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Pakistan Ends Ban on Indian Films

Variety logo Variety 2/1/2017 Naman Ramachandran
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Pakistan has finally lifted a ban on Indian films screening in the country.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave the go-ahead last Thursday to end the ban. That was followed a few days later by official notification from the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage. “The Federal Government is pleased to continue the existing open policy to display all international movies (including Indian films) in Pakistani cinemas,” it said.

The first Indian film to release will be “Kaabil,” starring Hrithik Roshan, this week. That will be followed by Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Raees” next week.

Pakistani theaters stopped showing Indian films last September after a spike in tensions between the two countries over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) called for a ban on Pakistani artists working in Bollywood, which was swiftly followed by a reciprocal move by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Indian content.

The lifting of the ban on Indian films comes as a respite for the Pakistani distribution industry. Indian films are extremely popular in Pakistan, accounting for some 70% of box office. The information ministry notice acknowledged that the readmittance of Indian content is for the “revival of the Pakistani film industry.”

But Pakistani importers of Indian films are now required to submit requests naming each movie’s title and cast members to the Information and Broadcasting Division. The requests will be forwarded to the Ministry of Commerce for an import license.

Despite the escalating tensions last fall, some films with Pakistani talent still managed to appear in India.

In October, Indian political outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened to block the release of Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” because Pakistan’s Fawad Khan was one of the stars. The matter was resolved by a meeting between the stakeholders.

Similarly, the January release in India of “Raees,” starring Shah Rukh Khan and Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, proceeded smoothly in India after Shah Rukh Khan, one of the biggest stars in Bollywood, met with MNS representatives.

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