Pakistani actors cannot be compared to that of India owing to an altogether different film market available to them.
‘When was Pakistan’s film industry at par with India? Was it ever? Never! The present generation has never seen the highs of Lollywood. They have grown up in an age when Bollywood was at its top, which has contributed a lot in making their psyche. Has Bollywood ever seen recession? Even the bad patch of the Indian cinema did not draw them away from films rather they changed their mind-set accordingly. On the other hand, the Pakistani cinema never did enough to bring its viewers back. Definitely, it is afflicted with some serious illnesses. We do not have any superstars equal to the stature of the Indian stars.’ This is the impression of most of the Pakistanis about their film industry and actors.
On the face of it, these thoughts are not without substance. As viewers, we have almost seen nothing of Lollywood in the recent years, and to a certain extent, for over a decade at least. People reminisce the golden days of the Pakistani cinema when theatre-going used to be one of the most cherished outings. Our superstars, like Santosh Kumar, Sudhir, Habib, Waheed Murad, Muhammad Ali and Nadeem, used to fetch crowds to cinema halls. Their names used to guarantee success. Almost all of them and a few others had the ‘star value’. Now we do not have any such faces in the industry.
Our superstars kept on fizzling out of the film industry because of limited and non-professional working. Sometimes, it became difficult for them to find quality work. Whereas, in India, actors get work of their choice regularly; that is why they are seen continuously in films. This is one of the most tangible reasons why their superstars are enjoying still the same status whereas it is hard to find our superstars of yesteryears even in news.
The present dismal scenario of the Pakistan film industry is because of certain reasons. "Firstly, these days we don’t have films; hence no traditional ‘star value’ concept exist. During the initial days of the Pakistan film industry, we did not have professionals as most of them had opted to stay in India and financial constraints marred the working of the remaining ones, which is continuing to this day even," said Ali Sufian Afaqi, a veteran film-maker, writer and critic, who has been working with the film industry since the inception of Pakistan.
"We can’t and must not compare our film industry and actors to that of India. We are facing serious financial and space constraints since the initial days of the film industry. We have always been limited to a small socket and never allowed to going beyond those constraints. On the other hand, India has its own huge market apart from having distributors across the globe, which has never been a case with Pakistan. Interestingly, their access to the international market is growing every year, and we are getting stagnant at the same pace," said Mr. Afaqi.
"The comparison between the Indian and Pakistani artistes makes no sense to me at all. We had had superstars, who were popular in Pakistan on the same scale to that of their Indian contemporaries in India. How can one expect a star to become Dilip Kumar or Shahrukh Khan with only a few cinemas and small number of audience? Moreover, we have a few films every year whereas Indian films run into hundreds. During our peak years, that is, from early sixties to mid-seventies – when we were at par with Bollywood – about 125 films were released every year and 200-250 used to be in pipeline. This too has hurt the actors. When they don’t have any work to do, how can they demonstrate their abilities to the world," he maintained.
"Remember! Money makes movies and we never had financiers and investors initially whereas the Indians pumped huge money in. Film-makers were given free hand there and they made films in hundreds. Here in Pakistan, good producers always led humble lives because their work never got a return. A few of my films were hits, but I did not get even a single penny. This plus the recent influx of money by pehalwans and work by non-professionals made this industry suffer. Our stars met the same fate," said the veteran filmmaker.
"Making a superstar out of an actor is a matter of exposure, which is not unfortunately available to Pakistani artistes. If they had been provided with the same chances and conducive environment, they would have become superstars. Sophia Loren was known little till she joined Hollywood. The same is applicable to Anthony Quinn, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and many other actors and singers. Give Pakistani actors the international market and they will be superstars tomorrow," concluded Ali Sufian Afaqi.