ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani film director is hoping his new rom-com can premiere in Saudi Arabia to the same packed houses as his last movie did a year ago.
Azfar Jafri said he wanted his fourth film “Heer Maan Ja” to open in Riyadh to an even bigger response than its predecessor “Parchi” when it premiered in the capital in January last year.
“Parchi” became the first Pakistani film, and one of only a handful of international movies, to be released in the Kingdom after the lifting of a near 40-year ban on cinemas. Its screening marked another milestone for a raft of modernization and cultural reforms in the Kingdom, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“To say it (the ‘Parchi’ premiere) was the best experience is an understatement,” said its producer and CEO of IRK films, Imran Raza Kazmi. “I was completely overwhelmed with the amazing response we received. We weren’t expecting a crowd of that intensity. The number of shows and seats had to be increased.”
He said the release of “Parchi,” which tells the story of a group of friends who hit trouble when one of them owes a gangster money, had paved the way for future Pakistani filmmakers to showcase their work in Saudi Arabia.
Kazmi recently forged an agreement with a Saudi production company to distribute Pakistani movies in the Kingdom.
“We have some interesting projects lined up and we will be recruiting talent from there (Saudi Arabia) as well, so that should be interesting,” Kazmi told Arab News.
Saudi cinemas were closed in the early 1980s, but in 2017 the government said it would lift the ban and open around 350 movie theaters with more than 2,500 screens by 2030, generating nearly $1 billion in annual box office sales.
“It is a matter of pride to be the torchbearer of sharing entertainment, culture and our unique voice with audiences in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Jafri said.
Last year’s “Parchi” premiere was held at the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh and was attended by a host of senior officials.
Jafri said: “I believe it’s a good time for the Pakistani film industry.”