Senators say Rs50m can’t resuscitate film industry
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Culture on Thursday described funds announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to revive the dying film industry as peanuts.
“Rs50 million will only fetch peanuts and not the high-tech gear required to revive cinema,” the committee chairperson Nilofar Bakhtiar said responding to an announcement made by Prime Minister Gilani during the recent PTV awards ceremony.
Confusion was in the air whether the Rs50 million would go to the Ministry of Culture or the PTV directly.
In their past meetings, the Senate committee and the Ministry of Culture had requested funds for colour labs, high-tech cameras and other gadgets needed to provide the necessary boost.
The meeting started as normal but soon saw heated discussions, especially when Ms Bakhtiar took strong exception to the absence of Federal Board of Revenue’s chairman, its secretary and senior officials of the finance ministry.
“They better start taking this committee seriously. Their absence is an insult,” Ms Bakhtiar said.
Deliberation on welfare of people associated with the industry, trainings and collaboration with India for promotion, and other concerns followed.
Nadeem H. Mandviwalla associated with the cinema apprised the committee of the rapid and massive conversion from roll films to digital technology.“The 35mm cameras are going to be the things of the past in few months. India is going digital faster than Pakistan can imagine. Besides the exhibition side productions are equally and massively being improved through digital technology in countries that take cinema seriously. Pakistan needs digital technology to rebuild and refurbish cinema,” he said.On the issue of tax exemptions to help the film industry grow, the committee registered its complaints with representatives from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
“FBR has failed to respond to requests from this committee let alone comply with recommendations made by the parliamentarians and the Ministry of Culture,” said the chairperson.
In his remarks, Minister for Culture Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani said his ministry had obtained list of items from the stakeholders and forwarded it to the FBR chairman.
“FBR was requested for immediate consideration to provide relief to the film makers back in March 2010. No exemptions have been announced,” Mr Jilani said.
Responding to the charge, a representative from FBR conceded: Â“Under the FBR Act, we do not acknowledge the film industry as an industry.”
The remark did not go down well with the committee which clarified how the government had declared the film sector an industry back in 1992 and reiterated its status again in 2008.
Incentives for film makers: Representatives urged the chairperson for the much needed incentives to producers/private film makers to take the risks of making good films.
Saarc Film Awards: While the culture minister conceded that holding such festivals would not be useful at this stage when Pakistan was hardly making any good films and that such an event would be dominated by the Indian film industry, Senator Bakhtiar was optimistic and gave Mr Jilani the green light.
Baitul Mal: The committee also directed Minister Jilani to approach Baitul Mal for financial assistance for the neglected and needy staff of film industry that had been going without salaries for months and even years.
Scholarships: Representatives from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) informed the committee that out of the 19 colleges/universities offering degrees in mass communication, seven offered short courses and diplomas in film.
“We have scholarship programmes for Master’s and PhD but no interested applicants so far,” said the HEC representative.