‘Saving a cinema house is like saving film industry’
KARACHI: “A film runs in cinemas. It is their retail shop through which they get their product to the people. It generates revenue for the film. If you don’t have cinemas, then you don’t have a working film industry,” stressed Nadeem Mandviwalla, the owner and managing director of Mandviwalla Entertainment — that also owns several prominent cinema houses across the country.
Mr Mandviwalla was giving a talk on ‘Film censorship, distribution and exhibition” on the second day of the International Conference on Film and Television currently being held at the South Asian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Television.
At the beginning of the session, a small video clip of film director Syed Noor was shown to the audiences in which he was alleging that film distributors and exhibitors who were bringing in Indian films were simply doing it for profit-making purposes and working against the development of the Pakistani cinema industry.
Responding to that allegation, Mr Mandviwalla said that not a single Indian film had been imported into the country for 40 years and yet the state of the Pakistani cinema industry kept deteriorating. “Indian films were allowed to save our cinema industry,” he said. “When 250 cinemas closed down between 2005 and 2007 that is when the government decided that in order to save cinemas they needed to do this.”
He added that a ‘formula’ was created through which each individual film has to be approved by the relevant authority before it can be imported. “Every film is imported on a case-to-case basis,” he stressed.
“Syed Noor is saying cinema owners have been reaping money all their lives. He should’ve made a cinema from the revenue he generated from his films then!” he retorted humorously.
Talking about the large gap in terms of quality of production, storytelling etc. that exists between Pakistani films when compared to foreign films as the real reason behind the downfall of the local cinema industry, he said that two major Pakistani films were released on screens in Nishat and Atrium cinemas last year. In one of them, only eight people attended the first show.
And, according to him, they left halfway in between the film.
“Whoever comes to see a film doesn’t think in terms of India, Pakistan, American, patriotism etc,” he said, “They think in terms of whether the film is good or bad. They don’t care about anything else.”
Adopting protectionist policies isolates the Pakistani cinema industry from the world. This approach that has not worked in the past and it prevents local industry members from creating a film on a globally acceptable standard. “You can’t isolate yourself from the world,” he said. “You can try. If you promote yourself then you have to do the work for it. When Bol was coming on cinemas, Shoaib Mansoor didn’t demand that we take Indian films off. He worked. And his films, as a result, worked.”
Mr Mandviwalla mentioned that a strong revenue-generating model was essential for the growth of the cinema industry because producing better quality films require bigger budgets. Hence the more cinemas you create, the more avenues there are for films to be shown, the more money can be generated out of the industry.
“If your whole country is watching stolen material, how are you going to make money off your film,” he asked, while talking about the adverse effect rampant piracy has on the cinema industry.
Relating an incident in which he unsuccessfully tried to get members of the cinema industry involved in an anti-piracy campaign, he said, “Your local industry is of the opinion that piracy is not their problem. They consider that it is the problem of the Indian cinema industry because, well, Pakistani films aren’t getting pirated!”
Talking about the difficulties faced by cinema owners in Pakistan, he mentioned that Nishat was the only cinema that was insured when angry mobs in Pakistan set fire to cinema houses in September last year. “Even then the insurance company refused to pay saying that the insurance policy didn’t cover damage on these grounds!” he said.
Mr Mandviwalla is of the opinion that the Pakistani cinema industry is already on its way to a revival. “Before we were making films in isolation,” he said, adding that, “That standard was acceptable only in Pakistan, not anywhere else. Now the films we make will be acceptable around the world.”
“Stop complaining,” he advised, “stop complaining. Stop blaming Indian content. When I came in 1980 there was nobody and everything was in decline. Bit by bit, the industry kept dying. In 2006, we overturned it. Before, you never had a chance. Now you do. It is up to you to prove you can create something.”