Karachi Literature Festival: Tumhara Bollywood, ya hamara Lollywood?

Published: February 6, 2011

Javed Jabbar simplified it for everyone. If something done fifty years ago was still being talked about, then it was good cinema that deserved to be classified as literature.

KARACHI: For all its directionless meanderings over the 1980s and 1990s, Lollywood is not entirely dead and has a bright future. This was the general opinion expressed by film critics, directors, producers, writers, and just plain old enthusiasts of the big screen at a session held under the banner of the Karachi Literature Festival organised by the Oxford University Press and the British Council.

Everyone was eager to show that there was still life in Lollywood that would take on Bollywood at its own game. But sadly, what came across the most, was that Lollywood had a great past and was still just hoping for a great future.

Javed Jabbar simplified it for everyone. If something done fifty years ago was still being talked about, then it was good cinema that deserved to be classified as literature. Take films made in the 1960s and 1970s that people still talk about: Badnaam, based on a story by Manto, Saiqa, based on a novel by Razia Butt, Aik Gunah aur Sahi, again Manto, Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah and Umrao Jaan Ada among others.

The ever-prepared Jabbar almost hogged the limelight, which wasn’t a bad thing since he had a lot to say, and didn’t pull any punches. Muniba Ahmed moderated and Rachel Dwyer and Asif Noorani were pannelists. Their discussion proved to be an ambitious attempt at saying that cinema was also a part of literature and as such, it needed to be revived.

Having said that, Jabbar made it clear that film and print were independent mediums and it was unfair to expect adapted screenplays to stay true to the actual storyline. It would be hard to persuade people that cinema was true literature, because literature is usually the work of a single mind and collaborative art is not generally accepted as literature. As such, cinema, where 50, 100 or even more people are involved in the making of a film, is almost the anti-thesis of creativity.

Dwyer pointed out another change in trends – readers and viewers no longer seem to feel that literature had to be sad or weepy to be considered good. “The youth, it seems, feel that literature can be good and still make us happy,” she remarked.

Jabbar praised progressive Indian attitudes towards film-making where the trend is towards presenting dissenting points of view. “The break-up of Pakistan in 1971 has sadly not been the subject of a single film to date,” he said, giving an example.

The decision to ban Pakistani films after the 1965 war was the worst decision that could have been made. Jabbar gave examples of films that had actually done good business in India until this.

Dwyer was overshadowed by Jabbar for the better part of the discussion but she did say that cinema was an integral medium now since it was overwhelming other cultures.

And if Pakistan hopes to beat India at its game, there can be a stronger medium than cinema.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.

Reader Comments (6)

  • sandy
    Feb 6, 2011 - 10:16PM

    WHY and WHY Pak is forever in search of self identity?? Why does it always have to “beat India”, “defeat bollywood in its own game” ?? Why cant it stand on its own legs and have its own identity rather than comparing with India at every stage? Doesnt its people, leaders, social thinkers get tired of this comparison and constant self loathing? Forget india and try to stand on your own legs. Dont keep comparing with India at every level, and then draw attention. It shows massive social insecurity and lack of self identity. Pak must learn to live with itself like any other self respecting country and stop looking everything through the India prism. In India, there is hardly any news abt Pak in local media. No one cares here unless there is some major blast. Its about business and economy these days. I dont get Paki society. Recommend

  • Samiullah Khan
    Feb 7, 2011 - 12:45PM

    @sandy

    That’s because Pakistan is the only country in the world that was “created” in the name of Islam and since there is no Islam left in today’s Pakistan (all that is left in today’s Pakistan is some crazy hillbilly religion), Pakistanis should constantly come up with some new things that they think will give them some identity.Recommend

  • Grammar Nazi
    Feb 8, 2011 - 1:12AM

    The last line: ‘And if Pakistan hopes to beat India at its game, there can be a stronger medium than cinema.’

    Don’t you mean to write ‘And if Pakistan hopes to beat India at its game, there CANNOT be a stronger medium than cinema.’ ?Recommend

  • MJ
    Feb 10, 2011 - 1:58AM

    Again India.

    India, India, India!

    I am sick of hearing the word India from everyone, be it our politicians, our army, our news media, or our entertainment media! There is clearly no world for us beyond India and we are obsessed with it no matter how many hateful comments we utter, it seems. Looks like we have no identity of our own and no aim in the world other than ‘beating India’ and failing miserably at it 8 out of 10 times. If we do beat them, we will die in peace. And if we don’t, our bhatakti rooh will haunt the Indians in their country. We are clearly sent to this world solely to make Indians feel important.Recommend

  • Anna
    Feb 10, 2011 - 6:00PM

    hahahaha @ grammar Nazi! :DRecommend

  • memon
    Mar 8, 2011 - 12:07PM

    Khurrum Baig you are a genius, because you see things that aren’t there. The session was moderated by Dr.Meenu Gaur who is Phd in cinema. Who is Muniba Ahmed ? As for Asif Noorani, the poor man was sitting in the audience. How you have made him a panelist we’ll never find out. Could it be that instead of attending the session you got a ‘summary’ of it from a friend ? Because if you were at the session then you are surely a danger to news reporting.Recommend

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