Why Ali Saleem is wrong
Pakistan does appreciate TV, music and movies. Our entertainment industry is alive and kicking!
Ali Saleem’s interview with The Express Tribune serves to highlight a critical flaw in Pakistan’s entertainment industry.
When asked if he intends to return to India, Saleem remarks that:
“Pakistan is plagued with problems and entertainment is not a priority there.”
This declaration stands the risk of being misinterpreted, as it explicitly denies that a progressive attitude has been upheld to improve the deteriorating condition of the entertainment industry in Pakistan. But prior to pouring scorn on the validity of this statement, it is essential to understand how accurate a representation it is of Pakistan’s entertainment industry.
Pakistan’s entertainment sector is an extant feature of the nation’s history and despite the volatility caused by political uncertainty, has emerged as a valorous player in the global entertainment industry. In order to induce a measure of clarity into my argument, it is integral to state that the entertainment industry includes films, theatre, television and music. It is by dint of an in-depth investigation that I will gauge the accuracy of Saleem’s views.
Although the quality of cinema produced by Lollywood may not be impressive, its resilience and endless dedication to filmmaking goes to show that entertainment is indeed a priority. But if one were to closely examine the historical circumstances that have shaped the industry, one would find it to be “bankrupt” in comparison with Bollywood – let alone Hollywood. This state of bankruptcy is an outcome of what has been termed “brain drain,” resulting from the partition of India and East Pakistan in 1947 and 1971, respectively.
Some analysts have held Zia’s Islamization policy accountable for the damaging consequences that befell the industry, insofar that they suggest that this period of restrictive film-making has been looked upon as a parasite that slowly sapped the limited potential that the industry possessed. The harrowing consequences of this – symbolised by a reduction in the films made on an annual basis – add weight to Saleem’s argument. After all, one cannot expect the resurgence of the golden era of the 1960s, which produced films like Armaan. But then again, what is the point of a progressive attitude if one lives in the past?
The music industry in Pakistan is arguably the most diverse and prosperous characteristic of entertainment in the region. Not only does the nation have artistes who sing in the indigenous languages, but a variety of different genres have emerged successful. The turnout at concerts and musical programmes is also impressively large, even though there is always a security threat from the rabid elements of Islam who do not permit the promotion of this cultural practice. More significantly, the growth of musical journalism through the efforts of its pioneers in Pakistan – Farjad Nabi, Aysha Alam and Farrukh Moriani, to name a few –has resulted in music being elevated to the ranks of a serious performing art with considerable entertainment value.
The TV industry in Pakistan has also experienced an encouraging boom and therefore provides an opportunity for artistes to exhibit their flair. These facts serve to invalidate Saleem’s assertion even further.
Theatre in Pakistan may not sufficiently emulate the splendour of Agha Hassan Amanat Ali’s Indrasabha, but it has managed to establish its own glory. Be it commercial theatre, street theatre or improvisational theatre, there is a strong recreational value attached to it. Organizations such as NAPA and Punjab Lok Rahs have worked arduously to create appreciation for stage plays and prioritise it as a performing art. Thus, it appears that Ali Saleem’s ideas on the nature of the entertainment industry in Pakistan are dramatically faulty.
This suggests that many artistes still believe that they shape the industry and the industry plays no role in shaping them. False impressions such as these can be easily discounted. For instance, Ali Saleem was not invited to be a part of Big Boss because of his own credentials as an entertainer. As Saleem points out in his interview, “becoming Begum needs elaborate preparation... I need a whole team of people to dress me up.”
I rest my case.