KARACHI: A leading figure of the Pakistani cinema industry has said that local cinema owners had no intention of stopping screening of Indian films but were compelled to do so because of the decision of Indian producers to ban Pakistani artists from working in Bollywood films.

Talking to Amber Shamsi on DawnNews’ talk show News Wise, Mandviwala Entertainment Chief Executive Nadeem Mandviwala said: “There were a lot of voices there [in India] seeking a ban on such cultural exchanges. We were left with no option but to reciprocate after an association of Indian producers endorsed a ban [on Pakistani artists from working in Indian films]… As a trade counterpart, we had to respond.”

Amid rising tension between Pak­is­tan and India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Associa­tion (IMPPA) passed a resolution at a meeting last Thursday saying that they would not hire any Pakistani artists till the “situation is OK between the Pakistani and Indian governments”.

This was followed by a decision by Pakistani cinema owners to stop screening Indian films.

Earlier, Raj Thackeray, chief of India’s hardline regional party Shiv Sena, had called for banning Pakis­tani artists from working in Indian films, saying, “With a population of 1.5 billion, we don’t need them”.

However, the IMPPA move was condemned by Bollywood stalwarts like Salman Khan and Mahesh Bhatt.

Indian movies returned to Pakis­tan cinemas in 2008 after a 43-year-long ban imposed during the 1965 war.

Asked whether it would have an adverse effect on the cinema businesses, Mr Mandviwala said: “Both [Pakistan and India] will be at loss. For over 40 years, we had banned their films. But then both countries opened doors and our actors started working there. We wanted this interaction to continue as we had worked a lot to ensure it.”

The owner of the Atrium cinemas and Centaurus Cineplex said that Bollywood films took a backseat when Pakistan movies were released. Giving an example, he said that Baar Baar Dekho was released three days before Eidul Azha, but “we reduced its shows to accommodate Pakistan films”.

He said that a majority of the films screened in Pakistani cinemas came from India and the United States as Lollywood had started to revive “just five years ago”.

The IPMAA has exempted from the ban the projects already completed or under-development and, as a result, Fawad Khan’s Aai Dil Hai Mushkil may hit the cinemas on both sides of the border. But the Pakistani cinema owners are yet to discuss such a move. “Our association plans to meet in a few days to decide about any relief for Bollywood films.”

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2016

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