LAHORE: Pashto cinema seems to have taken a turn for the worse. Much like the Punjabi film industry, its numbers have been dwindling steadily over the past few years and this Eidul Azha, only three Pashto films will be seeing the light of the day.
With the city’s cinemas in a dilapidated state and hardly any quality projects coming their way, it is no wonder members of the Pashto film industry have been bowing out, one by one. Friday evening saw renowned Pashto film director, distributor and producer Qaiser Sanober announce his retirement on account of ignorance from the government. “I have become very disheartened this year and that’s why, decided to leave films once and for all,” said Sanober. “There was once a great market for Pashto films in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) but now most cinemas have been closed down. Our producers are reluctant to work anymore, lest they lose money and without a producer, how can we possibly start a film?”
Sanober went on to recall how last Eid saw the release of Kabil — in both Pakistan and the UAE. But, according to him, there are now many issues involved in screening Pashto content abroad as well. In fact, the film-maker — who has over 50 years’ worth of experience — even predicted a disappointing future for the three Pashto films that are coming out on Eid, namely Badmashi Ba Many, Ghulaam and Badmashi Na Manum. “They are at great risk of flopping, considering the circumstances,” he stated.
His sentiments were echoed by actor and producer Madhu, who claimed that the fate of Pashto films have been hanging by a thread for a while now. “Last year, we established a union to try and solve the issues that had come up. Our people struggled to talk with the government but, as we were demanding assistance, no one was willing to listen to us,” she said. “This year, I also began avoiding films and will wait for the good times to come back before signing any project.”
Popular actor Jahangir Jani also shed light on the unfortunate situation. “No new investor is willing to put money into new films and there is a lot of tension amongst those who are employed in the industry,” he revealed. “The actors, for instance, hail from K-P but are residing here in Lahore on rent. But if there are no films, how will they survive? No wonder so many of them are heading back now,” added Jani.
Of course, things were not always as bad. Pashto cinema was once known to release as many as seven or eight films on Eid. Out of this year’s releases, only Ghulaam shows potential of possibly attracting some footfall, seeing as how it has been directed by Shahid Usman and stars Jani, Arbaz Khan, Afreen Pari and Raheela Agha in the lead roles.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2016.
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