Sometimes the number of films screened — big or small — doesn’t matter a great deal.
Sometimes the number of films screened — big or small — doesn’t matter a great deal.

Two local and three Hollywood films will entertain cine-goers this Eidul Fitr.

Sometimes the number of films screening — big or small — doesn’t matter a great deal; but it usually happens when a big banner movie or a film with a stellar cast (such as any of the Marvel ventures or projects with the Bollywood Khans in them) is being released on Eid. This time around, that’s not the case.

The two local films are Chhalawa, directed by Wajahat Rauf, and Yasir Nawaz’s Wrong No 2. The comedy quotient in both stories is on the higher side, and that seems to be the trend that Pakistani film-makers have largely been following since the much-hyped revival of cinema has taken place.

Some of the most commercially successful films in recent times — Jawani Phir Nahi Aani, Punjab Nahi Jaongi, Namaloom Afraad etc — are testimony to it. That’s not it, though. This year the most talked-about Pakistani cinema offering, thus far, has been Laal Kabootar directed by Kamal Khan, and it isn’t a comedy.

Mehwish Hayat (who has become a go-to heroine for our directors), Azfar Rehman, Adnan Shah and Mahmood Aslam make up the principal cast of Chhalawa, while Sami Khan, Neelam Munir, Nayyar Ejaz, Javed Sheikh and Danish Nawaz star in Wrong No 2.

The three Hollywood projects (released earlier worldwide) that will try and get some footfall in cinema halls are Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Aladdin and The Secret Life of Pets 2. The first two — helmed by Michael Dougherty and Guy Ritchie, respectively — are fantasy stories (Godzilla is also categorised as sci-fi). The third, directed by Chris Renaud, is an animated adventure comedy.

One can understand by looking at the line-up of Eid specials that there isn’t a wide variety available for cinephiles to entertain themselves with. Could it be that the ban on Indian films is affecting footfall? Asad, who works at the box office (ticket counter) at a local multiplex, agrees. “The difference when Bollywood movies were shown and now is of about 70 and 30 per cent. These days the number of viewers increases on occasions such as Eid.”

Film distributor and exhibitor Nadeem Mandviwalla feels the same. “No-showing of Indian films always affects business, and it will remain that way. The reason is that a majority of the audience watches either Pakistani or Indian movies. Those who are into English films are in a minority. Even in the past, it was the Urdu and Punjabi films that used to be watched. The English ones would be run in cinemas such as Prince and Capri.”

As far as the Pakistani films are concerned, Mandviwalla is optimistic about them. “Two films are being released on Eid. Even if one of them does well, it will be good for the industry.”

Originally published in Dawn, June 5th, 2019