By: Usman Ghafoor
It was pegged as the big Eid clash, with Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees heroine Mahira Khan taking on Salman Khan. Eventually Mahira couldn’t keep her date with India as her Pakistani film Bin Roye wasn’t released, following threats by the Maharashtra NavNirman Sena (MNS). Meanwhile, Salman’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan is writing box-office history, having earned over Rs 100 crore in three days in India. But for Team Bin Roye, this has also been an auspicious Eid-ul-Fitr.
The Pakistani film simultaneously opened in the UAE, UK, US and Canada and till Monday, has grossed $138586 in US/Canada and £165800 in the UK. B4U have released Bin Roye in international markets excluding Pakistan and the Middle-East. Aniket Kawade, Vice-President, B4U, says, “Considering the competition from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, these are great figures. We plan to release Bin Roye in more countries in the coming week.” Kawade assures of an Indian release too. “We will definitely release the film in India. The fresh date would be announced shortly,” he adds.
In Pakistan, more than the box-office collections, it’s the release that is being celebrated. According to leading film distributor and exhibitor Nadeem Mandviwala, “History is being made, as we speak. Irrespective of the (film’s) box-office result, we should understand that it’s a huge step forward for Pakistani cinema, which is trying to rebuild itself.” Both Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Bin Roye have recorded huge opening weekend collections in Pakistan. Whereas Bin Roye was billed as a favourite with women and is doing exceedingly well in multiplexes (reportedly, as many as 10-15 shows of Bin Roye are being added each day), Bajrangi Bhaijaan has been able to attract the masses as well as the classes, and is doing equally well in single screens.
Sources at Eveready cinema in Lahore say that Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s aggregate stands at PKR 40 million (till Monday), compared to Bin Roye’s PKR 23 million. But the difference is also because Bajrangi Bhaijaan opened two days ahead of Bin Roye’s Eid-day release.
For the makers, Bin Roye is likely to emerge the winner in the long run, because of the earnings that are coming in from Dubai, the UK and the US where the film had grand, red-carpet premieres recently.
Broadly speaking, Pakistani cinema aka Lollywood had died its death around 2005, and the process of “rebuilding” took its time but was propelled by the theatrical release of Hindi films in the country, and the government forgoing the entertainment tax. The audience interest was stirred, revenue was generated and state-of-the-art cinemas began to crop up. All this inspired passionate filmmakers to gear up for production.
This “new” film industry borrows profusely from the pool of talent on small screen — actors, directors, and technicians, among others. Bin Roye, too, comes from the house of Momina Duraid, first-time film producer and co-director who is credited with some of Hum TV’s most popular and critically acclaimed shows such as Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai. That these shows famously crossed over to Zee Zindagi and got their lead actors Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan major roles in Hindi films, is well-known.
Bin Roye — made on a budget of approximately PKR 30-35 million — stars Mahira along with television actor-producer Humayun Saeed (Indian audiences know him from a rather forgettable Mahesh Bhatt film, Jashnn). Providing their onscreen couple a dramatic twist is the character played by Armeena Rana Khan, another film debutant from television. The supporting cast is led by Zeba Bakhtiar (remember RK Films’ Henna?) and Jawed Sheikh, who has just finished work in Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha. A soft, romantic tale, imbued with the emotions of jealousy and distrust, Bin Roye is scripted by Farhat Ishtiaq (of Humsafar fame). Momina is confident of its appeal with the local audience. “Those who enjoy our drama will like Bin Roye. Yeh hamaray mizaj ki film hai (it’s a film that reflects our taste),” she says.
“Somebody in India said to me once, ‘Your drama is closer to our film.’ It’s a huge compliment,” adds Momina.
When quizzed about a clash with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Momina says, “We are for a level-playing field. Let’s not stop a bigger film in order to push your sales up. We could have postponed Bin Roye but we didn’t, because it is essentially an Eid film. In fact, it opens with an elaborate sequence of chaand raat.” Mahira says that she has been waiting for the movie to release ever since she read the script. “I felt an instant connection with it,” she says.
Usman Ghafoor is a Lahore-based journalist