Narratives asked several Pakistani stars and producers how they felt about the ban on Indian content on Pakistani television screens
Film and television actor/Producer
While one feels that a retrogressive step taken by one person should not be emulated by another, yet reciprocity is a must. The recent banning of Indian content in Pakistan is one such example. We must always keep Pakistani interests in mind when delving into content, be it Indian or any other, but I don’t see completely cutting it off as a solution.
I believe there must always be a balance when dealing with sensitive decisions. The policy of allowing a ten per cent quota for foreign content was a wise one. But TV channels blatantly transgressed this given proportion, which is both criminal and very disturbing, especially for our local artistes’ community. Sadly, rules were broken and nothing was done about it, till India suddenly banned all things Pakistani.
The Indian channel exclusively showcasing Pakistani dramas was also taken off air much to my horror. This channel was contributing in people-to-people contact. The Indian public is curious about our plays and through this content, they had begun to realise that Pakistan and its society is extremely humane and very talented. The Indian channel with Pakistani content was an instant hit, the ban by the Indian authorities, unexpected as it was, therefore came as a big surprise. Yet it is now a reality.
Till there is a thaw in the very cold relationship between the two countries, there is little hope of this status changing, but what Pakistan and its saner elements should figure out, is how to get out of this quagmire. Objectively and realistically we should allow what is good for our audiences. We should first and foremost strengthen our community, but keep enough competition intact that encourages better products for our audiences. As for now, I say, if they ban us we should ban them. But have we?
President, Bol Entertainment
While it’s a norm all over the world to encourage local industry and all policies gravitate around ensuring that, with us it was different. When Indian content started to be aired on our local entertainment channels, we the producers and artistes of Pakistan welcomed it, because we felt that healthy competition would be good for us. But to our great horror, the channels began to completely overlook the required quota of foreign content and started to exceed it way beyond the stipulated ten per cent. This percentage includes all foreign content, but it was violated and with complete impunity, much to the chagrin of Pakistani producers and the creative fraternity. Cheap reruns replaced Pakistani plays and shows and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) turned a blind eye to it. This onslaught was so devastating that private producers stopped productions and started to go into other businesses only to be replaced by the channel owners’ front-men, who, during this period, were the only ones allowed to produce plays.
The whole community became a victim. Pakistani dramas, that were a source of pride for us, fell into the hands of ruthless marketers who created havoc, resulting in a downward spiral which will continue for a few years. Protests by the local industry were ignored as were writers, actors, directors and technicians. This has come to a halt now. With India banning all products Pakistani, our government also had to ban them. Sanity has been restored and we have heaved a sigh of relief.
We hope and pray that this new development persists long enough to allow local Pakistani talent to bounce back and permanently establish itself as a strong and thriving industry. The damage caused by blindly buying Indian and other foreign content, at the expense of local talent, may have set us back a few years, yet we are confident that we are capable enough to reestablish our lost stature as the leading light of Urdu plays.
Why are we as a nation so easily impressed by others? Why are we not proud of being Pakistanis? Of our culture, our traditions, our language? Where have we lost our identity? Our children know more about Indian pooja, mangal sutra and urthee uthna than about our own culture and traditions.
I am not against Indian content being shown on our screens. I am all for art having no frontiers but there should be a balance. It should be bilateral. I like going to the cinema to watch the latest Indian movie once in a while, but I get upset when I see Indian soaps on every channel every day especially on prime time. I do not think Indian content should take over our Eids and special occasions. Our own programmes should be promoted and shown depicting our culture and our values. Our music industry should be encouraged and supported by our channels.
The Pakistani drama industry has made a big contribution in presenting the soft image of Pakistan internationally. It is now up to the Pakistan Government and Pemra to make concessions and give tax exemptions to our producers and facilitate them in making our programming global. There is no dearth of talent here. We have brilliant writers, actors, directors and editors who need to be polished. It is important to ensure that we make deals that are bilateral, so that whenever we import content be it Indian, Turkish, or any other.
Other countries should see a beautiful Pakistan. We should stand united and promote Pakistan on every forum. Money isn’t everything. Patriotism is.
I have been in the profession only a few years, yet in these very fleeting years, I feel as if I have been a part of the Pakistan television industry all my life. In this brief time I have realised how amazingly talented yet deprived our artistes are. How versatile, how complex and yet how simple. I have also seen that Pakistani actors, despite being phenomenally gifted, have a very difficult life. It is a life of long hours, where at times, you work for 16 or more hours, with limited facilities and always surrounded by a feeling of insecurity. What our artistes accomplish with five lights and one camera against all odds is a story in itself
But we must keep our policies attuned to our local talent and Pakistani artistes should be favoured first and foremost.In this day and age of information technology, it matters little what the government bans. In fact banning anything makes it more sought after. So banning anything is not the answer, educating our audiences is.
Measures must be taken immediately to declare it an industry and banks should be requested to come forth with investment to further the cause of our media.
The government should declare the drama industry tax free and enable producers to create content that is purely Pakistani.
It’s equally imperative that all schools, colleges and universities be asked to start an audio visual department so that progress starts at the grass roots level. Media universities should be established and affiliated with renowned institutes around the world.
Stalwarts of the informal industry, with a proven track record, should be asked to form a think tank to realise the true potential of the talent in Pakistan.
As for myself, I have never felt threatened by Indian content. We are far better – so no fears.
For stalwarts of the television and film industry like us, the hostile Indian attitude was a given. While many of my generation believed that secular India is progressive and generally friendly toward Pakistanis, I knew better. For myself and many people in the industry, the Kashmir impasse is an issue that must first be resolved, before any thaw in the very cold relationship, can be envisaged between the two neighbours.
When young Pakistani actors started to cross over in hordes, I had my suspicions because I knew it wouldn’t last. My suspicions were not based on any bias but on the awareness that Indians have a deep-rooted resentment against Pakistan. The Pakistani artiste community has a very liberal mindset towards Indians. We have always welcomed any friendly gestures from the Indians despite a very chequered history. So when Indian content started pouring in, I was also happy to see a relaxing in ties. Like many others, I also hoped that the two neighbours would keep the connection intact.
Then came the Uri attack and suddenly we are back to square one. In fact, we are back to a situation when the two nations separated right after Partition. A war-like situation now exists and what is more dangerous for the region is the fact that both are nuclear states. India has resorted to unprovoked attacks on the Line of Control and the attacks continue unabated. The Indian government, led by the BJP, has a very controversial prime minister who has thrown out all civility and moral ethics by banning our content in India. Pakistani authorities in response did the same, which was only to be expected. Our unsuspecting Pakistani talent got a rude awakening and this jolt has left them with a very bad taste in the mouth. My worst suspicions have come true, but we will survive, as will our very talented lot of youngsters. What will not survive is this uncouth and criminal attitude to prove right and wrong with strong arm tactics.
At its very core, the Kashmir issue is a humanitarian issue and Pakistan will never abandon it. It is an issue that India will never be able to hide or side-track. It must be resolved by the international community otherwise there will never be any peace or progress in this region.
We, the artistes of Pakistan, are not afraid of competition and never will be. We feel that competition is a catalyst to further improvement. But the issue of Kashmir is bigger than any other and cannot be sacrificed for any reason. Till that happens, the two nations will never see peace. I hope and pray that it is resolved through peaceful negotiations. While I am all for peace and for exchanges between India and Pakistan in all fields and businesses, it must be a bilateral process and on a reciprocal basis. I hope and pray that, one day, Indians will realise that Kashmir is their scarlet letter; their sin. The sooner they realise it, the better it will be for world peace.