Pakistan revises restriction on Bollywood releases after Eid

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The decision was taken to promote the local film industry which restricted cinemas in Pakistan from screening Indian movies two days before and two weeks after Eid.

The Pakistan government has revised its two-week restriction on Bollywood releases in the country on the occasions of Eid, reducing it to one week. This may avert a likely clash between Salman Khan’s high-octane Race 3 and Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju — both big-ticket movies — at the Pakistan box office, which will already be busy with four local films releasing on the festive weekend.

The initial decision, taken as a means to promote the local film industry, restricted cinemas in Pakistan from screening Indian movies two days before and two weeks after the Eid days. Eid ul Fitr falls on June 15 or June 16 this year. “Keeping in view the importance of local film industry and exhibition facilities, the government has decided that screening of Indian movies shall be restricted for a period of one week in total, starting from Eid day on both Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Azha,” Danyal Gilani, Chairman, Central Board of Film Censors, said in a communication on behalf of the Ministry of Information Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage.

A copy of the notice, addressed to Pakistan Film Exhibitors’ Association, is with IANS. “All the importers/distributors of foreign films are requested to restrain from exhibition/screening for Indian films in cinema houses all over the country during the period,” Gilani added, urging the Punjab Board of Film Censors, Lahore, and Sindh Board of Film Censors, Karachi, to ensure the decision is implemented.

After the announcement of the two-week restriction on Bollywood releases, there was a strong buzz that Race 3 and Sanju will clash on June 29. However, now there may be chances that “Race 3” comes out a week earlier if the distributors apply for permission in time. The combination of a Salman Khan movie releasing on Eid in Pakistan had worked well with Bajrangi Bhaijaan — which propagated a positive message of peace, unity and brotherhood — back in 2015.

According to Indian film trade expert Girish Johar, it’s “great news” for Salman fans in Pakistan that the restriction has been revised to one week. “I am sure distributors in Pakistan would want the film to come on screens as early as possible after its India release,” said Johar.

Race 3, which takes the popular action franchise “Race” forward with an ensemble of actors, is releasing in India on June 15. Ranbir’s Sanju, a Rajkumar Hirani-directed biopic on the ups and downs in Sanjay Dutt’s life, is set to hit screens on June 29. There’s likely to be large viewership for both films in Pakistan. “Ranbir is a top star, and Salman is undoubtedly a mighty star… I am sure fans across the border are waiting as eagerly as Indian fans for both the films,” Johar added.

However, delayed release can impact the business of films, says Sulaiman S. Lalani, Executive Director of Pakistan’s Geo TV Network.

“Delayed release, irrespective of the reason or regulation, undermines full potential of a film and compromises feasibility for distributor and producer. There’s an extreme need that Pakistani exhibition space grows manifold, potential of which exists. Pakistan can easily absorb 500-1000 cinema screens, while current numbers stand around 150,” Lalani told IANS via social media.

Pakistan theatres are likely to remain busy with at least four home-grown films on the Eid weekend — Mahira Khan’s 7 Din Mohabbat In, Jawed Sheikh’s Wajood (which features Indian actress Aditi Singh), action thriller war film Azaadi and romantic comedy Na Band Na Baraati.

It’s a celebratory moment for the local industry considering the government’s concerted efforts towards building Pakistan’s Film and Broadcasting Policy 2018, unveiled by State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb in Islamabad on Wednesday.