Pakistan Bans Indian Films as Tensions Escalate

'Uri' film still - H 2019
Courtesy of RSVP Movies

India had already pulled films from release in addition to banning Pakistani talent from working in India.

As tensions between neighbors India and Pakistan continue to escalate amid talk of the risk of war, film ties between the countries have taken a hit, with Pakistan banning Indian films.

Since gaining independence from British rule in 1947, the two countries have fought three major wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

On Tuesday, the Indian government said that Indian Air Force jets bombed a training outfit of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan. The strike was seen as a response to an attack on Feb. 14 in Kashmir, which killed 40 Indian soldiers and for which JeM claimed responsibility, according to India.

Pakistan's Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in a tweet Tuesday unveiled the ban on Indian films, saying that the country's Cinema Exhibitors Association "has boycotted Indian content. No Indian Movie [to] be released in Pakistan." It also said that Pakistan's Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has been instructed "to act against Indian-made advertisements."

On Wednesday, Pakistan claimed that it shot down an Indian fighter jet and captured its pilot. Soon after, the Indian government confirmed that it lost one jet in a combat operation and that a pilot was "missing in action," without giving further details.

Even before Pakistan issued its ban, following the attack in Kashmir, Indian producers had already withdrawn their films from release in Pakistan. These included Fox Star Studios comedy Total Dhamaal, while local banner Maddock Films pulled the release of Luka Chuppi (slated to open March 1) and upcoming releases Arjun Patiala and Made in China.

This is not the first time film relationships between the countries have been hit over political tensions. In 2016, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association issued a temporary ban on Pakistani talent from working in India. The move followed the deadly attack on an Indian army base that India alleged was the work of terrorists from Pakistan. In return, Pakistan also banned the release of Indian films in the country.

Given that Indian films have always been hugely popular in Pakistan while being a major revenue earner for its theatrical industry, the ban was revoked in 2017 "after reviewing the benefits Pakistani cinema trade can derive from their exhibition."

While the number of Pakistani talent working in Indian films had already dwindled after 2016, last week the Federation of Western India Cine Employees called for a complete ban following the Feb. 14 attack in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, a slate of recent Indian films inspired by the warring history between both countries have turned out to be major hits. Inspired by the Indian army's 2016 "surgical strikes" on terrorist camps in Pakistan following the attack on an Indian army base, current release Uri: The Surgical Strike has turned out to be a blockbuster hit. The 1971 war between India and Pakistan has also inspired hits such as last year's spy drama Raazi and 2017 submarine warfare hit Ghazi Attack.

The upcoming slate for war-inspired movies includes Viacom18 Motion Pictures' RAW (Romeo Akbar Walter), an espionage thriller set against the 1971 war. Sony Pictures India is expanding its foray into regional-language Telugu with upcoming release Major co-produced with Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu's banner. Starring Adivi Sesh, the film, which will also be in Hindi, is based on real-life commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who died while saving several hostages during the 2008 terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. Similarly, Netflix's upcoming Dev Patel-starrer Hotel Mumbai, which premiered at Toronto, is also based on the Mumbai attack.