At present, Pakistani cinema cannot afford to make films that have the ability to change mindsets and challenge taboos. These views were expressed by panelists at the International Film Festival 2016 organised by the students of Institute of Business Management, Karachi, on Thursday.
Among the panelists were Mandviwalla Entertainment Managing Director Nadeem Mandiwala, Institute of Business Management faculty Dr Erum Hafeez and Express News Executive Producer Mohsin Iqbal who discussed the issues surrounding Pakistani film at length.
Hafeez said cinema is a manifestation of our collective learning. “Literature and radical thoughts are the fundamentals of film-making which I think we lack today. Our cinema will be able to break stereotypes if today students make the extra effort improving their command over theory,” she said.
Mohsin was of the opinion that as of now viewers are not interested in watching movies that are made in line with realism and questioning stigmatised issues. “Let them first get addicted to cinema. Let them keep coming to films and only then can we make them watch movies that have the capability of changing mindsets,” he said. Mohsin thinks films do influence the viewers’ thinking but at this point we should not be concerned with the content as it might jeopardise the industry. “Films might lessen depression in viewers suffering from it but thinking that they can challenge taboos is a bit early.”
Mandviwalla, the owner of Karachi’s premium film theatre, Atrium Cinemas, had a different take on cinema. He feels films are essentially commercial ventures and will remain so. He seconded the point made by Iqbal. Citing examples of Sarmad Khoosat’s Manto and Jami’s Moor, he said there are films that were very well-made but they failed to impress on the box office.
Recalling a meeting with renowned Indian writer Javed Akhtar, Mandviwalla said, “Akhtar says India makes films in a language that the country does not speak anymore.” He feels poetry and the quality of language are essential components of film and that even if the people speak a more corrupted form of the language, it still appeals to them the same way. “We can make films that are based on rich Urdu scripts and do better than the Indian film industry,” he maintained.
The speakers concluded that the industry needs time to emerge from its current embryonic state and once that happens, cinema will begin to play a leading role as an agent of change.
The Film Festival 2016 will continue until March 12 and has a host of events lined up, including panel discussions, workshops and film screenings.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2016.