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    Friday, 15 June 2012

    Budget 2012-13: A bleak picture for Lollywood

    Following the announcement of the Federal and Punjab budgets, thick clouds of confusion have set in amongst leading members of the film industry. A lack of priority and importance are seen as the main hurdles in revamping and improving the industry in the long-term.

    “The budget does not resonate with the wishes and demands of the general population,” says legendary actor Mustafa Qureshi. “Not enough importance has been given to the film industry, which has been an integral part of Lahore’s culture for over 100 years.”

    Qureshi, like many other industry insiders, has routinely interacted with the government in the hope of jump-starting the staggering industry. He says that one of the biggest issues is that there is no clarification as to whether the film industry budget is the federal government or Punjab government’s responsibility.

    While discussing the state of the industry, Qureshi is of the opinion that in order to survive, the industry currently needs 10 good films a year. For that, the government’s support is essential. “The message should not be that if the industry is struggling, it should die. One shouldn’t forget that this industry has helped the government by generating impressive revenues in the past. Hence, its success is beneficial for both parties.”

    In the background
    Meanwhile, PML-N insiders explained that around Rs5 billion had been divided amongst three departments Tourism, Human Rights, Ministry of Information, with no exact budget allocated the film industry.

    PML-N’s Farah Deeba, who is also the president of the Punjab Cultural Wing of the party, said that the government had not yet held a meeting to discuss what steps should be taken to move ahead . According to Deeba, the government’s reluctance to extend all out support to film-makers arises from the issue that most directors foray into vulgarity and obscenity. That said, Deeba affirms that the goal will always be to provide good and positive entertainment for the public. She also added that the censor board will be honest and cater to progressive film-making.

    Not falling in the trap
    Senior film-makers and veterans,however, are not buying it. Actor Ghulam Mohiuddin, who rarely goes to his once regular hang-out spot in Evernew Studio in the fear that he will run into many old technicians and cameramen who are now unemployed, says the decision to allocate funds to government-owned institutions like Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), had only catered to a small elite crowd. He is of the opinion that entertainment which caters to the general public is not addressed in the budget.

    Apart from that, Mohiuddin points out the bureaucratic nature of the Censor Board, calling for an immediate change in film censoring practices. “It is unfortunate that the producer or director spends so much money on making a film but he’s not allowed to sit with the censor board and explain the significance of certain scenes in a film.”

    What can be done?
    Meanwhile, film director and producer Javed Raza is one of many people from the industry who have concrete proposals which would help make producing the films affordable. The crux of the issue, he says, is that there are no cinemas to adequately sustain the cost of making a film. “The thing I have been pitching for is: in every major city, the government, in a revenue sharing partnership with the industry, should open one cinema with five screens. I guarantee that both sides will be happy in terms of finances,” says Raza who believes that if this plan is implemented the government could recover the cost putting up the cinemas within two years.

    Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.

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