While Bollywood keeps churning out a steady stream of blockbusters, a commercially succesful film hardly surfaces from its Pakistani counterpart. For filmmaker Satish Anand, the reasons for this is fairly simple.
“Unlike us, our neighbour is not a dogmatic state - this is why their film industry boomed and ours hasn’t,” he said on Thursday at an event organised by the Pakistan American Cultural Centre to commemorate 100 years of cinema in the subcontinent. “The Indian audience is aware of the history of cinema. They are celebrating this centennial but in Pakistan, there is no awareness. Instead cinema is seen as a lost cause here,” said Anand. He added that to celebrate cinema, we have to embrace it first.
History of Pakistani cinema
Anand then gave the audience a detailed history of the evolution of the film industry in Pakistan. After Partition, movies were initially flown in from Bombay and screened in Pakistani cinemas. But then investors started pumping money into the local film industry, said Anand. This resulted in hits such as ‘Sassi’ - JC Anand’s production - which attained golden jubilee status. In the 1960s - the heyday of Pakistani cinema - there were around 80 cinemas just in Karachi and 600 cinemas across Pakistan, said Anand.
That decade was considered the golden era for Pakistan’s film industry. Fueling the boom was the ban on films from across the border after the country’s relationship with India deteriorated and eventually spiraled into a war.
During this time, the film ‘Aina’ stayed in cinemas for years, signaling that a good product would pull in the clouds, said Anand. He then said the dark clouds began hovering over the film industry during the reign of General Ziaul Haq.
Anand talked about feeling ashamed of his profession during this era. “Your self-esteem started dipping as you felt you were committing a sin by being part of the film industry.”
Anand concluded his talk by saying that “we can’t be apologetic about our film industry. In the recent times, brands like Pakistan International Airlines have also gone down, so why only talk about cinema’s decline? To uplift the industry, we need to increase industry’s self-esteem.” He expressed hope for Pakistani cinema as educated filmmakers such as Shoaib Mansoor and Mehreen Jabbar are making films about social political issues the society is facing today.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2013.
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