Pakistani Cinema; Revival or Reincarnation?

As Pakistani industry is standing on a point where it requires a complete revamping of the industry because the formulas which got applied by the film makers and film related investors didn’t work out certainly. Pakistani cinema industry had no golden time it had always faced crisis in terms of viewer ship, investment and growing technology. Today it’s being claimed that Pakistani cinema industry is on a revival stage but it has revived from a deep coma but what it was in the true glory is not revived. The question is does today’s film makers really want that time again or we need complete death of that old system and reincarnate from the ashes of that era and give birth to a complete new industry. We see somethings as practice and something as dreamer and the reality is we’re lack of even technicians. We only have film camera in dozen and one can count cinematographers on finger tips where on other hand only Calcutta has hundreds of cameras and technicians.

This research gives a critical analysis of the history to identify the state in which Pakistani cinema industry was in and to also analyze the question on the basis of cinema history whether Pakistani cinema needs a revival or a complete new birth.

The Pakistani cinema has to discover its niche market and what it requires for that is critical analysis of the needs of cinema in terms of content and investments. As film and cinema has multiple elements and breakdown is required for all these elements for the better understanding of cinema.

The identity of Pakistani cinema or Lollywood emerged right after the partition of Sub-continent before partition there were three major hubs of film and studios. The major studios were established in silent era in Bombay and then it transferred to Calcutta, Lahore was relatively young industry. The first studio was established in 1928 by Kardar and Ismail with the name of United Players Corporation and they hired some actors from all over the subcontinent. The first film which was produced by UPC was Husan Ka Daku directed by Kardar.

After the partition Pakistan faced a major brain drain when most of the film makers and distributors left the country on the basis of their religion. There were less film making equipment left in the country and technicians and large staff which was working in studios in Lahore left the country. Large number of directors, writers and actors also migrated from the cinema industries of Calcutta and Bombay. As cinema houses were full with the pictures from Bollywood, this newly migrated pressurized government to ban Indian film as they found this competition unfair.

Post partition the first film was directed by Daud Chand and film was Teri Yaad, 1948, although it was big flop but it satisfied local distributors.
1950’s the Shahnoor Studio was established in Lahore and they produced first Punjabi film Chan Way which was directed by the first woman director of Pakistan, Noor Jehan. It was produced by her husband Shaukat Rizvi and this film opened a new medium in the field of our cinema as it was a major success from that year. After the release of this film people went back to the cinema which was affected by the Partition.

Film Hamari Zaban was the first ever Karachi made production which laid the base for a new industry in Pakistan. Although there were no as such studios in Karachi but they marketed the film well and made a good success and also attracted new film makers to join the industry. As Lahore continued to produce and make Punjabi films, a space for Urdu films was generated. They advertised their productions by projecting the big names like Santosh Kumar and Noor Jehan, soon they became a cult because of their massive fan following.

In 1960’ Pakistani cinema went through a reinforcement and experimental process in the medium of content creation. Initial 70’s gave another jolt to the cinema industry because Dhaka based actors and technicians left Pakistan. People were still experimenting and creating films and till 1980’s Pakistan was releasing 98 -100 films every year.

The coup of Zia-ul-haq and his policies lead Pakistani cinema into a phase of decadence, initially the government imposed that every film maker should be a degree holder which resulted into many producers and directors were unable to make films. They also increased entertainment tax and majorly cinema houses were demolished and closed.

The number of films which was 98 including 42 Urdu films reduced to 48 films yearly. It was very difficult for films to survive the films which survived in this situation were films of Sultan Rahi, in which the hero was holding a Gandasa and it gave birth to new culture which majorly separated audiences and people.

In 2007, Pakistani government started thinking about lifting the ban from Indian films on the request of Film Producers Association (FPA) and on the other hand a veteran Indian film director Mahesh Bhat visited Pakistan in search of new talent. Pakistan was on a new page of media history where for the first time licenses for TV channels were given to business men, Shoaib Mansoor with association of Geo films made “Khuda K Liyea” which actually disrupted the socio-political environment.

After the success of “Khuda K Liyea” which was screened across the borders in more than 100 cinemas, new film makers found it the right time to work once again in their country under the banner of “Revival of Pakistani Cinema”. The question still prevails whether the new wave of cinema which includes multiple film festival winners like “Moor” and “My Pure Land” or box office record breakers like “Na Maloom Afrad” and “Punjab nahi jaungi” are the revival of Pakistani cinema or a complete reincarnation.

Sarmad Khoosat who is a famous film director is of opinion that specifically about the rebirth or reincarnation of Pakistani cinema “whatever you say it, but no one of us specifically talking about the people who took part in this new wave, no one intentionally tried to revive the older culture of Pakistani film content. Everyone just tried to tell their stories and that phase was a honeymoon phase for Pakistani films because films like Manto were able to sell tickets.” The entire Pakistani film directors from new wave of cinema has their own impressions and style of film making, some of them were making films in Hollywood style, some in Bollywood and some of them even made old Lollywood style films. (Faiz International Festival, 2016)
On the other hand Jami (director of moor) who is leading the alternative cinema movement in Pakistani cinema thinks that “If it is revival then this patient is still suffering from cancer, it has managed to come into life but it’s not able to sit on its own, if it’s rebirth whether this kid is legitimate or not?” He thinks in physical terms cinema is there but the problem is film schools have just started to educate students in department of film but people who are teaching there they themselves don’t know about the movements of cinema and history of world cinema. If we call it a new wave then there is no as such structural basis on which one can call it a new wave. (Faiz International Festival, 2016)
Nabeel Qureshi who is known as the box office winner of the Pakistani cinema as three of his recent films (Na Maloom Afrad, Actor in Law) were block buster on box office and he proposed the word reincarnation for our cinema industry. He thinks it’s not a revival or he doesn’t suggest that there should be any revival. “If we talk about revival then we have to revive the cinema which used to exist, I suggest that it is reincarnation or rebirth of Pakistani cinema” (Faiz International Festival, 2016)

In order to understand the revolution on the level of industry we have to see multiple facts that can analyze whether Pakistani cinema industry has revived or reincarnated and what does industry requires targeting our niche market more effectively.
No doubt the Pakistani cinema is in a transitional period where the new technicians and film makers are taking the place of old ones. Although it was difficult to shake the deep roots of those old grown trees but today the flow of digital media has created a great disruption.
Going to a film school is becoming a usual practice and new people are more learning from national international experience.
There is a ray of hope that all the new batch of filmmakers will be able to reincarnate and create an industry where cinemas won’t be in the form it was. Multiplexes and 3D screens are creating urge in the audiences for a better content and Pakistani film makers has to coup with that developing market demand. The upcoming films are creating buzz in the market as their trailers seem to be very high end but the question of story and content still prevails, whether it will satisfy the expectation of the audiences or not.
However there is a room for the improvement in the content every time no time can be considered as the ideal state. The only key factor Pakistani cinema has in terms of being different is story, if we make our story more interesting than the props then the cinema can be an outstanding cinema.
Technical side of the film is as important as other elements are but we shouldn’t let technical in capabilities stop our story telling. There were people who were actually telling great stories in the age of very less technical equipment. There are many great film makers in the history of national and international film industry who have done great work in creating an experience for which cinema is known for.

However the Lollywood has to discover the niche market for its film and that can be done by experimenting more in less time, the number of films are increasing that’s a good gesture but the side of experimentation should be part of it.

Since the age of Zia-ul-haq Pakistani audience is addicted of foreign content especially after the VCR and satellite channels. They have forgotten the real taste of our country, today film makers have to reintroduce the true essence and taste of our country

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