‘Banarsi Thugg’ re-released after four decades

Lahore’s old cinema-owners attempt to put up fight against multiplexes

ADNAN LODHI March 04, 2016
The Sultan Rahi-starrer was a commercial success of its time. PHOTO: EXPRESS


In an attempt to outmuscle multiplexes and their latest offerings from Pakistani, Indian and American films, owners of Lahore’s old, single-screen cinemas have decided to re-release Lollywood classics in an attempt to bring audiences back to their theatres.

One such movie, the 1973 hit Banarsi Thugg, was re-released at Metropole Cinema on Friday. The Iqbal Kashmiri directorial boasts a star-studded cast of old favourites including Firdous, Ejaz Zamarrud, Sultan Rahi, Naeem Hashmi, Ilyas Kashmiri, Munawer Zarif and Afzal Ahmad among others. The movie also features songs by legends such as Noor Jahan, Runa Laila, Mehdi Hassan, Tasawer Khanum, Mala, Shaukat Ali and Masood Rana.

Banarsi Thugg is widely considered as one of the finest films of its time and its return to cinemas after over four decades will make many old film enthusiasts nostalgic. Some of the most memorable bits from the film include comedy sequences of Zarif and the super-hit Punjabi number, Akh Lari Bado Badi. Promotional campaigns were conducted throughout the city prior to the screening.

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“We decided to pay tribute to Zarif, Rahi, and Ilyas by releasing the film once again,” said Metropole Cinema manager Qaiser Sanaullah. He said it is an attempt to show the younger lot what Lollywood was all about back in the day. “From now on, we will regularly release old films … films that made it big back in the day,” he added.

In the backdrop of the struggle against new entrants in the film business is the plight of Lahore’s 44 old cinemas that are currently facing a severe financial crisis. With a general lack of film releases, they are on the verge of permanent closure. Opening of the more modern, 3D cinemas, on the other hand, has made matters worse. There was a time when Lahore was a city teeming with cinemas; the same buildings now stand vacant, unkempt, deserted and eerily silent. Out of the 90 cinemas that Lahore was originally home to, only 44 have survived to this day, and the recent re-screening of Banarsi Thugg may be the only shred of hope keeping them from shutting down for good.

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Senior directors such as Pervaiz Rana feel that the construction of multiplexes has adversely affected the business of smaller, older cinemas houses in the city. The new theatres have been screening Hollywood and Bollywood releases that divert the attention of film enthusiasts from local movies. “Young film-makers that are active nowadays prefer modern cinemas in posh areas of the city. Even old film lovers now like to see films in 3D cinemas and this situation is not good for these local cinema-owners who were already suffering due to a shortage of film releases,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2016.

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