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Strict Censorship; Decline in Drama and Film Industry in Sindh

The state of the film industry is getting worst in Sindh, as a result there is also complete collapse of sectors related with it, such as; number of cinemas decreasing, stage local language dramas and artists lack of interest to join this profession.

After the passing of the 18th amendment, the central board of film censors has been devolved to the Sindh culture department with the wherewithal to give the green (or red) signal to any film for screening.

In 2016, the Sindh Board of Film Censors revoked the ban on movie “Maalik”, it says the film which was being exhibited in contravention of the provisions of the Sindh Motion Picture Act 2011, whereas the following excised portions were intact in the film. Though it was short time ban, as Government of Sindh lifted the ban on the very second day. However, federal government imposed the ban nationwide. These tactics discourage the film-makers in the industry, which is already in crisis.

Province of Sindh was very popular for showbiz industry especially in Karachi and Hyderabad, even in lower parts of Sindh, where more than 38 cinema houses, 26 theaters in local languages, stage shows, which is currently declined to hardly 10-15.

Historically, back in 90s there were 21 cinemas left which were supported by the production of films and dramas in different languages like; Sindh, Siraiki and Baloch, However, after 2000 the number declined due to lack of interest by the government to support the artists in their profession, says Nisar Ahmed Naz Producer and Drama Writer in Hyderabad.

Mr. Nisar, said another reason for the decline was promotion of cable culture and decrease in number of cinemas, the local film industry, which used to produce 10-20 films a year, dropped to 3-5 films for the same time period. As the trend of going to the cinema waned, many cinema owners entered new business avenues by converting cinemas into petrol stations, plazas, showrooms, hostels and wedding halls.

Along with this, after 1965’s war the government lifted the ban on Bollywood movies, which decreased the revenue of the film industry in Pakistan, as a result a well-known artists and drama-writers left this profession forever.

According to Shoukat Ali Memon, Director and Producer of the Sindhi Dramas recently pointed out that among the multiple reasons behind the decline of theatre in Sindh are the lack of training institutes and investment in Sindhi film industry.

Certainly, it cannot be denied that theatre, particularly in the Sindhi and Balochi language and catering to mass audiences, is in a state of progressive decline in the province.

Yet the state, as represented through various governments’ policies, has done little to ease the situation. We have seen mass-audience theatre being marginalized and forced to exist on the peripheries of the mainstream, he maintained.

The performing arts, particularly theatre, are a vital avenue of education and the formation of a national identity. It is here that a society debates its characteristics and politics, and forms an understanding of its history and context, but unfortunately all efforts to re-back film and drama industry seems failed yet.

Commenting on the current situation, Mr. Noor Hassan Khokhar, President of civil society organization Shehri Itehaad told that they had strong reservations over the policies of the Sindh Cultural Department, which is inactive in bringing in together all stakeholders against the strict censorship policies, which is discouraging the local artists and dramatists.

As many artists, dramatists and film-makers living in the remote areas, are interested and talented to join this industry, but due to very limited number of Sindhi language entertainment channels in Sindh they always feel deprived and could not avail the opportunity to polish their talent, he said.

The Censorship board, he said, needed serious suggestions and experts’ opinion before its implementation. “The Act has technical flaws. No criterion for the chairman and members of the censorship board has been set yet, he said.

Noted sindhi Singer Surhiya Soomro had told that no Censorship Board Act would work unless a comprehensive cultural policy was in place, which is very crucial part of the policy document.

“I have serious reservations about the government’s censorship policy. I want the culture minister to convene a dialogue including genuine artists, film producers and cultural experts to debate the issue in detail and arrive at a policy reflective of our true image. Sindhi cinema has suffered a lot. Artists are literally crying as non-professionals have damaged our image,” she said.

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