Getting Rid of Indian Crutches
The ban on Indian broadcast content has come as a blessing in disguise for the Pakistani film, TV and music industries. This is a reaction to the unwelcome treatment of the Indians towards Pakistani film and TV actors and music performers in all genres. Pakistani authorities have hit back and have banned the exhibition of Indian films in Pakistan, prohibited the showing of Indian content on Pakistani TV channels and banned Indian songs from being played on Pakistan’s radio channels. This sort of action and reaction may not be in the best of tastes and is certainly not welcome behaviour among two neighbouring countries whose cultures are almost similar. It is a fact though that Pakistan was forced into doing it because the Indian high-handedness came in the wake of a terrorist attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which India alleged had its roots in Pakistan. The extremist elements in India retaliated against Pakistan’s so-called role by bringing the axe down on Pakistani actors and performers. In such circumstances, Pakistan had no alternate but to come down hard on Indian broadcast and film content.
This may not be a pleasant development in the larger perspective and is certainly a negative addition to the already growing panoply of barbs that are being thrown from both sides. Perhaps it was exigency that had driven Pakistan to avoid the ‘ban’ situation for a long time but there came a time when the growing hostility could be borne no more and Pakistani bodies representing the cinema owners as well as PEMRA and the FM stations had to act and talk to the Indians in the same coin. They had to be told that their belligerency towards Pakistan was getting out of hand and a suitable response had to be given. True, the Pakistani public, the film exhibitors, the TV networks and the music industry now feel the pinch and they would have preferred the situation not to take such an ugly turn but there were not many other options left.
It is true that the Pakistani entertainment industry is a much smaller one as compared to that of India. Even the Pakistani market for entertainers and the cinema industry is small. The losses that Pakistani actors and performers have sustained in their earnings as a result of the ban are big. There were already many Pakistani actors and musicians who were appearing on the Indian cinema screen or the music stage and earning good money. That is why most of these performers, while making the right sounds of protest against India’s bellicosity, have not really come out with definitive patriotic utterings. Such people are hoping that relations with India will soon mend, the ban removed by authorities on both sides and they would be back to their regimen of high earnings. Even cinema exhibitors in Pakistan follow a similar line of thinking. For the present, they are sustaining the big dent rendered to their earnings but they are not able to earn the kind of money at the box office that they used to generate by showing Indian films. It is their continued endeavour behind the scenes that the ban should be lifted as soon as possible. Many of them had built large multiplex cinemas and equipped them with all the luxuries and amenities because their earnings were good and even the viewing public did not mind paying high entrance tickets because the cinemas offered India-oriented films that they could enjoy in luxurious surroundings. Pakistani films did not come up to their tastes – at least most of the time. The TV channels too, especially the ones broadcasting Indian serials, had Pakistani viewers hooked to the content and though much of it was sheer balderdash, the TV channels enjoyed high viewerships and, in turn, high earnings from advertising, because the people wanted more and more of the nonsense.
This is of course not to say that Pakistani TV drama or film content is any better. In fact, it is worse but the hope is that if TV serials and films from India continue to be banned, the local quality may pick up somewhat and the public would get better stuff. This is the only hope that the Pakistani TV and film industries have. But this calls for these industries to improve their acts and instead of shoving low quality down the people’s throats, they need to improve themselves in a big way in all departments. At the same time, actors and performers must come out of their ride of greed and give quality back to their country. If that happens, who knows, Indian crutches may not be required anymore.