Many celebrities aren't pleased with the release of Doctor Strange 2 alongside launch of five Pakistani films
Celebrities, particularly from the film industry, took a stand against the release of foreign films such as Doctor Strange 2 during the initial release period of local films. They said if they stayed silent, "our own will keep bulldozing over us till there are no local films left."
This Eid, five Pakistani films were scheduled for a release and they were promoted for months before the launch. The release date of Marvel's Doctor Strange 2 coincided with the local films' early days in theatres, which filmmakers believe led to a drop in ticket sales. There was a lot of backlash from the directors, who demanded change in order for local films to prosper. The released movies included Dum Mastam, Parde Mein Rehnay Do, Ghabrana Nahi Hai. and Chakkar.
Actors and directors united to put their stance on the matter forward, claiming that foreign films are going to lead to the death of Pakistani cinema. On Saturday, a group of producers and directors held a press conference at the Arts Council of Pakistan in Karachi and asked the authorities to give them some relief.
Badar Ikram representing the Hum TV Network said they had earlier requested the authorities to give the Pakistani films three days (Friday — when the English film was to be screened — Saturday and Sunday) after Eid. “We were given assurance by the ministry through different quarters that we would get that. We must clarify here that we’re not against foreign films nor do we want to ban any film. We want cinemas to earn money. If they earn, the film business will increase, and Pakistani films will benefit from it. Our plea is that we have given five films which have been very well received. After a long time Pakistani films have performed well. Until 3pm yesterday [Friday] we were going great. Immediately after 3pm, 50 per cent of the shows were dropped. We don’t know what’s going to happen today.”
Actor Adnan Siddiqui, who produced Dum Mastam, said it is his first venture as producer. “Through our life savings (umr bhar ki kamai) we put the film on the silver screen only because it’s our passion. I’m not saying that I should get profit out of it. If I get in return what I’ve invested, it’ll be a big thing for me. But it doesn’t seem like it. That foreign film had already raked in big money through advanced booking, so even if it was released a little later, it’d have attracted the same crowds. We had only asked a week for that film to delay… How can our cinema become big? Only if you support us.”
Yasir Nawaz, the director of Chakkar, said he’d begun shooting for the film a few days before Covid hit the country. Nobody knew how long the pandemic would last. “We said let’s bear this three to four-day loss and not make the film. But then we thought that if we don’t make films, how the industry will move forward. We do a great deal of work to promote films so that people walk into cinema houses. So we should support each other. Someone informed me that he had bought the ticket for our film but when he went to the cinema he was told that either he get a refund or watch the foreign film,” he said.
Celebrities lend their support
Dum Mastam actor Amar Khan posted a long video discussing how the filmmakers had been wronged. "How strange, Dr Strange! These are my thoughts straight from the heart on what has happened to not just #DumMastam but the five films from Pakistan released this Eid," she captioned her post. "Pakistan wants its audience more than ever before. Also the industry [needs] not to be quiet anymore and be[come] one unit,"
"The [solution to the] problem is not you banning foreign films or stopping the public from watching what they demand but it's about equality and on an occasion like Eid, I think it is the Pakistani films that need to be prioritised." The actor asked her followers for support because thousands of people are working hard to revive the film industry. "If we don't keep making attempts, we won't evolve. Dr Strange, strangely, does not need you."
Director of Parde Mein Rehnay Do Wajahat Rauf posted a news snippet that discussed the negative impacts of foreign films and tagged the authorities, asking them to intervene to ensure fairness and the survival of the Pakistani film industry.
"The Motion Picture Ordinance of Pakistan says you cant exhibit more than 15% foreign content on occasions like Eid. Here we have five Pakistani films with sold out shows in prime time shows (some sold out even at 3am) and they are either taken down or given 70 per cent less shows, most of which are at odd timings. We appeal to PM Shahbaz Sharif, ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) and Maryam Aurangzeb to interfere, to regulate.. and be fair. All movies local or foreign, should get an equal opportunity or this will [be] the death of the industry...once again," he wrote.
Rauf also shared his film's lead actor Ali Rehman Khan's message on his Instagram account, grateful for people speaking up to avoid getting their voices and work squashed. "Thank you Ali Rehman Khan for standing up for your film and for the Pakistani film industry. Chup rahay to [If we stay silent] our own will keep bulldozing over us till there are no local films left."
Actor Zhalay Sarhadi also called for all units of the industry to come together saying "If we keep taking the sahara [support] of foreign films and not give our own a fleeting chance, let's dig our graves abhi say [from now]." She reminded them that it is not time for shade or critique because this affects everyone, not just the films that are currently battling for space in the cinema.
Actor Yasir Hussain lauded filmmakers for continuing their work in such circumstances. He tagged some of them on his story.
Actor and director Siddiqui said that the release of Doctor Strange 2 could have waited for a few days. "The last thing we need when the industry is finally opening up after two years is some foreign film hijacking our screens and relegating us in a corner. Home grown cinema has more right any day," he tweeted.
Actor Hareem Farooq repetitively asked why local films that were finally bringing some life into the industry were pitted against a foreign film. "Putting up a foreign film when there are five good Pak[istani] films going houseful, WHY?! Pak[istani] cinema revives after decades, gets damaged by [the] pandemic and then just as it's about to restart, a foreign film is released. WHY?! Lets find a good reason why it couldn’t be delayed by a few days, WHY?!"
Actor Ahmed Ali Butt called Dr Strange 2 "the most hated doctor in Lollywood at the moment" and rated the film a passing five, saying it was average compared to others from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There is, of course, another side to this argument — that of the viewers'. People believe they should be able to watch what they want and that the audiences for Dr Strange 2 and these five Pakistani films are different. The release of Dr Strange would not have affected the sales of these movies because they were not targeting the same audience. However, the argument can be made that these films were given fewer show times to make way for Dr Strange, therefore cutting into their revenue. Do you think it was fair for a foreign film to be released in cinemas on the day of its global launch with five Pakistani films battling for the top spot?