Pakistan stops issuing NOCs for Indian films

Pakistan stops issuing NOCs for Indian films

Pakistani authorities have stopped issuing "No-Objection Certificates" for the screening of Indian films, holding up the release of new movies like "Gunday" and "Hasee Toh Phasee".

The Federal Information and Broadcasting Ministry has told distributors and exhibitors of Indian films that it is processing new laws and regulations and NOCs will not be issued till these are approved by the federal cabinet.

Nawab Siddiqui, one of Pakistan's leading distributors and exhibitors who runs the Atrium Cineplex in Karachi, said authorities stopped the screening of Indian movies last month.
"The whole process has just been stopped and we couldn't get NOCs for new films like 'Gunday' and 'Hasee Toh Phasee', which were eagerly anticipated in our cinemas," he said.

Siddiqui said the cinema and catering industries stood to lose millions of rupees they had invested in cineplexes and malls after the government's decision in 2006 to allow the screening of Indian films.

"Investors and business groups are very worried because they have invested millions of rupees while new parties are willing to channel investment, but now everything is at a standstill for the last few weeks as no new Indian films have been released," he said.
After the 1965 war with India, Pakistan barred the screening of Indian films for nearly four decades and this gave rise to rampant piracy.

"The irony is that pirated copies of 'Gunday' are being aired on cable across Karachi but it can't be shown legally in cinemas," said the manager of Capri cinema.
Siddiqui, who works with the oldest distribution company Mandviwallas, said the screening of Indian films had fuelled the revival of the cinema industry in Pakistan.

"It also led to a resurgence in the Pakistan film industry as new filmmakers came forward and invested money. 'Waar' made Rs 250 million, the highest ever by a Pakistani film at the box office last year while recently 'Dhoom 3', the last major Indian release in our theatres, grossed Rs 300 million in just 21 days. So the business was booming," he said.
Siddiqui said since films were not on the preferential list of items allowed in trade between Pakistan and India, they had to be imported from Dubai. Importers earlier had to get clearance from the Commerce Ministry but now the Information Ministry was giving clearance.

"Three old Pakistani filmmakers are behind this issue as they have filed a case in the courts against screening of Indian films and this has added to the pressure on the Information Ministry," he said.

He said the government was also losing out on millions of rupees which it earned through customs, censorship fees and other taxes imposed on the import of Indian films.

The government allowed the exhibition of Indian films during the tenure of former President Pervez Musharraf, and prints were imported from Dubai or some other country and the films could be screened after clearance from customs, Commerce Ministry and Censor Board.

Siddiqui said if the Information Ministry didn't change its policy, the future would be bleak for the cinema industry as a majority of people still flocked to halls to watch Indian movies.

Pakistani importers pay anything between USD 40,000 and USD 200,000 to buy prints of latest Indian movies from companies in Dubai. The prints of "Dhoom 3" cost around USD 150,000, one distributor said.

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