’s biggest streaming website with English subtitles magnifies Pakistani contents’ reach for global appeal. It also appears as a visual feast for oversees Pakistanis who were often deprived of seeing their national content on TV screens

Some famous Pakistani shows were being exhibited on Netflix include Rangreza, Ho Man Jahan, Balu Mahi, Janaan, Waar, wrong No and others while drama included Hamsafar, Zindagi Gulzar hai and Sadqay Tumharay that had already been telecast on different TV channels.

Netflix users can see these Pakistani drama serials on its application and it seems like Fawad Khan’s drama serials was dominating the entire list; Humsafar, Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Dastaan.

“Pakistani entertainment industry has improved a lot in terms of creative productions as films like Bol and Waar intrigues the social conscious in form of entertainment”, said Jawad sharif an independent Film Maker.

Jawad, the producer of award winning documentary Indus Blue, said that Pakistani dramas were always remained attractive for not only local but regional audiences as well. “Having our local content on international platform not only boosts our confidence but also creates a soft image of Pakistan as an art loving nation”, he added.

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) partnered with Netflix, the world’s giant provider of on-demand Internet streaming media, to enable PTCL consumers for having access to entertainment shows from across the globe along with local content.

According to an official from PTCL Shazia Khaliq, many customers had been enjoying the streaming of their favourite local contents on Netflix through PTCL’s broadband service that offered uninterrupted high speed internet connectivity.

She said PTCL offered this facility to help our creative industry in its international recognition for Pakistan digital industry.

Netflix is an American entertainment company founded in August 29, 1997 and its headquarters are in Los Gatos, California. It has now over 70 million subscribers, which pay a monthly fee for unlimited services.


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