By Rizwana Shaikh
Pakistani film and showbiz circles have pleasingly welcomed the new Government’s decision to receive tax from foreign produced content including Dramas and Films. Federal finance minister Mr. Ishaq Daar announced in budget 2013 that one million rupees tax will be taken for foreign films and 100,000 rupees for foreign drama per episode. Film circles are of the view that this money will be spent on the development and betterment of Lollywood.
Apparently, it’s very good news as far the film industry’s future is concerned, but deep inside matters are not so easy to be implemented in a country like ours where monetary and moral corruption is on a rise and a culture of tax evasion is widely prevalent instead of paying it honestly. Also, is the amount of one million and 100,000 sufficient as compared to the business they are doings, it’s a big question.
If an Indian or English film earns 10 million, then 1 million (10%) is a good one but the drama episodes are repeated four to five times, earning 20 to 25 lacs so the amount of only 100,000 rupees (5% and 4% respectively)will not be enough. Any hit or popular film or drama can make more money than this rough estimate. It seems that GST and other taxes on common man are more than this.
Cultural invasion on our film and TV has been there in different forms. In 80s, the then “honorable” president Ghulam Ishaq Khan legalized the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder) and rental films on video cassettes. In result of it, video shops opened frequently from street to street.
During the second term of Benazir Bhutto, dish antenna was introduced in Pakistan for the first ever time that made the Indian channels and film available at home. After a few years, cable network came and all the channels gradually shifted on it.
At first, dish and cable network had to face resistance from society for being obscene and immoral, and harmful for our family life. But that resistance couldn’t be regularized more powerfully because some segments were in favor, also, of that cultural invasion. Those disgraceful circles were interested in Indian actresses and their low-level 12-masala entertainment more than our own social and moral values.
In mid 2000s, Indian soap dramas were on so rise in Pakistan that our own drama started losing its popularity and strength. But it was a temporary phase as in late 2000s, Indian dramas faded out and Pakistani drama regained its lost position.
After 2005 earth quake in Azad Kashmir, Indian distributors and exhibitors offered to the then military president Parvaiz Musharraf to help financially the earth quake effectees against the exhibition of Indian film Mughal-e-Azam in Pakistan. Mr. Musharraf accepted the offer happily and permitted its display in the country. This was the starting point of exhibition of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas without any hindrance. Now the scene is that all the small and big cinemas prefer Indian films on our own productions.
The latest wave of this incursion is Turkish drama. Starting from “Ishq-e-Mamnoo” it’s now reached to “Maira Sultan”. Surprisingly, Ishq-e-Mamnoo was badly criticized in its own country. Even then the “very respectable and credible” channel Urdu 1 didn’t hesitate to on air it. This accursed TV channel showed the way to others like Geo to import more Turkish dramas just to make handsome money on a very little cost (almost 100,000/episode) as compared to Pakistani dramas (almost 500,000/episode). Geo, Hum, and some other not very known channels like Kohinoor and Aruj are minting money through the low level Turkish as well as Indian productions, though these dramas have no concern with our culture, religion, traditions, ideology, and life style.
These stories and characters are so remote from our environment that one can’t feel any proximity for them. But the damned and shameless interest groups/channels are imposing the outer incursion on us just to protect their monetary interests. The utmost point is that these dramas are being on aired during prime time which is allotted only to home productions the world over. Unfortunately, we have the biggest enemies within ourselves. The interest groups have been welcoming the outer invasion with open arms every time.
Following the electronic media, print, web, and social media has also been giving them space without any important reason.
Our different era governments have been compromising and legalizing the outer cultural invasion with a slavish obedience instead of taking preventive measures. Nawaz government is also notorious in this matter as they have a soft corner for Turkey and India. They may not take any bold decision to bring the interest groups into grasp.
It seems that only civil society and sensitive segments can do something on their part and that is “to create a feeling of PAKISTANISM: start watching Pakistani drama/film and reject the outer invasion absolutely”. This is the only way to save Pakistan’s entertainment industry and of the very survival of our existence, off course. Let’s take the first step!