LAHORE: Recently, a resolution was moved in the Punjab Assembly to ban all cartoons that were based on Hindu mythology in Pakistan citing reasons that they have a negative influence and ‘corrupt’ the minds of the young.
Many from the industry believe that the government does not want any other religion or country to influence children. On the other hand kids don’t have a choice except watching violent political shows or religious debates on local channels. However, experts believe that children’s entertainment has not been done with sufficient planning in Pakistan and unfortunately, no one has made use of technological advances to provide children with quality entertainment. The National College of Arts (NCA) former Principal Salima Hashmi and her husband Shoaib Hashmi, who previously ran the famous chilren’s show, “Akkar Bakkar” said: “As an audience children are quite demanding and challenging. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over, we were called in and given complete liberty to create a format for children and we chose to do ‘Akkar Bakkar,’” said the duo.
“We were asked to do a programme for adults as well but we knew that to do a show for kids is much more challenging and important. It was for the same programme that we won the Tokyo Award. Having said that, the format had its share of shortcomings. We borrowed shows (cartoons) from the west or left our kids to watch programme’s that are by no standards meant for kids,”said the duo.
Salima Hashmi further added that in India their was an entertainment industry exclusively for children. “I remember when my kids were growing up I used to bring videos of cartoons from India specifically for children.
“They used to have great comics based on ‘Maha Bharat’ and other popular folk stories. Now they have converted into animated programme’s which are very popular among children. The National Film Council in India gives awards to the best anime designed especially for children every year, sadly we couldn’t even learn from that,” said Hashmi.
When asked whether animated cartoons for children or other animated films could be made in Pakistan Hashmi replied, “If our animators can work for Disney why can’t they work in Pakistan? Some of my own student’s are very good animators. Given the right kind of funding, we can make an Animation Cell at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) and start making films that are actually meant for kids,” she added.
Film critic Zahid Akkasi said, “Lollywood has made two films for children since 1947. How can you expect a children’s film when the industry is already on the decline. Aziz Asari and I made a film for children titled Watan Ka Sephai but that dint do very well. After that nobody thought of making a film for kids. Even the dramas that we made for children were based on fairy tales. No one has made any plays to educate or inform children which in itself is quite deplorable.”
Another entrepreneur in the industry, Faizan Peerzada, who has been doing folk puppetry for many years said: “I don’t think that cartoons based on Hindu mythology or any other mythology should be banned. Kids get a chance to learn more about other religions. That is the first step to a tolerant society. As far as we are concerned, we ourselves haven’t given much attention to children’s entertainment. I have been doing puppetry but we didn’t use technology to provide entertainment to kids.
Animated videos for children are quite popular in many countries of the world and are also considered useful from an academic perspective,” said Peerzada.
When asked whether someone in Pakistan was working to provide entertainment for children he replied, “There are people who have initiated ideas of holding a Children’s Film Festival and I think in the next few years we will have good news,” said Peerzada.
It should be noted that nearly 42 per cent of Pakistan’s population comprises of kids below the age of 15 — yet there seems to be no work done to provide for their entertainment or their awareness.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2011.
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