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    Pakistani Pashto movies replace Indian ones at Kabul cinemas

    KABUL (PAN): Farid, 25, was absorbed in the film playing on the cinema screen, and would not be disturbed even to answer a journalist’s question.

     “It is a very interesting scene, if you want to watch it, come and sit with me, otherwise don’t disturb me,” he snapped.

    Afghans have always loved films, but under the Taliban they were banned from watching movies or TV. Since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, Afghan cinefiles have again been flocking to the cinema.

    But the past nine months have seen a change. Instead of Indian and Afghan films, Kabul cinemas have been showing Pakistani Pahsto movies, which are attracting young men with their prolific love scenes and semi-naked actresses. Some of the moviegoers do not even speak Pashto.

    Farid, who was watching the film avidly, would sometimes clap and whistle during scenes he liked.

     “I am a youth and the Pakistani movies have nice and lovely scenes and that is why I like them a lot,” he told Pajhwok Afghan News, during a break.

    As Indian and Afghan movies are broadcast on TV, they have become boring, he said. Although he does not know Pashto, he said: “When you see these movies once, you will want to watch them again and again.”

    While seven cinemas opened in Kabul after the Taliban were ousted, only five are operating now.  Three of them screen Pashto movies three times a day.

    At the Pamir, between 200 to 300 people attend each screening, paying 50 afghanis ($1.10) a time.   

    Most are unemployed and watch films because they have nothing else to do. “I am jobless and I want to pass my time here,” said Abdul Saboor, while watching a movie at Pamir Cinema.

    He said he liked Pakistani movies for two reasons. The first was because he understands Pashto and the second was because of the love scenes.  

    The director of Pamir Cinema, Mohammad Nadar, said TV channels were not able to make their own films, so kept broadcasting the same ones, which was boring for people.

    Although he acknowledged that a big draw of the Pakistani films was the explicit love scenes, he said there were censors who would cut the illicit scenes.

    “Some of the Indian movies shown on TV are even more illicit,” Nadar said.

    The head of Afghan Film, Latif Ahmadi, said that there was no clear policy about which films should be allowed and which should be banned. But he said that if the film insults Islamic teachings, it should not be screened in the country.

    “We do not have standards or regulations for cinemas,” he said.

    Film director, Siddq Barmak, said Afghan movies were made on a cheap budget and with low quality equipment so they could not compete with films from other countries.

    He said the Pakistani Pashto movies did not provide any insight into the culture of Pashtuns on the other side of the border and if they were not banned could have a bad impact on the young generation. “These movies can misguide our society, particularly the youth,” he said.

    He also complained about the state of cinemas in Kabul.

     “Before the civil war, the cinema was a protected place and place of enjoyment, but now they have become a second home for youth addicted to hashish and other drugs,” he said.

    Residents of Kabul also say the condition of the cinemas has deteriorated and it is no longer a pleasant experience to watch a film.

    In the past, cinemas were places people would go to lift away some of their tiredness, said Ghulam Mohammad, 50, a resident of Kabul.

    “Now cinemas are places for drug addicts and street boys,” he said.

    Abdul Hafiz, a resident of Khairkhana area of the city, does not like to go to the cinema. The environment at the cinema is not good and the movies are not according to the Afghan tradition, he said.

    “If good movies are imported, which can change the lives of people and the street boys are not allowed in to the cinema, everyone would watch movies,” he said.

    According to the union of film directors, there are 20 film production companies registered with Afghan Film, but only some are operating.   

    Compared to TV and radio, cinema has a long history in Afghanistan. Cinema started operating in Afghanistan during the era of King Amanullah Khan (1919-1929).  The first cinema opened in Paghman district of Kabul province.

    frm/cas