Bangladesh Film Distributors' Association are once again demanding that Bollywood movies in Bangladesh be allowed in local movie theatre.
Around two weeks back, Sudipto Kumar Das, adviser to the association, made the demand at a meeting with Information Minister Hasan Mahmud.
For the past one year, they have been seeking the opportunity to screen Bollywood films in their cinemas in a way "that that local films are not impacted". They want five to 10 Bollywood movies to be screened in a year.
They association also claims there will be no need to import foreign films once the situation of the local film industry normalises.
Interestingly, producers and filmmakers of the country are also not opposed importing Bollywood films this time, though they vehemently opposed it in 2015.
Taking into consideration the overall situation of the domestic film industry, they are now in agreement with the movie theater owners.
Seeking anonymity, a producer told The Business Standard that their priority, first and foremost, was to save movie theatres, which would not survive without films.
Therefore, the screening of foreign movies has to be allowed in the country as a temporary measure, he added.
Though there are currently 20 movies in producers' hands, they are not releasing them, fearing losses. Since movie theatres opened on 16 October, only two films have been released, which explains why most cinemas remain shut.
Indian films in Bangladeshi theatres
Though movie house owners have been actively trying to import Bollywood films, Indian films have not had a good showing in the local box office over the last few years. Several Indian Bengali movies were released in the country under the SAPTA agreement with India, but were unable to do good business.
Even Salman Khan's movie 'Wanted,' which was released in around 50 cinemas across the country in 2015, failed to attract an audience.
Kolkata's movies 'Khoka, 'Khoka 420', 'Beporoa', 'Bela Seshe', 'Haripada Bandwala, 'Yeti Obhijaan,' 'Posto,' 'Jeo Pagla,' 'Inspector Naughty K' and 'Bisorjan' released at different times were also box office failures in Bangladesh.
Then why are they interested in importing movies from Kolkata or Bollywood? The movie theater owners claim that Indian films screened here earlier were older releases, and Bangladeshi cinephiles had already seen them prior to their arrival in our shores.
Therefore, movie house owners demand the simultaneous release of new Bollywood or Bengali titles to lure the audience to the theatres.
But according to film import policy, an Indian film cannot be released in Bangladesh on the day of its release in India.
The cinema owners held a meeting in this regard with the information minister and received assurances from the ministry of information.
Mushfikur Rahman Gulzar, president of Bangladesh Film Directors Association, said, "We have to follow a path through which the film industry will prosper. Foreign films can be imported to save our movie theatres."
Cinema owners opined that during a product crisis, importing those goods was essential over time.
Iftekhar Uddin Nowshad, owner of Modhumita cinema, said that importing 20-25 foreign films per year would draw in crowds at the movie theaters. The domestic film industry will have turned around by the time local films are released.
"So, taking into consideration the dire situation of the industry at present, all parties need to be in agreement on the issue of importing foreign films," said Iftekhar.
Several renowned actors of the country are now in favour of screening foreign films despite wearing burial shrouds in protest several years ago.
Popular actor Chanchal Chowdhury is in favour of screening foreign films in Bangladesh. He expressed his opinion in this regard while speaking to several journalists. Many of his colleagues have also welcomed the idea, though most actors want this to be a temporary measure.
The Business Standard reached out to the information ministry to find out whether the government is ready to allow the screening of Bollywood movies. Two separate officials responded that the issue was pending with the minister.