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Monday, 7 July 2014


(Umar Khitab Khan, )

He needs no introduction! He is a great motivator, a soft hearted, energetic and strenuous fellow who always thinks in the larger interest of Pakistani film and cinema industry. He is the pioneer of revival of Pakistani cinema! This charming cinema owner and film-distributor stepped into the film industry by joining his family business back in 70s and emerged as the biggest and well reputed film distribution institution not only in Lollywood but also in Bollywood and Hollywood, the mom of glamour industry. He is Nadeem Mandviwalla who brought not only Hollywood block busters like Terminator, Titanic and Avatar to Pakistani cinema but also paved the way for Bollywood movies into Pakistan by presenting a classic and all times great movie, Mughal-e-Azam, of course with the aim to revive Pakistani cinema. He is the owner of one of the most beautiful cinemas in Karachi i.e. Nishat at M.A. Jinnah Road. He is also deemed the pioneer of modernizing Pakistani cinema who introduced the most modern machinery and technique through DHA Cinemas (Lahore) and Atrium Cinemas (Karachi), which is, no doubt, a milestone! It is only because of these multiplexes especially Atrium cinemas (Karachi) that movies like Bol (Pak. Rs: 100 million), Bollywood movie Bodyguard (Pak. Rs: 50 million and a 3D Hollywood movie Rio (Pak. Rs: 30 million) are doing hugely on the box office! And for the first time in Pakistan’s history! Today Pakistani cinema industry’s annual turnover has reached up to more than 1.5 billion Pak. Rupees (more than 16 million US$) which is rightly the fruit of hard labor rendered by cinema owners, importers and traders. The man leading them was none other than Nadeem Mandviwalla. We had a chit-chat about revival of Pakistani cinema with him. Excerpts:

QUESTION: Let’s start with something about your family and business.

ANSWER: My father was in cinema business. He had bought a cinema namely Sanobar in Lahore in 1958. Later, this cinema was renamed as Empire. In 1963, Nishat (Karachi) was owned by Saith Kandawala and it was run by Hussain Baig Muhammad (Palace cinema). Mr. Kandawalla needed money for his business of importing Jeeps, so he decided to sell out Nishat cinema. Jagdesh Chand Anand was a big film distributor in those days. On his advice my father purchased this property for Rs: 16 lacs.

QUESTION: When and how you entered into the business?

ANSWER: We are four brothers and only I took interest in the business because I was fascinated by films. It was 70s when I joined my father’s office but I did nothing for the next five years. I only studied what this business was about? When I started booking movies for cinemas I realized that marketing for our movies was not done properly. So, I took up the job of marketing Pakistani movies which helped films’ business! I would like to explain that most of our film-makers and distributors don’t know if marketing exists! They make films, put them on cinemas and think the job is done though the task begins here! You make a very good movie and put it on cinemas for screening. If no one comes to watch it then who is to blame? Distributor actually plays the part of conduit between a film-maker and an exhibitor. If he doesn’t play his part sincerely and professionally, you cannot guarantee the success of even a very good movie. I took this department seriously and tried to modernize it.

QUESTION: You, also started film-distribution and brought mega-budget Hollywood movies?

ANSWER: Yes. I started film-distribution business in 1992. Prior to this, a public department, NaFDeC was solely authorized to import films from abroad. The department was dissolved around that time and private sector was invited to take up this business. We started with importing low budget movies from Hong Kong. But Mandviwalla Entertainment emerged as the top entertainment company only after we released a Hollywood movie Terminator in Pakistan. The movie did a record business! We presented Steven Spellberg’s great movie Titanic before the cinema goers too. We also released Pakistani movies Inteha, Nikah, Guns & Roses, Jinnah etc. We are also credited with release of Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam because this all time great movie paved the way for Indian movies into Pakistan. Hadn’t Bollywood movies not allowed in Pakistan, I believe, Pakistani cinema industry had gone vanished. Until 2002, more than 500 cinemas had been brought down to build shopping malls! Musharraf government is rightly credited for revival of Pakistani cinema industry. They helped us improve the hardware (cinema houses) by giving some exemption in Entertainment Duty which helped this industry support itself. When in 2007 the government allowed legal import of Bollywood movies into Pakistan, this industry found a chance for the betterment of its software (movies). We can see the result now! Mini cinemas have started to develop. People are investing into multiplexes in Rawalpindi, Multan, Sargodha, Gujranwala and Karachi after Lahore. And these are those cinema houses that are up to international standards. A bright example of this is Atrium Cinemas (Karachi) which has Pakistan’s first 3D projector. We have also introduced D (Digital) Cinema to Pakistan’s cinema-lovers. We have set a precedent! You’ll soon see 3D Projectors in all of the Multiplexes in Pakistan, soon.

QUESTION: Isn’t Single Screen Cinemas are in danger viz. a viz. Multiplexes? Obviously they cannot afford modern technologies?

ANSWER: True. Every cinema cannot afford 3D technology or projector but one thing they need to do for sure … make their standard higher; provide more facilities to the cinema goers; provide clean, healthy atmosphere! Cinema houses are categorized differently around the world according to the movies they show. ‘A’ grade cinemas show ‘A’ grade movies and in turn provide ‘A’ grade facilities to the viewers. Likewise, there are B and C grade cinemas that provided facilities according to their respective categories and show the movies. Yes, the culture of Single Screen cinema is coming to an end but, I think, they are important. But, they have to make their standards better if they want to survive. Take Nishat cinema which has only one screen. But whenever a big movie is shown there, the shows are house full for many days! It is because this cinema is for masses and affordable to them. You can enjoy there for only a 100 bucks!

QUESTION: Atrium has livened up cinema culture in Pakistan again! How much did it cost you and what is its specialty?

ANSWER: It was a dream project of Zahid Younus Habib and his partners. They entrusted me the task to turn it into reality. Atrium has cost around 14 Crores (Pak. Rs: 140 million). I had already completed the project of DHA Lahore which meets International standards. So, it wasn’t a big deal for me but I wished Atrium to be more modern than the DHA Lahore. I, therefore, suggested the stake-holders to make Atrium unique by installing 3D Projector and they approved it. This is the story behind Pakistan’s first digital cinema. The technology has been adopted by Cineplex (Karachi) and DHA Lahore now. You’ll really enjoy 3D movies there. Let me tell you an interesting fact. Hollywood movies have grasped more business at the box office than Bollywood’s at Atrium. So, importers are focusing on 3D movies now!
QUESTION: It seems there is no place for Lollywood movies?

ANSWER: How can you say that? Bol did record business at Atrium and Nishat! This Bollywood movie has collected 10 Crores (Pak. Rs: 100,000 million) at the Box Office around Pakistan out of which major share was provided by our cinemas! Even we delayed the release of our own movie, “Conan The Barbarian” in favor of both of Pakistani movies “Bhai Log” and “Love Main Goum” that were released on Eid-Ul-Fitr! Mandviwala Entertainment’s movie “Body Guard” was put on Capri instead of Nishat because it was confirmed for both of the Lollywood releases. And what did we get after this sacrifice? Most of the shows at Nishat went soft and the little business it gained was only because of overflow of “Body Guard” i.e. people who couldn’t get tickets for the movie turned to Nishat! “Body Guard” earned Rs: 41 Lakhs at Capri at the weekend while at Nishat, none of a show grossed more than 12 thousands. We could have earned in Lakhs had “Body Guard” or “Conan The Barbarian” shown on Nishat. We did all we could to support Pakistani movies but I’m sorry we cannot make a movie hit no matter what we do. It is in their (Pakistani producers and directors) hands. They have to make something that clicks.

QUESTION: People like Syed Noor, Rema, Choudhry Kamran think you a person bent upon destroying our film industry! They have said many things against you on different T.V. channels?

ANSWER: Some people are not happy with the progress and development in local cinema industry and want those times return when cinemas were demolishing and cinema industry was close to and end; Sindh-Baluchistan circuit was destroyed so much so that you can’t see a good cinema in interior Sindh even now. Even we had to close down Nishat cinema for an indefinite period. But I am not interested in blame game. I have entrusted a mission unto myself and that is to groom cinema and film industry. My next step into the mission is to revive our film industry. People who are interested in developing and building good cinema houses will surely turn to producing films. It is only a matter of time! By the way, before a decade, people like Syed Noor used to complain about the lack of cinema houses in Pakistan. Now they are worried why new cinema houses are developing? Actually these people have individual thinking. I advise them to quit such attitude and quit “bayan baazi”. “Leadry chamkaaney ka koi fa’ida nahi”. They should adopt collective thinking and in the greater interest of reviving Pakistani Film Industry.

QUESTION: What suggestions you have?

ANSWER: We are in touch with the Cultural Ministry and I have suggested many things to them on which they are working. On the other hand, we are motivating the investors. Actually, every investor wants some guarantees. If the government regularizes film making as an industry, many investors will turn to it. For this the government has to provide facilities, tax holidays and exemptions to the investors. But my friends of film industry are not prepared whenever they are called to Islamabad for meeting. I wonder if they have any agenda ready! Of course bureaucracy has its own procedure which you have to follow to get something done. But these so-called leaders of our film industry want everything according to their whims. The government gives you a system. You can demand facilities from it, but, of course, you cannot expect government to make movies! If government has to do everything then why should it depend on you?

QUESTION: What future you see of these multiplexes on which crores of rupees have been invested in case Bollywood movies are banned here again?

ANSWER: All of the investment will come to a halt! More than 700 people, who are attached to this business, will lose their jobs, nothing much! You import 1,300 goods items from India and all hue and cry is about movies. Why? Though the fact is that major portion of the profit gained by Indian movies belongs to Pakistani market. Only 25% of the profit is transferred to India. I say, whether film industry or cinema trade, we all are parts of the same circle. We cannot do without each other. We have to work in full harmony without taking any individual vested interests into consideration. Syed Noor has a problem that no one gives cinema for his movies. Reema has her own problems. Choudhry Kamran has his own issues. They talk about their issues but not about our film industry’s! I say, whatever energies they are investing in trying to put a ban on Indian movies, if they invest it on making good movies, our industry can stand on its feet again and quickly. Our film industry produces four movies in a year but our demand is about a hundred, how do we fill this gap between demand and supply? Had these pressure groups thought wisely; had Indian movies allowed into Pakistan back in 80’s when Noorjehan and Kashish were screened here, situation would have been different! Because that time our industry had necessary infrastructure and also the ability to compete with Indian movies!

QUESTION: In new cinema culture, expectations are high. Do you see anyone in Lollywood who could deliver?

ANSWER: Shoaib Mansoor has shown great capabilities. Ironically our industry is reluctant to own him as yet. But I can see the young blood joinin Lollywood to change everything. Young males and females are taking interest in film making, getting proper education from local institutions and abroad. And they are struggling. I should tell you that I have requested many government officials to call these youngsters into our meetings, listen to their views and ideas and encourage them. They are our future. They are going to take up everything ultimately and soon! Yes, multiplexes like Atrium have developed a new cinema culture and also have educated the viewers. Now, he will be the winner who makes movies taking these expectations and challenges into consideration. In my opinion, Bol is a great achievement for Pakistani Cinema and Film Industry which was released by a mega distribution institution, Eros International. But the movie was not highlighted by our media as much as it deserved.

By: Umar Khitab Khan

Photographer: Iqbal Hussain

About Muhammad Shoaib Khan

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