Pakistani film industry: Ethics in entertainment

Veteran directors share their opinions on the current state of the industry.

Sher Khan February 28, 2012


The Pakistani film industry, once a blossoming and lucrative one in the region, now struggles to come to par with global standards due to years of neglect and decay. The crucial questions that hang over our heads now are: is the industry at a point of no return? Or, if the damage can be controlled, how can we revive the industry? To address these concerns, industry veterans shared their opinions and perspectives regarding the state of Pakistani film industry and the ethical responsibilities of film-makers during the second day of the German Film Festival.

Though up-and-coming director Bilal Lashari could not attend the event, the panel comprised of other stalwarts including German director Nick Baker-Monteys, Salmaan Peerzada, his brother Usman Peerzada and the head of the National College of Arts (NCA) Television and Film department Shireen Pasha.

Storytellers’ concerns

While discussing the societal, cultural and economic constraints that film-makers in Pakistan have to face, Baker-Monteys said, “I believe, the fewer the rules, the better for film-makers so that they are able to tell a story straight from the heart.”

Sharing the same line of thought, veteran actor and director Usman lamented that the decline of Pakistani cinema started from General Ziaul Haq’s era, explaining that due to widespread censorship; the aesthetic appeal of film had completely declined. Usman also pointed out that, more recently, a trend of violent and vulgar cinema has taken over the local film industry. “For instance, Maula Jatt — which was released in the 1980s — had some gruesome scenes. That era started a trend of obscene violence which is still prevalent today,” said the director, who was banned and arrested during the 1980s for holding his wife Samina’s hand during a play. Furthermore, Usman’s brother Salman had been forced into exile following the release of Blood of Hussain, which depicted a fictional military coup.

Meanwhile, Salmaan, who was also in attendance, explained that there is a moral/ethical divide in the country regarding certain topics. “As a film-maker, you’re typically reflecting the values of the society from your own view but one must realise that film is not made to teach people how to live,” he said. “Freedom is paramount in cinema, and we should let the audience be the judge.”

Golden rule for aspiring film-makers

Baker-Monteys, director of the award-winning film The Man Who Jumped Cars, explained that film-makers should have long-term planning that focuses on creating an audience. “One should make films that people want to see — you have to create an audience for the films you want to make. It’s a long process, but you can’t ignore it.”

The silver lining

Pasha, who talked in detail about where the industry had failed technical aspects, however, remained optimistic that young film-makers will bring about a revolution. “A Pakistani being nominated for an Oscar [and now winning] is a great source of inspiration for local film-makers,” she concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.


S.M. Saleem | 12 years ago | Reply

The two movies released in last 4 years namely "Khuda Key Liye & "Bol" have been a great success despite all the issues as mentioned in the above article. The reason is simple, good story, good script, good direction.

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