KARACHI : They say good girls go to heaven and bad girls go everywhere but what about the girl who is yet to make up her mind? Well, she keeps on waiting for moments that never emanate or for the time the society we live in decides how she is going to spend the rest of her life.
Before the keyboard jihadists come after me for the very ‘sexist’ song written by Meatloaf, I must clarify that this is an attempt to explicate the dilemma faced by the Pakistani film industry at the moment.
10 years since her birth with Khuda Ka Liye(KKL), Pakistani cinema, the small-town girl, has come to the city only to be used and abused by its keepers. KKL, as much as it sounds like an atrocious Karan Johar offering was a lot more than one, with a lot more emotional value attached to its arrival.
It was the raindrop that pierces through the sunbeam, the confession of a sinning priest, the pleasure of the first born and above all, a swipe on the dust that had been settling for ages.
For an entire generation that grew up on the VHS and DVD culture, KKL was the epoch of entertainment experience. After a long time we saw the emblem of Pakistani cinema dressed like a man you would want to be, talk to the hottest girl in the industry in the backdrop of the Badshahi mosque – all of that in film form on the big screen.
Due to a limited release of fewer than 30 screens, KKL didn’t reach as many people through cinemas but its impact was huge. I being a student in Quetta had to rely on the trailers and the exceptional soundtrack released on CD to savour my cravings till it officially released on DVD and won me over.
Although, the more I watched it, the more it appeared to be flawed – both in terms of the subject matter being too apologetic for a film that struggles to tackle two extremes, and in terms of its stylistic nuance as well.
But Shoaib Mansoor, like his terrific track record indicates – had once again struck gold and boosted confidence of every soul who had ever dreamed of becoming a film-maker, film actor, film producer, film exhibitor, film distributor or even a film critic for that matter. It embodied cultural value in its true sense – so much so, that you forgave and forgot everything else that came with it, apart from obviously Fawad Khan as an actor and Rohail Hyatt who would now go on to rule the world through Coke Studio.
However, I have always considered nostalgia to be a very weak feeling. It not only reminds you of the days that can never be relived but also offers you a false sense of accomplishment and denial from what lies in front of you. 10 years down the line, the girl has most certainly grown up and its guardians deserve all the credit for feeding her enough to grow; she might seem a little anorexic at the moment but that’s genetic.
Her look is the least of my concerns but this is the time in any girl’s life when you must try and cognise what is going on inside her head. Is there something that’s bothering her and she is not expressing it? Why is she biting her nails? And all those questions that are to decide the course of her life and our relationship with her.
A careful look inside will reveal that the only film that should have been running in Pakistani cinemas at the moment was called off at the premiere night. It starred one of your leading ladies and two of your leading men; one of which being Humayun Saeed, even dissed the film publicly and called for a re-release.
A further peep into the present tells us that the cinema owners could not recover the losses they incurred during ramazan because the business of Eid films was not even close to as ground-breaking as it usually is.
We might scatter videos on social media, of people cueing outside cinemas during Eid but we shouldn’t lie to ourselves about the numbers. Yalghaar did not collect the numbers we expected it to and even its lead actor, Shaan dissociated himself from the film post-release in his own patriotically modest fashion. Many other actors from Yalghaar also pulled the plug by publicly mocking the film after seeing how the audience ridiculed it, with many others opening up to me in private conversations.
A very prominent actress the other day had mentioned how she had distanced herself from a certain film right after its release because it was “so so bad.” Now this is turning into a chronic malady and before we get into any random debate on box office reports, Bollywood comparisons etc, we must realise that we desperately lack, what can be termed as artistic ownership and integrity.
An artist only works for himself and in doing so, necessities public applause and appreciation and if you’ve failed at receiving that, then it doesn’t change the fact that you were the architect of that product, and your fate. If a film looks stupid on paper, it will look stupid on screen, stop treating your directors and writers like magicians, they are not. If you are seasoned enough, then it’s safe to assume that you can tell a bad film from a good one before it begins shooting – and if you have signed up for a project, then it is your onus to go till the finishing line like a sportswoman, not a loser.
Further investigation led to a more recent problem which is symptomatic of nothing less than a tumour on your thinking side. Two films, Na Maloom Afraad 2 (NMA 2) and Punjab Nahi Jaaongi (PNJ) that are expected to do great business on the forthcoming Eid have entered into a controversy of their own. Since the owners of Nueplex cinema reportedly have a stake in NMA 2 they are not even playing the trailer of PNJ in their cinemas. It wasn’t attached with Project Ghazi and Spiderman, which I personally watched and many other friends have reported the same. If it is what it is, then to quote JKF would be apt in this situation – it looks like it, it smells like it, this is what you call, an abysmal state of affairs.
What have we really come to as an industry? Why are we even trying to get our hands dirty when we don’t understand the very concept of standing together and working as a unit? If we do not try and extend the concept of unity beyond our own fortresses, the production houses, the exhibition spaces, the award juries and beyond ourselves, then this girl is bound to fall victim to stunted growth.
Just when we have come to make so many important decisions of her life, we are acting like a horde of scavengers on the hunt for their last supper?
For some, the situation may not be as dismal as it seems but soon it’s going to be what it doesn’t seem at the moment if we do not reach out for the fire alarm.
The quality of films and story-telling is a problem of craft which will only improve with time and openness to new ideas and talent, but the snags of basic ethics and team work cannot be inculcated in a child when she has just begun to hit her teens.
Not many cinema industries have seen exponential growth after the Netflix onslaught, and consequently, this is a great opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and set the course for a self-reliant industry. On her 10th birthday, let’s turn our daughter into a model example for everyone to follow… Khuda kay Liye.
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