Islamabad, Jan 3 (IANS) Sixteen Hindi films were screened in Pakistan last year after a nearly four-decade ban on Indian movies was lifted. But strained ties between the neighbours following the Mumbai terror attack coupled with dipping fortunes of the Pakistani film industry may signal the end of this shortlived 'golden phase'.
Pakistan Censor Board chairperson Malik Shahnawaz Noon said the board was planning to again ban Indian movies as it was "destroying the local film industry".
"I personally believe Indian films should not be screened in Pakistan and we are working to put a ban on Bollywood movies," Noon told IANS.
Others agreed with him.
Said Syed Noor, a leading Pakistani writer-director-producer: "Some people with vested interests don't want our industry to flourish.
"We are establishing a small film industry with the help of some old and new actors and our focus will be to produce films which would attract people."
He disclosed that the government was meeting members of the film fraternity to find ways to revive local cinema.
Muhammad Sajid, a movie buff, echoed him: "These (Indian films) are harming our culture and the government should impose a ban on them."
Screening of Indian movies was banned in Pakistan after the 1965 war, but certain films were allowed by different governments like the classic "Mughal-E-Azam".
Last year, Pervez Musharraf's government lifted the ban, but the exchange of cinema too seems to have fallen victim to the increasingly strained relations between the two countries in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, which India blames on Pakistan.
While some were advocating a renewed ban on Hindi films, which are hugely popular in the country and seen on pirated DVDs, trade experts said the move to release Indian films commercially had revived the cinema culture in the country with theatre owners in most major cities earning a huge profit.
Last year, financially stricken theatre owners had threatened strikes if the ban on Indian movies was not lifted because local productions only saw empty houses.
Hindi movies did brisk business in Pakistan with cinema hall owners vying to get their screening rights. In 2008, a total of 54 films were released here. Of them 30 were local movies in various languages, 16 were Indian and eight were English movies.
Audiences were thrilled.
"Taare Zameen Par" was the first release after the ban was lifted. Following Aamir Khan's directorial debut were "Singh is Kinng", "Kismat Konnection", "Welcome", "The Killer", "Bhagam Bhag", "Race", "Golmaal Returns", "Jannat", "Bhootnath", "Karzzz", "Hello", "Love Story 2050", "Dostana", "Yuvvraaj" and "Kidnap".
Khalid, an avid cine-watcher, said Indian movies had revived the cinema culture and provided excellent entertainment.
Karachi remained the hot spot for Indian films and a large number of people thronged theatres to watch their favourite Indian stars.
Unlike government officials, theatre owners say the recent tension between the neighbours over the 26/11 attacks has not affected Pakistani movie buffs.
"Why should we stop Indian movies when people like them the most. Local films are far behind Bollywood movies and there should be no restrictions on Indian films," said Safdar Khan, a cinema owner.
An official of a cineplex near Rawalpindi said: "We are having the same rush... and I believe nothing has changed after the Mumbai attacks."
The craze for Hindi films has several smaller cinema halls operating illegally.
"I guess the number of such (illegal) cinema halls in Islamabad is seven. But there are about 30 such halls in Lahore and Karachi," said a private cinema hall owner in Islamabad.
He said that about 500 people watch movies at his cinema hall every month. In 2008, he screened about 40 Indian movies, including the classic "Pakeezah".