Move over, Shaan: Dear Lollywood, please stop with your nepotistic ways

What is the young talent supposed to do? Bring them chai and hold up a mirror as they refresh their makeup?

Haider Rifaat September 30, 2015
Nepotism has a new face in Pakistan. Can you guess who it is? No, it’s not Nawaz Sharif. It’s not the Bhutto clan. It’s not the politicians or the bureaucracy. All those institutions have been swept aside by that new lady in town. We fondly call her ‘Lollywood’, but she’s more formally known as Pakistan’s film industry.

She isn’t really new, but her recently acquired contemporary ornaments have taken years off her face. She wears Bol around her neck, carries Bin Roye under her arm and has crowned her head with Waar. In step with her is her entourage; a horde of uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces.

Pakistan’s film industry is flourishing rapidly and the credit essentially goes to the directors and producers who resuscitated it and brought it back from the gallows before a death sentence could have sealed its fate. It is as if they have taken a silent vow to carry the burden of the entire industry themselves. Unfortunately, their appropriation of the film industry has come at a huge cost. The harrowing truth is that the industry only has a handful of actors who get casted – and re-casted. There are only a few names up on the marquee, of which the regulars are Faysal Qureshi, Saba Qamar etc. Every name is a household name.

Although these actors are immensely talented, I can’t help but roll my eyes as I surf through the channels and see the same faces. I know their wrinkles, blemishes and moles by heart now. Therefore, I am on my knees and joining my palms for this desperate plea:

Bring in some new talent, for God’s sake!

Admittedly, there are many young actors who have shot to the top, however, the reality is that they are the relatives of the big names; cousins, sons or daughters of prominent actors of their time. The progeny is stepping in and reaping the gold. That seems to be the norm Pakistan subscribes to.

Take, for instance, the case of Sikander Rizvi. He is the grandson of Noor Jehan, who was a renowned singer of the 90’s. He did not break a sweat as he nabbed the lead for Dekh Magar Pyar Se.

“I never wanted to work in films even though I have always been surrounded by the film stars.  When Fawad dropped out, I happily stepped into his shoes.”

For prospective actors who belong to reputable families with acting legacies, breaking into the industry is as easy as making a phone call. The rest have to meander through the narrow, mean streets of the cinema and television industry with little hope. I, for one, have seen Javed Shaikh and Shaan Shahid in almost every Lollywood film I can possibly think of, and yes, I do object to Bushra Ansari’s recent stint of dragging her sisters into the television business. How many auditions did Asma Abbas have to give to score her big break? I’m sure the number is staggeringly low.

Our film industry is striving for professionalism. Its strategies have garnered successes which cannot be denied by the staunchest of critics. However, the industry has been designed like a roller coaster, not a sturdy train track. It has reached the top with the same old faces, but without fresh blood it will plummet to the bottom.

So, here’s my ardent request to the casting directors and producers:

Put an end to these nepotistic ways. Do not cast your sister’s son as the lead. Hold some auditions. Shake things up.

How can we expect our industry to flourish if we continually overlook our young actors? How can Lollywood add more jewels to her crown without the talent that is roaming the streets aimlessly? Shaan Shahid cannot play all the roles himself.

The current situation dictates that there is no use in studying drama and performing arts. Somebody’s familial ties will win over your talent and hard work. We need to take a page out of Hollywood’s book, perhaps. The American film industry grooms talented young actors and encourages them to step up their game. That is primarily why their industry is considered second to none. In Pakistan, however, the harshness of the industry is discouraging to amateur actors. The ‘tried and tested’ talent will take precedence over them. Actors such as Bushra Ansari or Saba Qamar will take up all the space in films and dramas.

Actor Shaz Khan from Moor (left) and Ahmed Ali from Karachi se Lahore (right)

What is the young talent supposed to do? Bring them chai and hold up a mirror as they refresh their makeup?

I feel sick to my stomach when I see television producers as influential as Momina Duraid relentlessly recruiting the same old actors in her new TV serials. How can we wish for revolutionary change in our industry when we’re applying blush to the same old faces?

I have never heard of an actual ‘audition’ taking place in the big cities of Pakistan, especially for a film. Why, you ask? It is because they already have Mahira Khan and Humaima Malik lined up for a film beforehand.

So here I am, with clasped palms, saying this out loud: our film industry will be in jeopardy if we do not diversify our talent pool. I feel ashamed that there is no opportunity for those hopeful actors who want to be an integral part of our film industry. The hegemony of the oldies has to end.

Mark my words, the public will be bored sooner than you think. Lollywood’s necklaces and her crown will get old and rusty. Have a new one ready soon, before she gets sent to the gallows again.
Haider Rifaat The author is a model, actor, talk show host and writer for fashion magazines OK! Pakistan and Good Times. He is a columnist and writer for Express Tribune, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer. He is currently the creator and host of Pakistan's first ever web talk show on YouTube titled 'The Haider Rifaat Show' and is set to make his film debut in '24 Hours'. He tweets @HaiderRifaat (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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Nida Ali | 4 years ago | Reply | Recommend In this article, the author vents about not getting any opportunities in Pakistani cinema.
SardAr UmEr KhayyAm | 4 years ago | Reply | Recommend Sad story but isn't it a story of every young pakistani in every field.?
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