Whenever tensions rise between India and Pakistan, the first pillar to fall is Bollywood’s relationship with Pakistani artists. Organizations like the Shiv Sena and the RSS threaten producers and even cinemas to stop any type of interaction with Pakistani talent. Soon enough, voices of anger rise in Pakistan, and Pakistanis begin demanding the total ban of Indian films- a tit for tat tactic. The political climate of the last week has followed this very trajectory. Yesterday, news came in of cinemas within the Lahore Cantonment refusing to show Indian films- it is a matter of time now that this ban will spread to all of Pakistan.
People often argue that we don’t need Indian cinema, that we must support our own cinema, therefore meaning that a ban on Indian cinema will affect nothing- however, that is far from the truth.
The Pakistani film industry does need Bollywood to help sustain itself and here’s why:
There is a lack of ‘trained talent’ in Pakistan.
Now mind you, I’m defining talent very broadly here- this is not limited to actor and actresses, this extends to producers, musicians, marketers, and distributors. The Pakistani film industry is still in its infancy, it needs all the support it can use- the basic fact is that Pakistan does not have the resources to fully produce a 100% Pakistani film. The most recent Pakistani films that have released have not been a 100% Pakistani- they’ve used Indian distributors as well as Indian music artists to add the finishing touches on their songs. Completely severing ties with Bollywood will affect the production of Pakistani films, and yes, maybe doing so will help to create the needed infrastructure, however, that process will take years.
There’s not enough money being spent by movie goers on the film industry.
The Pakistani film industry is not mature, itself. Artists aren’t appreciated, talent isn’t recognized, payments are delayed, and a lot of technology is outside the scope of what we can afford.
The lack of maturity in the industry is what has driven a lot of young Pakistanis away from working in Lollywood. Yes, in the past few years this has begun to change and we have seen an influx of young people joining the force behind the camera, however, new skillsets and technology are yet to enter this market as there has been no cultivation of such talent and technology within Pakistan. This links to the first point in why we need India to fill the void of very specialized and very niche skill sets.
The lack of money in the industry is also a major concern. Major investment for films is not available in Pakistan, which is why there was such a major lull in the industry a few years back. People were not willing to put their money in an industry that doesn’t give too many returns unless for a few films that have done exceedingly well. Pakistani cinema is just beginning to crawl, it needs the help of other, more experienced industries to help it stand on its own two feet.
Indian movies help to lure people into cinema halls and then maybe also watch Pakistani movies that are running in those same cinemas
The Pakistani drama industry is very well built and established. Our dramas have become an art form and they are widely enjoyed and appreciated. This drama leaning attitude has made Pakistanis less averse to going to go see Pakistani films. This could be because people do not faith in Pakistani movies or it could be because people are not willing to pay the ticket to go see the same actors for the big screen- but whatever the reason may be, there is still some reluctance by the audience to go see local films.
This is where Bollywood and to some extent, Hollywood come in. They pull crowds to cinemas because of the prestige and repute they carry. Because of this outside films, Pakistanis will develop the habit of going to the cinema to watch films, and eventually, their demand for Pakistani films will grow also.
This is where a lot of people would say that Hollywood performs the same function as Bollywood, however, that is not the case. Hollywood is only accessible to a small elite group in this country, a group that has access to English, enough access that allows an individual to follow and enjoy a full feature film in English. Moreover, even if someone knows and understand English, they may still not prefer going to go see a Hollywood film since the method of presenting a story is so alien to us. Our desi storytelling is captured perfectly by Pakistani dramas and Indian movies- so enjoy a certain story trajectory, we like to see color, song, and dance. This boils down to the fact that our collective entertainment preferences are pretty much the same.
Banning Bollywood will also limit the growth of Pakistani cinema, at least for the next few years.
Considering the general unease around investing in Pakistani movies, even if investments come in, they will come in for commercially viable films, not for experimental, indie films that are needed for the growth of the industry. Films like JPNA and ‘Parwaaz Hai Junoon’ will become the norm and standard since they will be the ones that bring in money- eventually, even their appeal will run out and we’ll be back in a lull. Films like ‘Cake’ or ‘Motorcycle Girl’ will become rarer than they already are.
The simple fact of the matter is this: We cannot survive without Bollywood.
Every time a new Pakistani movie comes out, there is always a debate about ‘supporting Pakistani cinema’ despite the type of content some of the movies churn out. If we are to ban Bollywood, then we need to be wise. We need to figure out the art of making a film and making a film that sells- we need to create better stories and also create a movie-watching culture.
Lastly, our artists go to India for a reason, they go there because their craft is appreciated and loved, and that feeling is not something they clearly do not get in Pakistan- we need to find a way to fix that, we need to welcome our talent and learn to let it grow and foster within our country, and also side by side with Bollywood.
Cover image via: Rohit Shetty Picturez / Six Sigma Plus