Pakistan's theatre owners have decided to withdraw and ban screening of Indian movies until bilateral tensions between the two countries subside. However, the Pakistani government has not yet issued an official directive in this regard.
The decision emerged on Thursday after the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA) announced that it was imposing a ban on all Pakistani artistes working in India, reported The Express Tribune.
"We will suspend the exhibition of Indian films till normalcy. No Indian movies will play in my cinemas from Friday onwards for sure," said Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Mandviwalla Entertainment which runs Atrium Cinemas in Karachi and Centaurus in Islamabad.
In the past week, Bollywood films "Pink" and "Banjo" had released. And while this week "M S Dhoni: The Untold Story" could have released, its distributor IMGC Global Entertainment withheld it as it was felt that the movie could have anti-Pakistan elements in its narrative about cricket, the company's head Amjad Rasheed told IANS over phone from Dubai.
Super Cinema owner Khorem Gultasab said he has already stopped screening any Indian films at his facilities.
"We didn't wait for an official declaration by exhibitors. From Friday onwards, no Bollywood film will be screened at Super Cinemas for at least two weeks to show solidarity with our actors and our military," Gultasab said.
Cinepax - Pakistan's largest network of cinemas - had not yet banned any Indian movies, a senior official of the cinema chain said it would follow suit if film exhibitors take a mutual decision in this regard.
"I have not heard anything confirmed as yet, but if exhibitors do ban Indian films, then of course we will go ahead with it," said Cinepax General Manager Marketing Mohsin Yaseen.
The ban is so far an initiative taken by cinema owners and not the government, clarified Mandviwalla, who added that "it is taking us some time to bring everyone on the same page".
"We were taking things lightly initially, since the so-called ban (on Pakistani artistes in India) was just a few mischief-mongers hurling anti-Pakistan slogans," he said.
"But things have gotten serious after the official (IMPPA) declaration," added Mandviwalla. He said an official announcement of the ban on Indian films will be made soon.
Meanwhile, Gultasab said he is also urging other exhibitors to ban Indian films so that the industry stands united.
"A ban won't be effective if confined to just cinemas. Going to a cinema is a choice, but television channels air content from India all the time," he said.
"We must completely black out Indian content. Remove it from TV channels and from DVD shops. Otherwise, there's no point."
The cinema owner added that this ban should continue until the Indian government offers Pakistani films a level playing field and Pakistani artistes complete protection.
Renowned Pakistani filmmaker Jami agreed with Gultasab, saying: "There are Indian drama serials playing on TV all the time and you have DVD shops selling Indian films. Why just target cinema? If you want a ban, just ban all Indian content."
On Thursday, Indian film producers passed a resolution banning anyone from Pakistan from working in films being made in India. The move was announced by IMPPA President T P Aggarwal.