Avenues for actors in Peshawar seem limited to the infamous CD films that have proliferated the province.
Zardad Bulbul, who began working as an actor almost 15 years ago, caught a break at the Pakistan Television (PTV) and has worked in over 200 productions, both on television and on stage, including a children’s show and a role in Omar Sharif’s popular Baqra Qiston Pe. Bulbul has toured extensively, including Malaysia and Qatar, but has fallen out with PTV.
“Casting used to be based on merit. Now it’s on recommendations and bribes,” he tells The Express Tribune.
He has worked in the ‘minifilms’ that are being produced as well, and expresses hope that after years of violence and attacks in the city, things will improve.
When asked why there was such a spirit for acting in the province, Bulbul says, “iss soobay ki mitti khoobsoorat hai” (The earth of this province is beautiful). “If you have talent, you can flourish as an actor here.”
However, like many others in the provincial capital, Bulbul blames the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government for the problems with Peshawar’s cultural scene. “The MMA government wanted actors to starve. Look at Nishtar Hall, they closed it. May God bless its soul. The MMA snatched livelihoods away from actors, but God appears to have dropped a CD to earth as a way out.”
Bulbul’s point highlights how the ‘minifilms’ were born. With the closure of cinemas and entertainment avenues for young people, filmmakers and actors turned to making films that people could watch in the comfort of their own homes, since they could not go out to watch a film. However, this move - that sprung out of defiance - has raised consternation amongst culture critics, who claim that the films are vulgar and promote stereotypes.
That said, they remain to be the only avenue for actors to make a living.
“Even Ajab Gul is working in these films,” a representative of Musafar CD says. “So is Arbaaz Khan.”
One key issue that residents have is that the films are available on cable, on channels run by private cable operators. “We should not be forced to watch the films,” one resident spoke on condition of anonymity. “If people want to watch them, they can go out and buy them, but they should not be shown on cable television.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2010.