Bahar Begum is a towering figure in the world of Punjabi and Urdu cinema. Her 74-year-old self might not be as involved in the industry as she once was; her heart still beats for Lollywood. However, with the way things are going, the film veteran is disappointed to say the least.
The acting veteran does not see much in the cinema of today. She says new entrants from the TV industry have taken over Pakistani cinema. “Film screenings at our time were spectacles on their own. Getting a ticket for the first show of a film was an impossible task!” She feels today there’s no charm left on the box office. “There is film but there’s no story in it. See for yourself. Jawani Phir Nahi Ani had no story. Waar was a beautiful film but it too lacked a strong script,” Bahar said.
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According to her, only Manto was a production that she liked.
Bahar is of the view that today’s films are also being made for a certain audience. “There was a time when music would decide the film’s success. Can you recall the soundtrack of any of the recent films? Where is that music now?” she asks, adding, “There’s no Zubaida Khanum, no Noor Jahan!”
She has, however, not lost hope. “I want to see this industry do well once again, because it was this industry that made me what I am today,” Bahar adds.
The actor feels she is no longer treated with the same respect and love as in the past. “Our media don’t care. They’ve never given a tribute to anyone,” she says. According to Bahar, “unknown people have taken over” Lollywood. “They have no regard for people like us. We don’t exist for them,” she maintains.
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Acting legend Habibur Rehman’s death has also shattered her. To Bahar, what’s even more devastating is the fact that not one person from the old film fraternity attended his Qul. “People here have a very short memory. Your friend will remain your friend only until he has business with you. Once you’re past your prime, you’re nobody.” Bahar says Habib gave the industry his everything but that’s still not enough. “I did visit him in the hospital. He was in a very bad state.”
On the other hand, much-talked about golden age of Pakistani cinema is itself a debatable contention; back in the day when regional industries like Bengali cinema were setting trends globally, Lollywood was nowhere to be seen on the international front.
It was perhaps catering to a niche market with niche films only. Bahar agrees with the idea, saying, “I personally think there were two major hurdles ... our artists and film-makers were lagging behind because of a lack of educated people in the industry and zero government support. Lollywood never got the recognition it deserved.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2016.
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