PESHAWAR: Covid-19 has taken many human lives and hundreds have recovered from the infection too but film critics and cinema owners say that complete shutdown of cinema has proved last nail in the coffin of dying Pashto films as well as cinema and music industry in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.

“Covid-19 has not affected cinema and film-making business. Pashto films are finished. The Pashto film industry may never recover,” said Pashto film actor Shahid Khan whose family also owns a cinema and is in Pashto film-making business.

Not a single Pashto film was released on this Eid due to Covid-19. Normally around four or five new Pashto films and about the same number of old Pashto films would be screened on both the Eids every year. This was the time when cinemas would do business but not this year.

Shahid Khan said that cinemas had been closed for the last four months .The technicians and other supporting staff of cinemas was jobless and would be forced to beg on streets. Peshawar’s cinemas mostly screening Pashto films were hit hard by bombings and terrorism and Covid-19 may prove the last blow. Most of the cinema owners also produced Pashto films to keep their cinema business running.

Actor Shahid Khan fears Pashto film industry may never recover from crisis

“Even the shops close to the cinemas were closed. A cinema is life of the city, you know,” said Shahid Khan. He added that since cinema remained open till late, it provided other shops and food outlets to an opportunity to do business till late. Covid-19 forced closure of everything.

Closure of cinemas would leave scores of people jobless and cinema owners would be pushed to turn their cinemas into shopping malls. Pashto film would be history and it looks like there would be no revival from the point to which the Covid-19 has pushed the cinema, film-making and music business.

That is how Shahid Khan described the grim situation of cinemas as only seven were functional in Peshawar and older ones fell one by one to commercial interests. Falak Sair and Capital cinema were among the victims.

“Cinema is life of a city. Every big shopping mall has a cinema. The government could incorporate small cinema projects in construction or plazas around city’s main BRT project. Small modern cinemas would provide people both jobs and entertainment,” said Shahid Khan.

He complained that no one cared for the people, who were connected with Pashto films or cinemas screening the films. It should not mean that a common man should be deprived of entertainment as everyone deserved better and modern facilities, he added.

“This year cinemas were closed on Eid and no Pashto film was released,” said an arts and film critic Ihtesham Turo. He said that Pashto film and music industry was already on decline but films were released yearly on the occasion of Eid. This year Covid-19 deprived the cinema and film makers of this opportunity too.

Mr Toru said cinema owners were forced to utilise their property and some started using their cinemas as car parking facility.

A Pashto film script writer Sajjad Ali said that he was in Lahore for two days working on script of a Pashto film when Covid-19 struck and forced closure of the film production house. He said that he did not find any work for the last few months.

“I had to put down pen and take up work as a labourer. My hands still have blisters. Pashto film industry was small but still it provided work to cores of people and an opportunity to entertain others. All is gone now due to Covid-19,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020

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