The screening of Bollywood films has resumed in Pakistan after three months in a low-key manner with cinema owners still fearing an adverse reaction from extremists amid recent tensions between India and Pakistan.
A visit to some single screen cinemas and multiplexes a day after the screening resumed on Monday showed small crowds and low-visibility publicity posters.
The manager of Capri cinema in Karachi admitted this is being done intentionally.
“The relations between the two countries are not good so we are just keeping it low-key and not creating too much hype. It will take some time for things to get normal,” Saleem said.
“The response to the screening of Indian films once again has been a mixed one going by social media and other media outlets. While some are objecting in a spirit of patriotism there are others who support our decision,” said well-known film distributor Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Atrium cinemas.
“I can understand why my colleagues are still apprehensive about any strong reactions because I have been through it myself. Indo-Pak relations can stir very extreme reactions in both countries, more so in India,” he said.
Mandviwalla also owns the historic Nishat cinema in the heart of Karachi which was burnt down in 2012 amid violent protests against a purportedly anti-Islamic short film called “Innocence of Muslims” aired on YouTube.
The Nishat cinema which was an iconic symbol at one time for Karachi’s thriving cultural and arts scene still remains a charred building with Mandviwalla refusing to rebuild it.
‘Freaky Ali’, a 2016 romantic comedy which has a cast of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Arbaaz Khan and Amy Jackson is the first Indian film to be screened after Pakistani film exhibitors, distributors and cinema owners had in a collective show of patriotism voluntarily suspended the screening of Indian films last September after a ban on Pakistani artistes in India by the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association.
“Films that had already been imported will be screened as a token for now while we are negotiating for the release of new Bollywood releases,” Mandviwalla said.
He said the decision to screen Indian films again was taken because the government had not pushed for any ban last September and there was no public agitation over the screening of the films at a time when there was a serious threat to Indian filmmakers in India over casting Pakistani actors.
“Yes it is a commercially motivated decision partially but also because our cinema industry needs to get back on its feet and we need to show the world we are more open-hearted in Pakistan,” he said.