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How Cinema 73 Has Been Able To Bypass The Ban On Bollywood Movies

How Cinema 73 Has Been Able To Bypass The Ban On Bollywood Movies

Hussain Saeed
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The concept of going to the cinema is very much alive in our
day and age. Even with things like Netlfix, it is pretty great to go to a cold
and dark cinema and watch a movie with a bunch of strangers. This trend has increased
in the past decade, as more and more cinemas keep opening up. However, after
the Pulwana attack, cinema is Pakistan took a hit. Bollywood movies were banned
from filming all over Pakistan-effectively taking away the huge audience.
Cinema 73 found a way through this.

Asad Kamran—a 24-year-old Karachi-based artist and
architect—first watched recent Bollywood blockbuster Gully Boy and thought it
was one of the best movies he had seen in a while. Deeply impacted by the way
this film highlighted the class divide in India and the struggles of a young
aspiring artist being constantly questioned by his close ones, it inspired him
to take ownership of some kind. He was keen to share the learnings he took away
from the film with people like his driver and security guard, but the lack of
inexpensive cinemas for people who didn’t belong to a higher socio-economic
bracket became the first challenge.

 “There were only posh cinemas in
town and they couldn’t afford them or feel comfortable going to them,” he
says.

Then, in February 2019, the government of Pakistan issued a
ban against all Bollywood films in the country following the Pulwama attacks.
In a deep-seated desire to expose people to everything Gully Boy had taught him
as well as make an artistic statement against the effects of the tense
situation between India and Pakistan, Kamran created Cinema 73.

Named after the block he lives on, Cinema 73 is an attempt
to bridge the gap put in place by these political circumstances. The University
of Edinburgh graduate, who wrote a research paper on urban spaces and artistic
expression while studying for his Masters in Fine Arts degree, decided to flip
his garage into a theatre open for public viewing. Inspired by a mobile cinema
that operated through Karachi, Kamran set up a projector, painted the garage
walls black and set up seating for about 35-40 people, opening it up to all
those who simply just wanted to watch a movie. The experience, which happens
every Sunday at 7.30pm, is completely free of charge and there’s even
complimentary popcorn thrown in. While some people find out about the movies
through the posters he puts up or his social media channels, many are
passers-by who chance upon the spectacle on the street and show up out of
intrigue.

 “We speak the same language, and
Gully Boy’s rags-to-riches narrative toh humare gulliyon mein bhi hota hai
(happens in our bylanes as well),” he continues, believing these commonalities
can lead to larger conversations on unity, camaraderie, and a better way of
life.

With a projector, fold-up chairs and enthusiastic viewers,
Cinema 73 comes alive to be a source of escape, entertainment and engagement
every Sunday.

While critics have been quick to point out that the move to ban Bollywood
entirely would affect the Pakistani film industry far more than its Indian
counterpart, this isn’t the first time a political stance has taken over cultural
conversations.

For Kamran, this meant making more films open to everyone
out there—films like Pad Man, a Satyajit Ray short film and one on the rights
of Pakistan’s transgender community that still face social biases. “State
institutions can ban such art forms, but in our personal capacity, we should
still be able to enjoy them,” he says.

But what about the dangers involved in doing so? Kamran
explains that since Karachi is a cosmopolitan city riddled with diversity,
people do ask a lot of questions and even point out that screening an Indian
film isn’t allowed. But after a debate on why this is not just entertainment
but a form of dissent, they are usually convinced to participate.

“It’s all about negotiation. People ask me why, but there’s never been any
hostility. Nationalism is a tricky subject to waltz with, but because people
get curious, they ask questions and this leads to deeper conversations.”

The initial cost of setting this up came to about $1000, but
now that Kamran has established the foundation of this non-profit project, he
is hoping to open it up to sponsors, who can sponsor a screening for PKR 3,000
($21).

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