Famous director Nabeel Qureshi recently shined The BlackBox on YouTube, diving into the complex challenges that prevent Pakistani content from being seen globally on platforms like Netflix. Among the myriad reasons discussed, heightened political tensions between India and Pakistan emerged as a prominent factor affecting the exposure of Pakistani films and shows.
The Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad director shed light on the changing dynamics within Netflix, noting the move from a central headquarters in Los Angeles to a regional office in India. This, he argued, has significantly affected the reception and representation of Pakistani content on the streaming giant. At a time when digital platforms are playing a pivotal role, the director pointed out that the geopolitical climate has created hurdles in the promotion and acquisition of Pakistani films.
“Ever since the tensions between India and Pakistan rose,” Nabeel began, “I tell people very clearly, they don’t understand. You see, Netflix first had its headquarters in Los Angeles where all the transactions would be done. ” He added, “Now, they have created a regional office which is India. Keep one thing in mind, this is a fifth generation war, okay? And India, okay, we talk about friendship and all that, that’s okay, but that’s not possible anymore . Since this regional office, Pakistani content is not getting there. Any Pakistani film – now, let alone the originals, they would buy rights, they don’t anymore. And if they are, then I pay so much less that it doesn’t make sense.”
Nabeel expanded his knowledge to include other streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, echoing similar challenges stemming from geopolitical tensions. It highlighted the complexity surrounding political considerations, which, in turn, affect the availability of Pakistani content to a global audience. “There are many such problems,” he shared. “The same with Amazon Prime. There are some political reasons why certain things don’t happen. If you look at Netflix now, you’ll see the kind of propaganda there. Whatever content India does, there’s something Pakistani. It’s a bad moment for Muslims, especially Pakistanis.”
A notable observation made by Nabeel was about the prevalence of Indian content on Netflix, suggesting a significant presence influenced by political factors. He argued that the sprawling Indian film industry, with its vast repertoire, wields considerable influence over streaming platforms, overshadowing Pakistani content.
Additionally, the director touched on the language aspect, pointing out that the common language between India and Pakistan may contribute to the lack of a specific niche for Pakistani content. While acknowledging the sheer size and historical depth of the Indian film industry, Nabeel suggested that a unique linguistic identity could potentially carve out a niche for Pakistani content on global platforms.
“What I mean is that this is one reason why there is, overall, less Pakistani content on Netflix,” Nabeel said. “One: they don’t buy. Maybe they don’t like it, maybe it’s political.” And he continued, “See, it’s silly. The Indian industry is huge, no doubt about it. It’s very big. Maybe they can power ten products like Netflix. There’s a lot of content, it’s a huge industry and it’s been running for a hundred years, unlike ours, which is operational for five years and then not.
He continued, “Secondly, our language is also the same. Maybe if we had a different language, we might have a niche. Right now, if an Indian film is released, we all go and watch it with gusto. It’s the number one trend . The demand and the supply are there. There is no specific niche where something is specifically positioned so that the Pakistani public will watch it.”
In a separate segment of the interview, Nabeel provided information about Fatman’s shelves. Explaining the unforeseen obstacles, he recounted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the film’s production schedule. Notably, the character of Fatman, who was supposed to be written by Ahmad Ali Butt, was transformed, leading to a temporary halt to the project. The renowned film maestro revealed that Ahmad’s significant weight loss made the character’s dynamics unachievable. Despite the actor’s willingness to regain some weight, the director emphasized the importance of authenticity in portraying the character.
“It had to be Fatman,” Nabeel recalls. “I remember in March 2020 we were supposed to start shooting. And in February 2020, the COVID hit. The shooting stopped. When the shooting stopped, Ahmad Ali Butt, who was quite the ‘Fatman’ in the past, became shape. The character got away. Now, we met a few times and he said he could put on some weight – not a lot, about 10 pounds – but that wouldn’t be fun at all. Until he puts on more weight, it won’t be fun. And I can’t to actually see any other actor have done it yet.”
The complex conversation with Nabeel shed light on the multifaceted challenges faced by Pakistani content creators in the global digital landscape, offering a nuanced perspective on the dynamics of the industry and its aspirations for global recognition.
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