Bollywood movies have recently been banned by many cinemas in Pakistan amidst rising tensions with India, and after India banned Pakistani actors from working in Bollywood. This isn’t something new because for a large part in the not so distant past, Bollywood movies weren’t available other than pirated versions being sold dirt cheap in DVD shops across the country. This time around, however, the ban on Bollywood may not result in such a boom for the pirates in the market, thanks to Pakistani Cinema being in its best shape that we have ever known.
Here’s something from a recent personal experience, ‘dil yeh dancer ho gya’ was playing in the background, Mehwish Hayat’s and Fahad Mustafa’s subtle dance steps to this cheesy love song made me smile for I was actually enjoying a Pakistani movie after a long time. When the song was about to end, that is when it hit me. Pakistani Cinema, against all the odds, was on its way up again, after its horrendous downfall.
The downfall is mostly attributed to Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization policies and the death of the most celebrated hero of the Pakistani cinema, Waheed Murad, happening almost at the same time.
Everything went downhill from there and until 2003, there seemed no hope whatsoever for the Pakistani cinema. The first time my parents allowed me to watch a movie in a cinema was when ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ was released in 2007. I had to wait until ‘Bol’ was released in 2011, to visit a cinema for a Pakistani movie, again. However, after the new wave of Pakistani cinema made its way back to the country in 2013, I do not remember missing any Pakistani movie on purpose.
2016 has been particularly incredible for Pakistani cinema.
Amidst all the Pakistan-India war threats, crumbling democracy in the country, the world fighting over Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Muslims being portrayed as terrorists in the world, Pakistani cinema appears to be the lightning at the end of the tunnel. An anchor, in essence, we are holding onto in these chaotic times. Actor in Law, Ho Mann Jahan and Jannan, being the three highest grossing films of 2016, have brought about a revenue of more than 4 million rupees.
Apart from the revenues generated, the reviews have more or less been immensely encouraging. Actor in Law, although criticized for being heavily inspired by Bollywood, addresses a number of problems currently prevailing in Pakistan, rather articulately. Amusingly, while it blatantly talks about electricity issues, wall-chalking etc., it keeps the case regarding the staring problem in Pakistan open. A sad manifestation of the fact that our men gawking at our women is a problem that isn’t going to end soon. The movie is the perfect amalgamation of humor, wit and serious content.
Romantic comedies and dramas, including Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, Jannan, Ho Mann Jahan, Ishq Postive etc, have been particularly helpful in bringing the audience back to the cinemas. For the first time in the recent years, Pakistanis are actually flocking up to movie theaters, on account of good Pakistani movies that most of us feel comfortable to watch with our families.
According to some, the movies appear to be more of tele-film stuff than actual silver-screen masterpieces. That can be chalked up to production costs and hopefully what are just teething issues. However, what needs to be considered, at this point in time, is that Pakistani cinema is making a humongous comeback and that is all that matters, presently. The content is getting better with every new film and hopefully, it will continue doing so.
Quite recently, Mah-e-Mir got sent as Pakistan’s bid for Oscars in 2017, which beyond any doubt, is a huge thing for Pakistani cinema.
Keeping everything aside, animated movies are also making their way into the Pakistani cinema however slow the progress maybe. The sequel to the animated movie ‘3 Bahadur‘ is a living testimony to it. The recent incorporation of fresh talent in the form of new directors and actors sure seemed to have worked positively in the favor of Pakistani cinema.
The Pakistani cinema and everyone associated could really do with our appreciation and support at the moment, more than ever.
Cover Image via: Dawn.com