Syed Noor, a pioneer of the film industry in Pakistan, once called cinema in our country static. Static, because of a dearth of progressive filmmakers as well as a lack of an audience for anything that deviates from the norm. It is not far from the truth that there is an audience for over the top movies that does not seem to look beyond voluptuous women dancing in the rain- and this was how things were in the 1990s. The elites were not found in the cinemas, and a woman had to think thrice before entering a cinema full to the brink with men. But things have changed.

In a unique example of change from the top, it has been the opening of big cinemas showing English and Indian movies over the past decade that has enlarged the local film-watching audience. Commercial films are catering now to all parts of the population, not just the Pakistan male looking for action and excitement in an air-conditioned hall. More intellectual films are also doing well, garnering international and local appreciation. The fact is that if the industry makes good films, people will watch them. The industry had been stuck in stereotypical Punjabi romance-action-thriller for too long, and had almost fenced itself.

Ten movies were released on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr and cinemas, once again, are showing local films rather than foreign ones. Pakistani filmmakers have found themselves at the Oscars and at Cannes. We need to give local audiences credit for appreciating good cinematic productions. These changes could have come sooner, if filmmakers had been able to take a risk with the content they were producing.

Since 1913, out of 72 cinemas in Lahore, 42 have closed down. The good news is that many new cinemas have opened up. A new industry has popped up, with new directors, writers, actors and thoughts. We need to see films in the future that appeal to all sections of the population, and make us all think and reflect on our lives and times. If the recent growth in the industry is anything to go by, we have the potential to achieve this and much more.