Pakistan’s Cinema industry is moving backward ever since Bollywood films were banned from being screened, earlier this year. Gully Boy was the last film that entertained a full house because, after that, only a handful of films have managed to do that. The step to ban Indian films was followed by banning advertisements featuring Indian models on TV, as well as Indian films on Cable TV. This move not only hurt the Cinema industry but made the audience switch to digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The situation has now become so bad that there were just a handful of people in the theatre watching Knives Out, a Hollywood production with a star cast during its first week.
But this piece is not about Cinema and its declining state in Pakistan. It is about the many TV commercials that feature models who not only look at Indians but are Indians. These commercials might be assigned by Pakistani ad agencies but they have been shot with Indian models for some reason. The Cake Up commercial Is one such example that should either have been shot again with local models or been banned like other advertisements. Why is it still on the air is a mystery worth solving.
Then there is the Face Fresh commercial featuring Iranian model turned actress Elnaaz Norouzi. Elnaaz is a familiar face in Pakistan because of her debut feature film Maan Jao Na. Released last year, the film featured her as Naaz Norouzi alongside Adeel Chaudhary, Hajra Yamin, and Ayaz Samoo. However, her claim to fame was her supporting role in the Netflix series Sacred Games where she shared the screen with Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Radhika Apte. Using her as a Face Fresh model would have been ideal in 2018 but not after the banning of Indians in commercials.
The Brite Rite Kardega commercial may feature Ushna Shah but it has Indian models in supporting roles, which is why it looks more Pakistani than Indian.
And then there is the Colgate Strong Teeth commercial where the girl looks Indian, the boy’s name is Indian (dubbed in local version), yet it airs every day that too during the prime time.
There are strings of commercials on air these days that are either revamped versions of Indian ads or plagiarized versions.
If these ads can run on our TV that is doing well, why can’t Indian flicks be screened in our cinemas that are not doing well at all. The biggest loser in this trade ban has been the cinema industry and we should stand with it during this phase. PEMRA’s decision to ban all commercials featuring models from across the border should be respected. Our cinemas should be allowed to screen Indian films so that it gets back on its feet as it did a few years back.
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