Certain Hindi-language film actors, most notably Amitabh Bachchan, carp that to call their cinema "Bollywood" is to imply that it is but an imitation of Hollywood. (We at BollyWHAT? think "Bollywood" is just a handier name than "popular Hindi cinema," but hey, who are we to challenge the Big B?) Even if Mr. Bachchan is right, most people would agree that the Urdu and Panjabi film industry based in Lahore, Pakistan, takes not Hollywood but Bollywood as its guiding inspiration when it terms itself "Lollywood." For that reason, it seems natural to include the industry in a survey of Indian cinema.

Alas, Indians tend to sneer openly at Lollywood. "The Pakistani film industry is almost non-existent," says Bollywood director Mansoor Khan. "They make some very loud, garish films which are mindless copies of our C-list films. No actor can take Pakistani films seriously. It's a pity how they thrive only on Hindi films. If they haven't made their presence felt in 50 years, the industry doesn't have a great future." (Hindustan Times, July 7, 2001)

One could argue that Indians' widespread contempt for Pakistan's cinema is motivated by the ongoing political enmity between the two nations. However, Pakistanis seem to agree with Indians' assessment of Lollywood. In Screen India, writer Javed Siddiqui describes a visit to Pakistan in which weddings revolved around tunes from Bollywood blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Koun?, where Shahrukh Khan and Karisma Kapoor ruled filmfans' hearts, and antakshari competitions (in which a contestant sings a verse of a song and stops abruptly, and the next contestant must sing a different song that begins with the word the last contestant ended on) featured solely Hindi film tunes.

Lollywood's actors and singers seem to concur with the general populace's opinion. Several have tried to break into Indian film, with limited success. Pakistani actress (and American-born) Somy Ali has starred opposite Bollywood heavyweight Jackie Shroff, but is still better known as the NYC-living ex-girlfriend to whom Salman Khan flies when things with Aish aren't working out. Zeba Bakhtiar won a lead role in Randhir Kappor's critically acclaimed Henna, and later featured in the famous "Pardesi Pardesi" song in Raja Hindustani, but hasn't gotten any offers since. Kapoor voices the stereotypical ideas about Pakistani actors when he muses to the Hindustan Times, "Zeba was a beautiful girl. She had the perfect peaches-and-cream complexion but she had major inhibitions. She couldn't emote, she had a deadpan face. And her face was very traditional, so she didn't work well in western roles. We have so many talented young people around in India, we don't have to look beyond borders." Meanwhile, Pakistani singer Adnan Sami, who shot to fame in Bollywood with his rendition of "Mehbooba Mehbooba" in the film Ajnabee, perhaps voices the rationale for trying to hit it big in India when he says, "Pakistani film playback is not at all a lucrative career because the films don't do well commercially. As an artiste, I wouldn't want to be associated with Pakistani films." (Hindustan Times, July 7, 2001)

Pakistani film has not always been such an endangered species. In the 70s and early 80s, the industry boasted eleven studios that produced over a hundred films annually. But in the face of stiff competition via the recent spread of cable television and the influx of pirated Bollywood videos, Lollywood's annual output has dropped to forty films -- produced by a single studio. (www.commonwealth.org.uk)

Perhaps Siddiqui sums up the situation best when he tells Screen India, "The Pakistani film industry is in shambles. Their studios don’t even have proper tripods. A good Pakistani film is made on a budget of Rs one crore or thereabouts. My friends were stunned when I told them that in Hindi films, that kind of money would hardly suffice to sign a big star."

Source: Bollywhat.com