KARACHI: Gulistan Cinema is no stranger to violence: protesters stormed it after the US invaded Afghanistan back in 2001. But the cinema managed to survive with only minor damage. Eleven years later, on Ishq-e-Rasool Day Friday, it was attacked again. This time, however, it was completely gutted.
As the city crawled back to life on Sunday, Zaffarullah Khan and his elder brother, Abdul Hameed, who have been running the cinema for over 20 years on a contract, supervised a team of workers remove debris from its premises. The 58-year-old cinema located in Quaidabad was one of the six cinemas that were attacked on Friday by mobs protesting an anti-Islam film.
“Back in 2001, we repaired the cinema on our own and we don’t expect any help from the government this time either,” said Khan. “The government should provide protection to cinemas if they want to save the film culture in Pakistan. If law enforcers can protect government offices, then why can’t they protect cinemas?”
There were 900 seats in the cinema, but after the attack, only around 40 filthy ones remain. The mob smashed and plundered almost everything else. Shards of glass were strewn all over the canteen’s floor where protesters had broken bottles of soft drinks. Inside the cinema, workers were trying to sweep up the remains. “We knew about the protests. That is why we removed all our advertising boards. The gate was locked but the mob managed to barge inside anyway,” said Hameed. “They looted everything they could find - from generators and fans to projectors. They torched things which were of no value to them.” Hameed added that owners of other cinemas in Landhi hired armed guards for protection, which is why their property remained safe.
The cinema was one of the cheapest sources of entertainment for the residents of the locality, most of whom worked in private factories. Tickets cost around Rs50 each.
Khan said that the cinema’s foundation stone was laid on April 14, 1954. At the time, it used to be known as Shalimar Cinema and only a few people lived in the area. Hameed said that the cinema did not generate profits for the owner, Razzaq Jaffar, who had given him control of the cinema so that old workers could earn a livelihood. He added that it would take around Rs1 million to repair it.
Pashto poets and writers in Karachi condemned the attack on Gulistan Cinema and called it an assualt on the Pashto film industry. “The cinema culture of the country is vanishing because of the law and order situation. Such incidents will only make the situation for the film industry worse,” said poet Nangyal Yousufzai. “Landhi was the only place to go to watch Pashto movie and Gulistan Cinema used to screen Pashto films.”
While talking to The Express Tribune, Riaz Hazarvi, a director and script writer for Pashto dramas said, “Militancy in Pakistan has already dealt a blow to the Pashto film industy. These protest were the second blow. There were only three cinemas in Karachi which screen Pashto films.” Nargis Cinema in Landhi has been closed for over four years and Pashto films were only being screened at Gulistan and Sheesh Mahal Cinema.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2012.
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