Actress Shabnam’s visit to Lahore, the city where her film career blossomed and grew, reminds us of a brighter time when the Lollywood industry was thriving. Her fame as an acclaimed actress, from the 1960s well into the 1980s, coincided with an era when cinemas brought entertainment to so many lives. Shabnam is best known for her roles opposite reputable Lollywood actor Nadeem and is said to have played a crucial part in keeping this industry alive during the dark and difficult times under General Ziaul Haq’s regime. This was a time when censorship was harsh and female TV newsreaders or comperes had disappeared under voluminous dupattas.
A symbolic icon, Shabnam is the link between two countries which were once one. The Bangladeshi/Pakistani star returned to Dhaka, rather suddenly in the 1980s, and has hardly been heard of since then. Credit must be given to PTV for persuading her, along with her music composer husband, Robin Ghosh, to return to a city where, judging by the warm reception they have received, there are many who still love and respect her. It is also fitting that PTV is scheduled to organise a function to honour a woman, who has dedicated so much of her life to the world of film in Pakistan. It was heartening to see Shabnam speak with warmth about Pakistan and still care so deeply about Lollywood. During her visit, she has expressed dismay over its downfall and the plight it now faces.
This is something we, as a nation, should think about. It is true that today many forms of entertainment are available, but movies still remain a key form of human expression. It is disappointing that Lollywood has struggled to keep pace with the rest of the world, while Bollywood has clambered to become a film industry giant. Iran, too, has gained a reputation for top quality films. The demise of Lollywood has also meant the loss of thousands of jobs for billboard artists, stuntmen, musicians and others. Shabnam’s visit should serve as a reminder for us to revive what was once the essence of Pakistani entertainment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.