When it comes to the horror genre, Pakistan is no stranger. Believe it or not, Pakistani film makers and artists have ventured into this foray from time to time. This year, you have a film coming out called Pari. Then you had Zibahkhana that came out some ten years ago and created some ripples when it released. There was also this TV series about vampires called “Haqeeqat” that aired when all you twenty-somethings were wee little babies.
It was a movie called ‘Zinda Laash’ that started the very niche trend of horror movies and TV shows in Pakistan
The movie was so scandalous for its time that it became the first ever X-Rated Pakistani film.
The movie came out in 1967 and is basically an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Yes, our very on Dracula, with a desi twist, of course. Before we get on to anything else let me just give huge props to the director Khwaja Sarfraz for taking such a huge risk. I mean this was an era when the industry was just starting out and to have people venture into something out of the ordinary is commendable. You didn’t even have proper blue print internationally available for a Dracula film since there weren’t many screen adaptations.
The movie is unlike any Dracula movie adaptation you’ve seen elsewhere
The movie starts off with a disclaimer of sorts. You are presented with a message that life and death are in the hands of God alone (probably as a message to the audience not to get carried away and start believing that Dracula is for real). The story begins with Professor Tabbani developing ‘Ab e Hayat‘ or the elixir of life. However, as soon as he drinks it he immediately dies. On his own request that he had made earlier, he is buried in a casket in the basement of his building.
As expected, Dr. Tabbani sahab rises up from the dead and has now become a vampire aka Count Dracula
Dracula eats his assistant and terrorizes the people of the town he used to live in so a colleague of his, Dr. Aqeel goes on to check out Tabbani’s crib after having heard all sorts of weird shit from the town folk.
If only he had listened to the warnings. Aqeel being the badass he is, wanders into the house and goes on to meet Tabbani. After exchanging a few dad jokes, Tabbani offers Aqeel a place to stay and the latter accepts. This is rather shocking considering that Tabbani is being full on creepy. Tabbani even drools over pictures of Aqeel’s fiance Shabnam.
Jolly good old Aqeel just laughs about his old friend’s changed demeanor (dude has become a vampire, you idiot) and writes about it in his journal
Suddenly this female vampire shows out of nowhere. Tabbani gives her some food, which I am pretty sure was a live baby. Then Aqeel and Tabbani enter into a scuffle of sorts and Aqeel dies. All this time I though Aqeel was the hero but he leaves us in the middle of the movie.
Turns out it’s Aqeel’s brother Habib who’s the actual Van Helsing of the story. He is later introduced and is a doctor himself. Habib comes to town to investigate his missing brother. Meanwhile Aqeel’s fiance Shabnam also gets involved in the main story and the tale of whether or not they survive the wrath of Count Dracula (the Pakistani version) is what follows.
The movie may follow the dynamics of a traditional Western horror film from that era but also has that local filmi-ness
You have that whole organ sound and creepy theatrics. There is Wagner playing at some points. Considering my only exposure to Western Classical music is Looney Toons, at times I felt if it were an episode of Bugs Bunny. However, at the same time, there are old desi ganas in between. One song, in particular, has a woman dancing in a jazz bar. I personally found the scene to be pretty scary.
According to scroll.in, “Zinda Laash faced some of its biggest hurdles at the time of its release. The Pakistani Censor Board was shocked at what it termed the “filth” of the material and gave it an Adults only rating – the first ever such certification for a Pakistani film. The censors clamped down on some of the dance numbers, declaring the hip and breast movements of the female dancers as vulgar. A religious reference to Saint Joseph was also deleted.”
In the end, I basically fell in love with how crazy insane this first ever X-Rated Pakistani movie was and here’s a sneak peak for you too:
Cover image via: Omar Ali Khan / scroll.in