Follow Pakistani channels for a week and you will get one thing clear in your head, if there is any media rivalry worth calling a ‘rivalry’, it’s between ARY and Geo. If Geo has/had Nadaniyan, ARY has got Bulbulay, if Geo has Aamir Liaquat, ARY has Junaid Jamshed, if Geo has Capital Talk, ARY gets you things Off the Record, if Geo is quickest, ARY is expected to be the authentic most, such that, the media house rivalry starts and ends on these two channels only.
This rivalry between these two media giants is basically being fought on three fronts currently; the first one, as many would have already guessed, is ‘News’. Thanks to this ‘news’ that the names ARY and GEO are known to most men in Pakistan. The second front is ‘Drama’, now if there are infinity reasons in the world for couple fights, the feud between control over television remote is one of them, but in Pakistan, almost every fight and divide has a fight and divide within itself too, thus, our women not only have to fight on their ‘remote’ rights, but when they finally have that magic stick in their hands, the mental struggle over ‘ARY or GEO Entertainment’ starts–this mental war though is getting thinner these days, all thanks to this insanely popular Turkish soap ‘Mera Sultan‘, but again, it is aired on Geo Kahani, another arm of Geo Television Networks.
The third dimension to this rivalry, which is also our subject here, is ‘Film distribution’. Now don’t be like, ‘hey, this editor guy totally forgot the music channels of these two media houses’. No, how can I really forget such a thing? It’s just that I am not convinced enough to call this mere competition-for-the-sake-of-competition scuffle between Aag and ARY Music a war. That industry is dominated by numerous small players, dividing the whole market share into different small pockets, giving everyone involved a great run for their money. So, not one-on-one exactly, but you have a complete rights to think otherwise.
Now, coming back to this film distribution part, since the days of Khuda Kay Liye, we had been convincingly thinking that the best filmmaking formula in Pakistan is first to produce a slightly good-looking film; a sociopolitical preferably, and then getting it released countrywide under the banner of Geo Films. Anything getting stamped with that banner name turned into the golden goose, making some serious money at box office.
The Geo-Pakistan film industry association mainly dates back to 2004, this was the year when Geo got associated with Shehzad Rafique directed Salakhain, the film ended up making quite an impact at local cinemas. Then came Khuda Kay Liye, this was perhaps the first time, we, the new generation saw some potential in Pakistani cinema. Followed by Ramchand Pakistani, not really making it that big at box office, but was again an impact leaving product of Pakistan film industry, then hits like, Muhabbatan Sachiyan, Virsa, Bol and most recently Chambaili. Thus, it was like, either you come under Geo films, or you are a probable flop.
ARY Films, however, hasn’t really been that big of a name for all these years, they did try their hands in this movie distribution business by releasing Javed Sheikh’s Khulay Aasman Kay Neechey in 2008, but failed miserably. Since then, it felt like as if they stopped considering this business part of their league.
But more recently, the brand has sort of revived itself, a possibly new management, a great looking new logo, more and more distribution deals, and what not, all of this definitely ringing a danger alarm for Geo. The news of Iram Parveen’s Josh releasing under banner of ARY Films sure came as a pleasant surprise, we thought ‘okay, finally they are trying their luck again.’ But this got more and more serious with time, right after the Josh news, we heard of ARY Films securing a deal with Humayun Saeed for Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, taking it all away from the jaws of Geo Films, and finally giving the movie a successful cinema release in Pakistan. But this just wouldn’t stop here, it was never supposed to, in fact, this was all followed by a much bigger shocker, the one that we got after seeing Waar too falling into the hands of ARY. Through that particular act, ARY had made its message clear, “WE ARE BACK!… Oh, and we mean some serious business this time”.
Things seem to have cool down for a while after Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, but that’s mainly because it’s no more Eid, after all, ARY films is done delivering its message, and they did it quite well. However, let us assure you, this momentarily silence is not just that simple. From the face of it, it looks like as if Geo for the time being is only focusing on international releases, and that they are too occupied to give local films any heed. But, ahaan, that’s not how ARY-Geo rivalry works. We reckon an ongoing proxy war, a war being fought silently between the two bigwigs on possibly securing some deal with any upcoming big local film, there are many coming in next ten to twelve months, just give it a little thought. Leave Zinda Bhaag and Waar and start counting it from Tamanna, the film may release in fall 2013, succeeded by Operation-021 in the line, possibly releasing in early 2014, then comes the next big sociopolitical Shoaib Mansoor film on India-Pakistan issue, followed by this awesome looking film named Moor, by Jami, and the list just goes on. Thus, too many possible battle grounds.
But the question that’s far more significant and interesting is that who strikes next? And more importantly, through which film? Here it becomes a little tricky to guess. Even if we give the ‘film part’ our best shot, we can only say it’s going to be one of the early ones. The reason why it came as a guess is because of the fact that there are certain films having their release dates due, they need to hit cinemas somewhere in next three to four months, and these distribution deals in Pakistan are usually worked out in this particular stage of a film. Thus, the fight could be on another Eid release for this year, or maybe something even bigger.
Now who really strikes next, only time can tell. But don’t expect either Geo or ARY to play it soft. They are struggling, one for recognition and one to regain its place. But be sure of it, it is all going to be highly interesting and quite healthy for the film culture in Pakistan.