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    Sunday, 5 February 2012

    Patching things up - Tribune Article


    What was once considered the hub of all film-related activity, regularly visited by film folks and biggies of the industry, the Pakistan Film Producers Association’s (PFPA) office is now nothing more than a deserted, dusty, termite-ridden room. Unfortunately, the PFPA which used to be the most influential association made by the Pakistani film fraternity, has been inactive ever since it was disbanded in 2006 due to internal disagreement. With the Pakistan film industry in tatters, the country’s film producers have now decided to bury the hatchet and revive the association.
    Inside Lahore’s film district Royal Par, a pensive-looking Chaudhry Kamran sits with a legal file containing details of the screenings of Indian films in Pakistan. Kamran, the producer of the Lollywood-hit film Bhai Log, has been one of the central figures contributing to the revival of the producers association. According to him, the association played a major role in helping the industry thrive in the 1960s and 1970s. “The Producers Association is the mother of all associations in the film industry,” says Kamran. “It played a vital role in getting rid of personal differences in the industry and also in giving the industry a proper structure in terms of its functions.”
    Main functions
    The organisation, which functioned as a backbone and platform for the entire film industry, facilitating the needs of other branches, maintaining discipline, had split up primarily due to disparity over the screening of Indian films in the Pakistani market. Kamran informs that the PFPA functions included selection of film titles, self-regulation on vulgar content and organisation of film releases. Additionally, a member from the association was, at the time, authorised to sit on both the censor board and the chamber of commerce which allowed for funding. These functions proved invaluable in making the industry function efficiently, adds Kamran.
    Therefore, keeping in mind the past usefulness of the association, producers have decided to restart the process. The plan is to first appoint a board and a chairman, who will run the association, and this will be followed by elections for the association, which will be held after the first year. According to industry insiders, it is widely speculated that Ghafoor Butt, another integral member of the team striving to revive the board, will head the association. When contacted, Butt refused to divulge details and said his lips are sealed till the official public launch, which is expected sometime next week at a press conference.
    What can be done?
    There is also a divide regarding what has led to the decline of the film industry.
    Some producers like Kamran contend that Indian films have led to its decline and a ban of all films from India is imperative to resuscitate faith in producers.
    Meanwhile, Mustafa Qureshi, popularly known for playing the iconic role of ‘Noori Natt’ in Maula Jatt, feels that more fundamental issues such investor confidence in the industry must be restored. He also advocates the formulation of a set of standards which are in line with international markets. “The issue is that India is willing to screen our films and their market is far bigger than Pakistan’s,” says Qureshi. “The association will provide a platform through which producers can interact in a united fashion with government. However, for it to be effective, producers should also change their current mindset, they should embrace the challenge of participating in the global market.”
    Nadeem Mandviwala, owner of Atrium Cinemas, explains that the organisation’s biggest concern should be disciplining the industry, essentially by releasing films on time and being more regular with film releases. “If there is a collective body through which all producers can address issues, it will certainly be a positive move,” adds Mandviwala.
    Hence, all things said and done, it’s imperative to ask whether producers will actually start producing films more regularly once the association is fully functional, and Kamran seems optimistic. “We will advocate for the ban of Indian films will serve to protect producers’ interest; the association will not only restore the faith of investors, it will also provide some discipline in the industry.”

    Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012. 

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