Eid Al Fitr 2020 will go down in the annals of Pakistan’s film history as the first time ever when there were no theatrical exhibitions in any part of the country. Although no cinema showings is a situation which is the same everywhere in the world — theatres across the globe have been shut in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 — Pakistan’s case becomes unique when we consider how filmmakers here are fixated with Eid being ‘lucky’ for box office.
Every year, movies are announced and readied to be Eid releases. The financiers rolled out projects that were potential “Eid films” (to put it in local lingo) — that is, the kind of movies that would potentially sell well; usually, mega-budgeted blockbusters, high-voltage action thrillers or romantic comedies, padded with the biggest stars around. The producers fast-tracked shoots to complete their movies in time.
Close to the release, there would be a mad scramble to grab the best screen counts and maximum number of shows, because it is believed that at no other time during the entire year will the movies have a ‘better’ chance to make money.
Traditionally, in Pakistan, friends and families turn out in groups on Eid days, all dressed up for the festive occasion. Done with Eid rituals, they swarm the parks and historical places at daytime and go to the movies in the evenings.
From Eid’s second day onwards, the cinema business picks up even more as people are now relatively freer, done with (Eid-related) socialising et al, and ready to hit the theatres. No wonder movies released on both Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha have typically struck gold. Even the off-beat movies which had lesser chances of box office success benefited from the footfalls.
But 2020 is different. Even as the government of Pakistan has eased the lockdown lately, and shopping malls have been allowed to reopen, with safety conditions, there is no word on multiplex screens housed in these malls starting operations anytime soon.
Leading actor and producer Humayun Saeed says, “Even if the cinemas are reopened, the public will have qualms coming in.”
Saeed, who has consistently given blockbuster hits every Eid, for the past couple of years now, and has come to be known as the “King of Eid films,” had planned his next, ‘London Nahi Jaunga’, co-starring Kubra Khan and Mehwish Hayat, for Eid Al Fitr.
A major part of the shoot had been completed in Karachi and Bahawalpur early this year. Team ‘LNJ’, including director Nadeem Baig, was supposed to fly to London for the film’s last, 12-day shooting spell in March, but was held back by the pandemic.
Saeed doesn’t see the film releasing even on Eid Al Adha, which falls in July.
The other much-anticipated Eid films whose release was halted, include Bilal Lashari’s long-awaited The Legend of Maula Jatt, starring Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Hamza Abbasi and Humaima Malik; Nabeel Qureshi’s Quaid e Azam Zindabad, with Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa; Iman Ali’s comeback with Farhan Saeed, Tich Button; Sarmad Khoosat’s Kamli with Saba Qamar; and director Faisal Qureshi’s “political satire”, Money Back Guarantee, which boasts an ensemble cast — Fawad Khan, Mikaal Zulfikar, Kiran Malik, Gohar Rasheed, Afzal Rambo, cricketer Waseem Akram and his wife Shaniera.
All of the above mentioned films, barring ‘TLMJ’, had wrapped up work so as to complete the films in time for Eid 2020. Given the circumstances, no filmmaker will take the chance to release their movies in theatres. They “would rather wait,” to quote Saeed again.
Rumour about ‘TLMJ’ releasing on streaming platforms such as Netflix has been doing the rounds, but producer Ammara Hikmat has reportedly denied it.