A new Pakistani film could finally revive the country’s long-dormant industry.
Bin Roye—a romantic drama adapted from the Pakistani novel, Bin Roye Aansoo—is one of the country’s first films to release worldwide on the same day.
In addition, it is one of the country’s most expensive films—made on a budget of 35 million Pakistani rupees ($345,541). It also received a West End premiere on July 19, something unheard of in a movie industry that was until recently in deep water. West End is London’s glamorous centre for red carpet movie premieres, generally packed with Hollywood stars.
Directed by Shahzad Kashmiri and Momina Duraid, the film is about a naive young girl—portrayed by Pakistani TV and film actress Mahira Khan—who falls in love with her cousin, who in turn marries her long-lost cousin.
The film also stars TV actor and producer Humayun Saeed, who acted in Mahesh Bhatt’s Jashnn in 2009.
The resurgence of Pakistani cinema
The release of Bin Roye is being celebrated as a milestone for the Pakistani film industry that has been struggling to revive itself.
The once-thriving cinema of Pakistan abruptly collapsed in the 1980s after a populist regime was overtaken by a military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. What followed was “an era of open religious propagation and reactive legislation.” And a cultural symptom of that “social and cultural rollback” was the fall of Pakistani cinema, journalist Nadeem F. Paracha wrote.
“By the early 2000s, an industry that once produced an average of 80 films annually was now struggling to even churn out more than two films a year,” Paracha wrote in the Dawn newspaper.
Under General Pervez Musharraf in the 2000s, the import of Indian films—that wasn’t allowed for more than three decades—helped revitalise the theatres in the country. That gave courage to young and independent Pakistani filmmakers to try again.
The success of Bin Roye is crucial to this new era.
“Irrespective of the box-office result, we should understand that it’s a huge step forward for Pakistani cinema, which is trying to rebuild itself,” Nadeem Mandviwalla, a film distributor and exhibitor, told the Indian Express.
Mahira versus Salman
Mahira Khan—who plays the protagonist of the film—is a well-known face in Pakistan. Having starred in a number of popular Pakistani television shows, such as Humsafar and Shehr-e-Zaat, she is widely admired for her acting prowess.
So much so that the actor is paired opposite Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in Raees, an upcoming crime thriller that will release on Eid next year.
This Eid, her Bin Roye is competing head-to-head with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan in Pakistan. Both films released just in time to cash in on the Eid holiday season. Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which hit theatres on July 17, collected 40 million Pakistani rupees ($392,773) until July 20, and Bin Roye—which released two days after the Bollywood blockbuster—netted 23 million Pakistani rupees ($225,844).
Internationally, Salman’s film collected a whooping $9.5 million (Rs60.37 crore) in just the first three days. Meanwhile, Bin Roye garnered $397,435 ($2.52 crore) in the North America and UK markets till July 20, according to the Indian Express. Bin Roye‘s international collection excludes India, where the film’s release was deferred. In Maharashtra, however, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has threatened to ban the film altogether.
“Considering the competition from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, these are great figures,” Aniket Kawade, vice president of B4U Films, the Pakistani film’s distributor in India, told the Indian Express.
Unlike most recent Pakistani films that deal with war, terror and Islam, Bin Roye—with its elaborate sets, dance sequences, foreign locales, and blingy dresses—seems inspired by Hindi film director Karan Johar’s productions.
This is what one review on Dawn said:
The story veers into complicated twists and turns and there are plenty of tears and heartbreak leading up to ‘happily ever after’. The movie is shot well, ricocheting from the cheerful colors of weddings and Eid to darker shades and shadows in the second half. Sets are well-conceived, the cinematography is smooth and the plot is pure Mills & Boon.