The year 2015 is drawing to a close. In many ways it has been a momentous year for film in Pakistan. As the old world fights for survival in the face of the new world and the industry sees a paradigm shift, we look back at how the past 12 months panned out for regional cinema.
A total of 43 films were released in Lollywood, out of which 17 were Pashto and only five were Punjabi. While areas dominated by Pashto-speaking people fight their battles against militancy, Pashto cinema has found solace in the arms of a city that is father to both Punjabi and Urdu cinema in the country. Films made by Karachi-based producers, such as Bin Roye, Wrong No., 3 Bahadur and Moor, were in a league of their own. On the other hand, Pashto cinema itself saw a major boost this year while Punjabi films continue to languish. Punjabi releases such as Razia Phas Gayi Gundon Main, Lahoria tay Pishoria, Gujjar Pooray Dinna Da, Sohna Gujjar and Sami Rawal all failed to make a mark on the box office.
Meanwhile, almost all of the Pashto films did well, giving director Qaiser Sanober every reason to feel proud. Within the regional context, a lack of resources and interest has traditionally placed Pashto films in the underbelly of Pakistani cinema. “It is a good thing. Even Bari Studio today is now dominated by Pashto directors.” Sanober said his fellow film-makers are adopting modern technology and hoped that the forthcoming year will be even better for Pashto cinema.
On the flipside, it seems the stalwarts of Punjabi films have bid farewell to Lahore’s studios. This year saw no major release with directors such as Syed Noor, Sangeeta, Pervaiz Rana, Iqbal Kashmiri, Maqsood Butt, Hasan Askari and Altaf Hussain all letting the year go by in silence. Rana said he was expecting film actor Nargis’ Dushman Rani to be out in 2015. “I think she changed her priorities. I have always said that if she makes a Punjabi film, it will be a super hit,” he said. The director feels the tragedy of Punjabi cinema is that investors have now refused to inject money in Lahore. “They are all interested in investing in [films made in] Karachi.”
It seems Noor and Sangeeta have both read the writing on the wall and have diverted all their energies to making mainstream Urdu films, which is not good news for fans of Punjabi cinema. There was a time when Lahore was leading the line in terms of Punjabi films and movies made here were even copied across the border. But now tables have indeed turned. This year saw major Punjabi releases such as Shareek, Mukhtiar Chadha, Punjabian Da King, Hero Naam Yad Rakhi and Munday Kamaal De run successfully in India. “There was a time when hit Punjabi films Heer Ranjha, Kartar Singh and Maa Puttar were being made. But this gujjar and ghunda trend damaged Punjabi cinema considerably,” said veteran film-maker Jarrar Rizvi. He appreciated the efforts of the younger lot venturing into films in Karachi and Islamabad. “I can foresee a day when only local films will be exhibited in our cinemas.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2015.