LAHORE: Forget about the ‘good cop – bad cop’ routine. Lollywood filmmakers continue to stereotype Pakistani policemen as cruel and corrupt, with only a few exceptions.
The depiction of police officers in Pakistani films stems from their public perception as being corrupt and inefficient, though hard-working and honest police officers rarely get celluloid treatment.
However, the practice is quite different in Bollywood, where cops are glorified and often portrayed as saviours of the systems and society. The recent Salman Khan-starrer Dabanng, in which he plays a police officer, has broken box-office records in India. Khan also played an officer in Garv which was a hit at the box office. There are a number of notable Indian productions starring leading actors as police officers including Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer (1973), Shashi Kapoor in Deewar (1975), Sanjeev Kumar in Sholay (1975), Dilip Kumar in Shakti (1982), Om Puri in Ardh Satya (1985) and Jackie Shroff in Khalnayak (1993).
Films such as Atif Chaudhry, Humayun Gujjar, Maula Jatt, Chan Wariam, Dhe Rani, Buut Shikun, Puttar Shaiey Da and Gujjar Da Veair have featured Shaan and the late Sultan Rahi as men who had to face the wrath of policemen and then turned against the system.
Nasir Adeeb, who wrote the script of Maula Jatt (1979), said that it was true that police officers were portrayed negatively in local films. “I presented police officials as good human beings in my film Jungle Ka Qanoon but it is true that police officials are mostly portrayed as negative characters. The reason for this is cops don’t have a friendly attitude with people in our country,” he said.
In a survey of Pakistanis conducted by the Pew Research Centre earlier this year, 65 per cent of respondents said the police have a negative influence in the country.
When asked why Indian films glorified cops while police officials in India weren’t much different from the officials in our country he replied, “In India the situation is different. The courts in India have always been free but we have got a free judiciary now.”
Filmmaker Masood Butt believes that most movies in Pakistan were made on the lives of criminal figures so the role of policemen wasn’t glorified. He believed that by large the attitude of policemen was harsh and this is what the films reflected.
Zahid Akasi, former film critic and journalist, believed that the culture changed after General Ziaul Haq’s regime. He believed that movies were sponsored by petty criminals to whitewash their funds and in that situation how could filmmakers afford to show cops as heroes.
“There are good cops and there are bad cops. But stereotyping the entire police force as cruel isn’t the right thing to do,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2010.
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