By Azad Majumder
Dhaka, May 12 (EFE).- The screening of “Pathaan” in Bangladesh, the first Hindi film to be released in the country in eight years, drew packed audiences on Friday.
While many cinemagoers have welcomed the opportunity to watch masalamix Indian films in Bangladesh, the move has sparked concerns among local filmmakers and industry stakeholders about the impact on the domestic film industry.
The spy thriller “Pathaan”, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone, was shown in 41 cinemas across Bangladesh, including popular theaters in Dhaka, and attracted a full audience.
“Today is really a big day for me as I am a huge fan of Shah Rukh Khan. This is the first time I see his film in a hall,” said Sayem Sami, a member of Shah Rukh Khan fan group SRK Universe, joining the queue in front of Star Cineplex in Dhaka.
Tanvir Rahim, a member of another fan group, True SRKhan, said he came with a group to watch the movie on the first day of its release.
“We were waiting for this. None of us wanted to miss the first show,” Rahim said.
Many had to return disappointed because they could not find a ticket.
“I thought I would get a ticket anyway and did not go for an advance ticket. But today you can see a big queue,” said Mukhtar Hossain.
“Pathaan” is the first Hindi film released in Bangladesh in eight years.
Back in 2015, the Bangladesh government permitted the screening of the Salman Khan-starring film “Wanted.”
However, it was quickly taken down due to protests from local actors and directors who argued that allowing Hindi films would lead to the destruction of the local film industry.
In April of this year, the Bangladesh government granted conditional approval to import films in languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent as part of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement, thus paving the way for the release of “Pathaan.”
The decision marked a significant shift in the policy, as the country had previously banned Indian films since its independence in 1971 until the release of “Wanted” in 2015.
The government’s decision to allow the screening of Indian films drew a mixed reaction from local film industry stakeholders.
While some welcomed the move, citing the lack of domestic content and the need to revitalize the industry, others expressed concern that it would lead to unfair competition and the domination of Hindi films in the country.
There were also calls for the government to regulate the number of Hindi films that can be screened each year and to impose heavy duties to protect the local industry.
“We are seeing it positively, because we don’t have enough content here. Our industry is ruined, and all the big directors are sitting idle,” Iftekhar Uddin Nawshad, the owner of the famous Dhaka cinema hall Modhumita Movies, told EFE.
“We found no benefit in protecting the local film industry. There is a saying that ‘monopoly kills.’ This is what happened here. The film industry is in a deep black hole,” he said.
Nawshad said though Bangladesh had nearly 1,500 cinema halls in the past, barely 100 were in operation now.
Filmmaker Gias Uddin Selim told EFE that many halls had already started to refuse to screen Bangladeshi films after the release of “Pathaan.”
“If Hindi films occupy all the halls, there is no doubt it will destroy our local film industry. It will put us in unequal competition,” he said.
Selim urged the government to set up a policy like how many Hindi films could be screened in a year and impose a heavy duty on Hindi films to protect the local film industry.
The Bangladesh government initially allowed the import of a maximum of 10 South Asian films in the first year in exchange for the export of an equal number of films under the SAFTA agreement. EFE