Pakistanis turn to cinemas to heal crises hangover
By: Saira Agha
Many of a common man’s success stories begin whilst taking an inspiration from a movie. If not that, watching a movie is sure to drown out a person’s sorrow, lethal predicaments, troublesome lives if only for three hours. I remember watching Chuck Russell’s ‘The Mask’, while going through a very trying period of my life and was truly amazed by the impact. I’m sure it wasn’t just the comedy genre, but the whole ‘getting inside another world’ notion that made me relax my worry lines and just be happy for a brief period. Some call it escape, others entertainment. Whatever it is, we are now experiencing a sharp rise in the number of Pakistanis heading to cinemas now. For the ultimate crises our country most definitely and more often falls prey to; loadshedding, electronic media newsflash, inflation, robberies, target killings and in debts; to name a few, our crises hangover are most likely healed even for a few hours, by the cinema-going experience. Hammad Chaudhry of HKC Entertainment talks to Daily Times exclusively about upcoming films being screened in the country this year, how receptive Pakistani audience are towards different film genres, the Bollywood fetish and his take on the word ‘entertainment’.
Q. Please comment a bit on the current distribution of films HKC is handling. Of which are you the most excited about?
A. Well, in quarter 1, as the award season begins, I am excited to bring ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘12 Years a Slave’ to name a few all of, which are up for the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and most likely Oscars too. It’s the first time a major slate of award nominated films will be releasing in Pakistan. After this, we will be bringing in an animated film ‘Tarzan’ followed by an action adventure ‘Pompeii’. There are a couple of Bollywood titles too and we will be making an announcement of those shortly.
Q. The film ‘Diana’ that was eagerly-anticipated in all fronts bombed at the box office, distributed by your banner HKC Entertainment. What could’ve been the reasons for its failure?
A. I think the critics were quite harsh on the film, which did not see the results as expected in the UK and some other parts of the world. In Pakistan, the film was a profitable venture so I am not complaining, though I felt the business should have been higher as it had a Pakistani story element attached to it.
Q. What’s entertainment for you?
A. I guess entertainment has a different meaning for each target audience. Where a labour class might want to go and enjoy the “Munni badnaam hui” song at the end of his working shift, a university student might find ‘Gravity’ more intriguing and a certain segment might find cinema like ‘American Hustle’, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ and ‘Prisoners’ more appealing. To each their own. As far as my personal choice is concerned and because of the nature of my business, I tend to catch up on all sorts of films to keep up-to-date. For example, during the awards season, I try not to miss any of the award nominated films, no matter the genre. My intrigue in watching a movie is my entertainment.
Q. What’s this New Year has in store for all the movie buffs?
A. In Pakistan, the audience is growing with each passing day and Hollywood business is growing as well. There is an immense level of interest amongst our youth to get in the filmmaking line, which is exciting. I guess more Pakistani films will go into the making in 2014, with possible releases in 2015. This year, box office in Pakistan will be bigger than 2013, with lots of exciting films coming up and addition of newer cinemas. You will see the trend of more Hollywood films releasing in Pakistan. Bollywood business will do well, as expected.
Q. How different do you think the Pakistani cinema audience are as compared to the rest of the world?
A. Well, as far as Bollywood is concerned, since the language is understood by our audiences in Pakistan, they tend to do well on a broader scale. As far as our Hollywood cine-going audience in Pakistan is concerned, there is a tremendous level of growth in diversity of genres that is now beginning to work at the box office. At one point, only the action movies used to work, but the success of ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Now You See Me’ reaffirmed my belief that our audience’s tastes have matured.