Roundup 2017 – Urdu Cinema

2017 has proved a mixed year for the business of the Pakistani Urdu movies. The early half (January – June) of 2017 was quite disappointing as very few films were released which too failed to impress the audience. In the later half the situation improved many folds when the films released on Eidul Azha performed very well. But the dry season returned again after Eidul Azha.With three major Urdu films lined up to release in the last week of 2017 lets hope the ending month of 2017 proves fruitful for the Urdu cinema.

Urdu is the only national language of Pakistan and along with English it is the second official language as well. Statistics wise, Urdu is the first language (or mother tongue) of around 10% population of Pakistan majority of which is concentrated in the cities of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukker and Mirpur Khas but native Urdu speakers also have presence in all major and minor cities. Urdu is the second language of almost every Pakistani, and has been adopted by every linguistic and ethnic group as a medium of communication.

Historically the main business hub of Urdu cinema was the city of Karachi until Urdu cinema declined in 1980s and Urdu film making almost halted by the start of the year 2000. Since 2013 when the revival of our Urdu cinema, the new generation of Urdu films have succeeded in pulling audience in all the major urban centers of Sindh and Punjab provinces.

This new age cinema has extended its circuit beyond Karachi. Now Urdu films main circuit is in the large urban centers of provinces of Punjab (mainly Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala), Sindh (mainly Karachi, Hyderabad) and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The most popular genre of Urdu films is comedy, followed by action and drama.

Urdu films saw a limited release in the cantonment areas in the provinces of KPK and Balochistan. In both these provinces Pashto films are in more demand, thus regional cinema dominates the Urdu cinema here. There are no active cinemas in the three federally administrated areas of FATA, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. So out of four provinces and four federal territories Urdu cinema has existence in two provinces (Sindh, Punjab) and one federal area (Islamabad).

The new age Urdu cinema has also succeeded outside Pakistan in the regions/countries where large number of Pakistani expatriates are living. Overseas the leading market for Pakistani Urdu films is in UK, UAE, US, Norway and Canada. But selected Urdu films are now also regularly released in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji and some European countries (France, Denmark, Germany). Overseas the most successful genre of Urdu films is family drama especially in UK where since 2015 Bin Roye(2015), Janaan (2016) and Punjab Nahin Jaungi (2017) have proven smashing hits. All these three films were of family-drama genre with a pinch of comedy.

The growing trend of Urdu cinema is clutter of films on festive holidays and a relatively dry season in the other months. Most of the films released this year targeted the public holidays like Eidul Fitr, Independence day, Eidul Azha, Pakistan Day and Christmass/Quaid Day. So the release of the films was relatively unevenly distributed.

This article is a month wise summary of the Urdu films released in this year. The collections posted are taken from the website Unluckily in our country the official business and budget of the film is seldom made public for the reasons better known to film makers and film distributors, so one has to rely on the unofficial and unconfirmed statistics.

January 2017
The starting month of the year benefits from the school holidays in the start of the month. But there has been on Urdu film released in the start of January. There is no public holiday in this month.

Only one Urdu film was announced and finally made it to the cinemas in January 2017. The film was Thora Jee Lay (TJL), directed by Rafay Rashdi who is the son of politician/host and social activist Mehtab Rashdi whereas the later was the producer of the film.

In January the cinema industry of Pakistan was struggling for existence due to the self imposed ban on the screening of Bollywood films (in October 2016). Though by the end of January 2017, this ban is lifted.

TJL was a story of six friends who were class fellows in the university. TJL introduced seven new faces on the big screen namely Rizwan Ali Jaffri,Bilal Abbas,Kasim Khan,Fatima Shah Jillani,Ramsha Khan,Salman Faisal,Ahsan Mohsin Ikram. TJL proved a half baked attempt of film making and was quite average in all the departments. The film bombed at the box office and thus the first Urdu film of 2017 proved an overall disappointment. TJL was severely criticized by the critics on social media and printing press.

Out of the seven new faces only Bilal Abbas Khan and Ramsha Khan impressed with their performance.

Film: Thora Jee Le (تھوڑا جی لے)
Release Date: 20 January 2017
Distributor: Hum Films
Genre: Coming of Age / Comedy / Drama
Budget: Not specified
Collections in Pakistan: 35 – 40 lakh
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: 35 – 40 lakh

February 2017
The second month of year has one public holiday of Kashmir Day on 5th February and it can be utilized for any film based on Kashmiris struggle for independence. But so far no considerable film has been released.

Apart from 5th February, the other notable event in this month is the Valentines Day (14 February) weekend. Usually two to three Bollywood films or romantic genre are released on this weekend, however the Urdu film makers have never targeted this weekend.

The major sporting event of the cricket league Pakistan Super League (PSL) also starts in this month and any such popular sporting event impacts the business of cinema. This year two films were announced and finally released in the month of February which were Balu Mahi and Whistle.

Balu Mahi being a romantic comedy aimed the Valentines Day weekend. Balu Mahi is the first film directed by Haissam Hussain (ہا‏ئصم حسین) known for some popular dramas like Dastaan, Durre Shehwar, Bin Roye. Haissam’s first film was Bin Roye released in 2015 but due to some differences with the producers he left the film incomplete and subsequently the film was completed by Hameed Kashmiri and Momina Duraid (also the producer).

Balu Mahi featured Osman Khalid Butt, Ainnie Jaffri and Sadaf Kanwal in the lead roles. The film was beautifully shot in Lahore, Sheikhupura and Gilgit Baltistan. Balu Mahi was released in Pakistan as well as overseas. Despite high expectations the film under performed in Pakistan and failed to blossom overseas.

Film: Balu Mahi (بالو ماہی)
Release Date: 10th February 2017
Distributor: APlus films
Genre: Romance, Situational Humor, Drama, Adventure
Budget: 8 – 10 crore (estimated)
Collections in Pakistan: 3 – 4 crore
Collections Overseas: Released but have minimal earnings
Total Collections: 3 – 4 crore

Whistle is the second film released in February 2017. It was a medium budgeted film released without any publicity and as expected proved a washout at the box office. Sohail Sameer and Farhan Ali Agha played the main roles in the film based on drugs and law enforcement agencies.

Film: Whistle (وسل)
Release Date: 17th February 2017
Genre: Action, Thriller
Budget: Not specified
Collections in Pakistan: Negligible
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: Negligible

March 2017
The third month of the year has one public holiday of Pakistan Day on 23rd March and if falling on the weekend provides a long weekend.

The major cricket event of Pakistan Super League (PSL) also falls in this month which impacts the business of the films. Only one film was announced and finally released in this month which was Raasta.

Raasta release date was 23rd March but due to some differences with the censor board, the film failed to get the screening certificate in time and delayed for one week to release on 31st March 2017.

Raasta was the debut of Sahir Lodhi on big screen as actor, director, producer and writer. Sahir Lodhi actively promoted the film through his morning show on TV One. He also announced the sequel/prequel of the film as well donating the film’s profit to build a hospital in Karachi.

Raasta bombed at the box office and received criticism from bloggers and film critics. In response Sahir staged many press conferences and blamed the critics as agent of foreign countries who do not want to see Pakistani cinema prosper. With the demise of the film on the box office the announcements of donation to hospital and prequel/sequel also vanished.

Film: Raasta (راستہ)
Release Date: 31 March 2017
Distributor: TV One films
Genre: Action, Romance
Budget: 8 – 9 crore (stated by Sahir Lodhi)
Collections in Pakistan: 30 – 40 lakh
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: 30 – 40 lakh

April 2017
The fourth month of the year has no public holiday. No Pakistani film released in the first three months of the year proved successful and the trend continued in this month. A total of three films announced but eventually only two were released.

The announced films were Tum Hi Ho, Chalay Thay Saath (CTS) and Parwaz where the last two released as per announcement and Tum Hi To Ho was delayed. Parwaz was a low budgeted film produced and released only in Lahore and went unnoticed.

CTS was the only major film of this month starring Syra Shehroz and Kent S. Leong (a Canadian-Chinese actor). Being debut film of Syra, there were high hopes from CTS but it also struggled at the box office. The film was shot at the scenic locations in the Gilgit Baltistan and China.

Film: Chalay Thay Saath (چلے تھے ساتھ)
Release Date: 21st April 2017
Genre: Romance, Drama
Budget: Not Available
Collections in Pakistan: 1 – 1.5 crore
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: 1 – 1.5 crore

May 2017
The fifth month of the year has one public holiday of labor day on 1st May. It is the month in which summer season reaches its full intensity. The holy muslim month of Ramazanul Mubarak also started in the last week of this month.

No urdu film was released in this month.

June 2017
The six month of year has three public holidays of Eidul Fitr in the last week of the month. Two urdu films were released on the Eidul Fitr which are Yalghaar and Mehrunnisa V Lub You (MVLY).

Being Eid releases both film performed well on the box office. Films released on Eid normally perform well, but both these films are the first hit films of the year 2017. So after six months finally two Urdu films succeeded at the box office.

Yalghaar is a long awaited film which is in production since December 2013 after three and half year the film is finally released on Eidul Fitr in June. Directed by Hassan Waqar Rana, it has a long star cast. Yalghaar is considered as the most expensive film produced in Pakistan. The film has many lows the screenplay of the film was not impressive, the characters were not well developed. All in all the film was well below the expectations. Being an Eid release the film earned well in the opening weeks but failed to grow its business further. The film was released in Pakistan as well overseas. The film earned well in Pakistan but failed to impress overseas.

Despite earning well, the film failed to recover its expenses. There were high hopes from Hassan Waqas Rana after the grand success of Waar (2013) but Yalghaar failed to live up to the expectations.

Film: Yalghaar (یلغار)
Release Date: 26th June 2017
Distributor: Hum Films
Genre: Action
Budget: 25 – 30 crore
Collections in Pakistan: 16 crore
Collections Overseas: 4 crore
Total Collections: 20 crore

Mehrunnissa V Lub You, is the second film by Yasir Nawaz where Wrong No (2015) was his first film. A romantic comedy film, it was a perfect release for the Eidul Fitr. The film easily recovered its costs and earned profit for the producer. Though Wrong No earned 15 crore, MVLY earned less than that. MVLY was criticized for excessive usage of crass language and toilet humor.

Film: Mehrunnissa V Lub You (مہرالنسا وی لب یو)
Release Date: 26th June 2017
Distributor: Urdu1 Films
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Budget: 7-8 crore
Collections in Pakistan: 14 crore
Collections Overseas: Negligible
Total Collections: 14 crore

July 2017

No public holiday falls in July, but traditionally the number of releases in this month is high as it is the time of summer vacations in the country. There was announcement of three films in this month, sadly none of which is released in the end. The films were Project Ghazi, Chain Aye Na and Shor Sharaba. Project Ghazi release was cancelled just few days before its release leaving a bad impact on the ability of the production team. Chain Aye Na was delayed and released in August.

August 2017

The public holiday of independence day falls in this month. Two films were announced and released in this month. Both films have some similarities like produced in Lahore, released on the independence day weekend (11th August 2017), new faces in the leading roles along with seasoned artists and both failed miserably as well. The films were Chain Aaye Na and Jeo Sir Utha Ke.

Chain Aaye Na was the comeback of veteran director Syed Noor on the big screen. The trailer of Chain Aaye Na was released in the last week of June and received severe harsh response. The four minute long trailer was quite outdated and out of place. After lots of criticism two weeks later the film makers released the second trailer, trimmed to 2 minutes saying the first trailer was released without proper editing. However the second trailer failed to neutralize the devastating impacts of the first trailer.

Initially scheduled for 21st July 2017, the film ultimately released on 11th August 2017. The film received negative reviews in the English daily Dawn and Express Tribune as well on few social blogs. The reviewer in Dawn declared the film for enticing stalking as well as violence against women as in one scene the hero slaps the heroine thrice without any reason. Facing this criticism Syed Noor, declared the bloggers/reviewers as agent of foreign countries who do not want to see the Pakistani cinema prosper.

Film: Chain Aaye Na
Release Date: 11 August 2017
Genre: Musical Romantic
Budget: 7-8 crore
Collections in Pakistan: 30 – 40 lakh
Collections Overseas: N/A
Total Collections: 30 – 40 lakh

Jeo Sar Utha Ke was the second film released in August. It was a home production of Shafqat Cheema who also played the role of the villain in the film. Shafqat Cheema’s son Nadeem Cheema also worked in the film. The film was loosely based on the bandit gang of Chotu Dacait (active in Rajanpur, South Punjab). The film also failed to leave much impact and struggled at the box office. Shafqat Cheema performed the role of main villain in the film, rest of the cast was new.

Film: Jeo Sir Utha Ke
Release Date: 11 August 2017
Genre: Action
Budget: N/A
Collections in Pakistan: 30 – 40 lakh
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: 30 – 40 lakh

September 2017
The three day long public holiday of Eidul Azha fell in September 2017. From 2013 Eidul Azha has emerged as the most successful time of the year for Urdu cinema. This year too, Eidul Azha provided shattering success to the Urdu films.

A total of three Urdu films released in this month where two were released on Eidul Azha. Namaloom Afraad2 and Punjab Nahin Jaungi (PNJ) released on Eidul Azha and todate are the most successful films of the year 2017. The third film of this month was Saawan.

Namaloom Afraad2 released on Eidul Azha was the first film of this month. It was the sequel of Namaloom Afraad released on Eidul Azha in 2014 and also proved super hit.NMA2 has the same cast of Fahad Mustafa, Javed Sheikh and Mohsin Abbas in the lead roles. The film proved successful and to date is the second most successful film of the year.

Film: Namaloom Afraad 2 (نامعلوم افراد 2)
Release Date: 1st September 2017
Distributor: Urdu1 Films
Genre: Comedy
Budget: N/A
Collections in Pakistan: 20 – 22 crore
Collections Overseas: Not available
Total Collections: 20 – 22 crore

Punjab Nahin Jaungi (PNJ) released on Eidul Azha was the second film of this month. Starring Humayun Saeed and Mehwish Hayat in the lead roles, it was written by Khalilur Rehman Qamar. PNJ proved smashing hit and emerged as the most successful Urdu film worldwide. The film also became the second highest earning Urdu film in Pakistan by earning around 31 crore (it is still running), where the highest earning Urdu film was Jawani Phir Nahin Aani (JPNA) released on Eidul Azha 2015 also starring the same pair in the lead role.

PNJ became the highest earning Urdu film outside Pakistan surpassing JPNA, but so far is behind the business of JPNA in Pakistan. PNJ emerged as the highest earning film of the year 2017.

With the success of both PNJ and NMA2, Eidul Azha again emerged as the dominant holiday season for Pakistani cinema. PNJ is still running in cinemas

Film: Punjab Nahin Jaongi (پنجاب نہیں جاؤں گی)
Release Date: 1st September 2017
Distributor: ARY Films
Genre: Family Drama
Budget: Not Available
Collections in Pakistan: 31 – 32 crore (still running)
Collections Overseas: 16 – 17 crore
Total Collections: 47 – 48 crore (still running)

Saawan was the third film released in this month. It was a serious film catering multiple social issues. The film was selected as Pakistan’s nomination to the Oscars Award’s foreign film category award. Like any serious film it struggled on the box office. Apart from the distinction of Oscar’s nomination the film failed to register any success.

Film: Saawan (ساون)
Release Date: 15th September 2017
Distributor: Geo Films
Genre: Social Drama
Budget: N/A
Collections in Pakistan: Few Lakhs
Collections Overseas: Not released
Total Collections: Few Lakhs

October 2017
October was the third month (after May and July) in which no Urdu film was released which was an irony, as two Urdu films released in September proved block buster. Despite the grand success, no film maker released any film in October.

November 2017
The dry spell of Urdu cinema continued in November and only one major film Verna was released.

Verna has many highlights, the biggest of of which was its producer/director/writer Shoaib Mansoor followed by Mahira Khan the leading lady. Shoaib Mansoor returned to big screen after a gap of six long years. Despite presence of such big names Verna proved average at box office.

Being a serious films it was never expected to earn huge but its business was below expectation. The film catered multiple social ills prevailing in the society but failed to do complete justice with its subject. Many film critics rated the film is the weakest film of Shoaib Mansoor and Mahira Khan’s career.

Film: Verna (ورنہ)
Release Date: 17th November 2017
Distributor: Hum Films
Genre: Revenge/ Thriller Drama
Budget: Not stated
Collections in Pakistan: 6 crore (still running)
Collections Overseas: 3 -4 crore
Total Collections: 10 crore (still running)

December 2017
The last month of the year is in progress and four films are releasing in it. It is the highest number of films in any month of 2017. Ishq Wala Love, Rangreza, Arth The Destination and Chuppan Chupai are the four films where last three a major productions.

This month has one public holiday of Christmas/Quaid Day on 25th December and two films Rangreza and Arth The Destination are releasing on Christmas weekend. The third film Chuppan Chupai is releasing on new years weekend.

There are huge expectations from all these three films and hopefully their success will provide a favorable farewell of the year 2017 to the Pakistani cinema.

So this concludes the compilation of the films released this month. On the whole it was a mixed year with few successful and mostly unsuccessful films. Most film makers tried to sail safe by restricting their films to festive holidays. Hopefully in the 2018 the film makers will dare to also target the months without any festive holiday too so that Urdu films release all year round.

Thanks for reading and do comment about your favorite films of the year 2017. Which film you liked the most, any particular area and reason for the liking.

Rashid Nazir Ali

Rashid Nazir Ali

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