Pakistan-India entertainment links promising, but face practical problems
Amid the euphoria and emotions around the presence of the first Pakistani delegation in more than four decades at an entertainment convention here, delegates from both countries cautioned there were many problems to be overcome before things worked out.
There was tremendous applause and smiles all round, wherever the Pakistani delegation was seen at the Frames 2004 convention organised by the Federation of Indian chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and even a standing ovation when the members were first welcomed at the inauguration by Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
But delegates said the problems of awareness of Pakistani film stars in India, the poor conditions of cinema halls there and the rampant piracy in the country needed to be addressed urgently first.
Pakistani producer Mubassaraf Khan told IANS: "I have been surprised that the discussion (at Frames 2004) has been going mainly around what I can call being romantic and nostalgic, but we need to move to the practical part.
"We keep on overlooking the fact that it will take not less than a whole year before any decision, even if it is taken today, to move films between our countries is implemented.
We need to start with an exchange of artistes and technologists to get any immediate benefit from what has been started here."
Piracy, which ironically has resulted in Indian film stars becoming household names in Pakistan, was also raised as a major issue by Indian distributors and producers.
Pakistan Film Producers Association chairman Mian Amjid Farzand Ali said piracy costs the country more than Rs 20 billion ($425 million) annually, and has also brought about a huge decline in cinema business in India.
"We will look at how Pakistani producers can get into arrangements with the producers here, so that if they assign their individual audio and video rights to Pakistan, the partner designated in Pakistan will ensure that their property does not get into the hands of the pirates."
Sajjad Gul, a member of the Pakistani delegation, conceded there was still a lot of catching up to do. He added that his company, Evernew Pictures, was founded in India by his father in 1937.
"We represent a very small country and we have a lot of learning to do, particularly about technological advancement in the last 10 years. But it is easier said than done to exchange information between the two countries. I think we need to be informed on the future of entertainment in India and how (Indians) see in what areas of filmmaking or other media or entertainment we can add value to each other's industries."
"In (Pakistan) everybody knows all your artistes' names, but since we arrived here your media keeps asking us who our artistes are," said Sayyed Yaar Mohammed, a former chairman of the Pakistan Producers' Association.
"If you have a Shah Rukh Khan, we have a Shaan (who was also on the podium). We need to seek ways to reduce the communication gap which this shows."
Indian film producer Shyam Shroff said he had visited Pakistan as late as last week to find that piracy had forced most cinema halls there to shut down.
"Before we can license our films to Pakistani distributors, they will have to look at bettering the conditions of the cinemas there so that families and ladies will start visiting them again. Unless these conditions are improved for the longer term, the craze about Indian films in Pakistan will die down within a year."
Other Indian delegates were more optimistic.
Amit Khanna, president of the Film Producers Guild of India, said he was actually the first person to produce a music video in India many years ago, and it was with the late Pakistani artiste Nazia Hassan.
"I have also had the privilege of working with other Pakistani artistes such as Musarrat Nazir and Salma Agha, so I have pleasant memories of working with Pakistani artistes.
"I would like to give the assurance that we are willing to sign a memorandum of understanding right away which will open up the doors for co-production; for distribution (of films in each other's countries); and for exchange of television programmes between the two countries."
Khanna said the skills and expertise of India in terms of resources and global marketing could be used by Pakistan as well.
"There is no need to fear that the Pakistani market will affect the Indian market."
Yash Chopra, chairman of FICCI's Entertainment Committee, said he was also speaking on behalf of Yash Johar in stating that they were ready to sign an agreement to send their films and DVDs to Pakistan on a legal basis.
"Our intentions are very honest and very open. We are there for you," Chopra said.