2022 in review: The year Pakistani stars were welcomed to galaxies across the universe
Highs include Grammy win, Oscar shortlisting alongside Netflix, Marvel inclusion and a cross-over that shook the world
The world came to a standstill after the Covid-19 outbreak in 2019. The pandemic not only damaged our lungs and killed our loved ones, but it also tainted human interaction and expression for good. As wearing masks became a new norm, not hugging or kissing the ones you cherished the most became a statement of love in itself. Perhaps nature wanted us all to maintain some distance, introspect and then come back to live the short three-act story we are here to live on planet earth.
That time and space for imagination may have led to a more grateful, but clearly didn’t create the stories that’ll bring people back to cinemas that they once were forced out of due to an outbreak. The post-Covid entertainment world was expected to be hard for a lack of momentum but not so hard that even mammoth projects in Bollywood and Hollywood suffered. Perhaps nature took its sweet time to only shoo away the formulas that should have been dead long ago and welcome the talent and creative practitioners who were always gifted but never recognised; the stars of Pakistani showbiz.
As 2022 proved to be annus horribilis for Bollywood, the very year proved to be the Pakistani entertainment industry's best run in the last several years. With a Grammy win, an Oscar shortlisting alongside Netflix, and Marvel inclusion and a cross-over that shook the world, the Pakistani entertainment industry is staring at the world through its battered armour. Here's a rundown of some of the biggest happening in showbiz in 2022:
Pasoori goes global
Ali Sethi and Shae Gill set the mood for 2022 rather early on. Xulfi's brilliance coupled with Sethi's majestic prowess and Gill's soothing vocals, Pasoori was destined to be a hit. What many didn't bank on was how big a phenomenon the Coke Studio number was going to become.
The song, which would go on to top the hum list of Google searches, transcended borders and became international fairly quickly. From the likes of Arjun Kapoor, Nora Fatehi, Bhumi Padnekar among others coming together to groove to the number to Britney Spears adding Gill and Sethi's famous song on her Instagram story, Pasoori garnered the attention it deserved so well.
Arooj's big win!
Post-Pasoori, who knew 2022 would be the very year Pakistan would bag its first-ever Grammy? Arooj Aftab lifting the Grammy trophy will certainly be a highlight many will remember for years to come. She received the honour for her rendition of Hafeez Hoshiarpuri’s Mohabbat. The artist is committed to singing in Urdu, as she feels it is a "very beautiful and a good language to sing in. I get to do the things I want to do with my voice and the vowels. The poetry is nostalgic, playful, light — but haunting as well," Aftab shared.
Her triumph at music's biggest stage came out as a clear indication that the Pakistani music scene is on a high. She has now been nominated again for the 2023 installment in the Best Global Music Performance category for her track Udhero Na featuring Anoushka Shankar.
The Marvel-ous Pakistani stars
The first time I heard Marvel Cinematic Universe mention Pakistan was in the famous Iron Man franchise. But like clockwork, the country was shown in a negative light and the baddies were always, somehow, connected to the land of pure. A similar narrative was shown in Captain America: Winter Soldier as well; so imagine my delight when Ms. Marvel hit home, not even close! Ms. Marvel is the first Muslim American superhero with roots in Pakistan. Marvel's power move of roping in a Pakistani filmmaker and actors to make the show as authentic as possible was lauded by fans and critics alike.
The show starred the likes of Fawad Khan, Mehwish Hayat, Nimra Bucha and Samina Ahmed in pivotal roles and Pakistani-Canadian star Iman Vellani as the titular character. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was roped in to direct two sensitive episodes of the much-anticipated series. The project marked Marvel's debut for all artists. The real cherry on the top was Marvel's depiction of Partition and the scenes showing Karachi. There wasn't much to criticise in the recent offering but to revel in the fact of how far we have come from essaying the nemesis to a forefront superhero.
Humayun dons the crown
"You know, right now I am not at liberty to say anything about The Crown for now," Humayun Saeed discreetly told me in June when we sat down to speak about his 2022 film, London Nahi Jaunga. "But I can tell you, I am very, very excited about it."
Saeed had been keeping mum since the rumours of him starring in Netflix's royal drama made rounds. But when the fifth installment of the hit series was released in November, Saeed's portrayal of timid Dr Hasnat surpassed all expectations. The superstar's deglammed look as Princess Diana's love interest surprised us. Saeed starring in one of the most prominent Netflix offerings is yet another feather in the entertainment industry’s hat.
It took Bilal Lashari almost a decade to present his latest offering, The Legend of Maula Jatt; and boy, was it worth the wait! The star-studded film went on to become Pakistan's grandest offering yet and helped propel Pakistani cinema on the world map. The Legend of Maula Jatt has since been named Pakistan's highest-grossing film, with the global revenue exceeding a whopping PKR200 crore!
The film, a retelling of the 1979 Mustafa Qureshi and Sultan Rahi classic, Maula Jutt, has been lauded by artists and several noted filmmakers including the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, and Karan Johar among others. The film's grim and gory storyline, coupled with brilliant cinematography spoke volumes about what Pakistani had to offer. The only drawback of Lashari's magnum opus is that the audience will hardly go back to the good ol' rom-coms! The bar, for the viewers, has been set too high.
In a first
Saim Sadiq's directorial had multiple firsts; Joyland starred a transgender actor in a pivotal role. The offering then became Pakistan's first film to have been screened at the prestigious Cannes film fest and ended up bagging two accolades. The film was then invited to several other film festivals.
Joyland is also Pakistan's official entry for the 2023 Oscars and has now become the first local film to have been shortlisted in the International Feature Film category. Sadiq's hard-hitting tale of Haider and Biba has managed to wow the audience even after it was banned in most of the country. But the film, if anything, has brought joy back to the cinemas.
Local films make a grand comeback
This year, many local films finally saw the light of day. The likes of London Nahi Jaunga, Kamli, Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad, Ghabrana Nahi Hai, Tich Button, Zarrar among others, were finally presented for release. While the cinemagoers are still hesitant about making a hasty return to the theatres just as much the makers were skeptical to release their ventures, local films eventually returned to the cinemas.
2022 proved to be a fruitful year for the fraternity. Pakistan's pop culture scene is finally getting its due recognition - and there's no going back.
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