In ‘The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine’, one of the earliest episodes of Rod Serling’s 1959 show The Twilight Zone, a has-been film star Barbara Jean Trenton secludes herself in her private screening room, reminiscing about her past glory by watching her old films. The opening narration goes: “Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.”
Veteran Lollywood director Syed Noor’s comeback film Chain Aye Na was the same desperate attempt at getting the license number of his fleeting fame. In the passing year when the models and the style and the quality of cinema have progressed so much, Noor is still stuck in his own little bubble of celluloid where he is still relevant. Unfortunately, the failure of Chain Aye Na proved otherwise.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), the film-maker hasn’t taken his film’s failure in a sensible manner. In a press conference held on August 18, Noor expressed his gripes to the media, saying the people and the journalists urged him to make a film in Karachi and so he made one. “I spent seven months making a film in Karachi and have resolved to make all my upcoming films in Karachi. For Chain Aye Na, I was warned about the bloggers, who I was told don’t write positive reviews unless they are paid. I ignored them but I didn’t know the power of bloggers,” he said. “My film is a simple love story. And they turned it into a film against women, all because of a slap. I must tell you that it was a slap of love, as all lovers do fight.”
Thanking the media organisations for their support, he urged them not to provide platforms to bloggers who he believed don’t want to see the local cinema grow. “They must understand that we bring a huge investment into this industry and these negative reviews affect their output, which will discourage investors from returning again. I am not against bloggers. I am just strongly urging that they hold off reviews for at least a week and let the public decide,” he said, ignorant of the fact that his film couldn’t last at the box for even a week.
“You journalists are seniors and have been here for a longer time. Bloggers are a recent creation. Educate them. They are hurting the industry. Don’t provide a platform to such people. It’s only here that my film has suffered, otherwise, Chain Aye Na was a box office success in the US and Canada,” he added. Further, he said he wouldn’t respond to hatred with hate. “I have collected all the stones that hit me and my film. And as they say, the foundation laid with stones is much stronger.”
As per his usual complaints regarding cinema owners not supporting local films, he was asked about whether they gave Chain Aye Na the justified placement and shows. He responded, “They supported it throughout but they were also tied because of negative reviews and subsequently, low audience.”
But at the height of ridiculousness, he connected the bloggers’ alleged dislike for the local film industry to an Indian agenda. “I don’t know why they do this. I think it’s an Indian agenda to hurt the Pakistani film industry. Our cinema is just once again growing and they don’t want to see this happen,” he said, in what was surely a head-scratching moment for everyone.
For the man who calls himself a ‘real film man’ in the eyes of the public, blaming his film’s failure on an alleged Indian conspiracy is a clear sign of insecurity. In ‘The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine’, Trenton’s obsession with her past fame ends with her wishing so hard to live in the celluloid world that she, in fact, disappears from her real life and into the film reels. The episode ends with another narration: “To the wishes that come true, to the strange, mystic strength of the human animal, who can take a wishful dream and give it a dimension of its own. To Barbara Jean Trenton, movie queen of another era, who has changed the blank tomb of an empty projection screen into a private world. It can happen in The Twilight Zone.”
Unfortunately, for Noor, this is not The Twilight Zone.
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