Prelude to Independence Day: Crickets appreciate screening of Jinnah

Only three people unrelated to the media were in the audience; no organisers in sight.

Maryam Usman August 13, 2013
Only three people unrelated to the media were in the audience; no organisers in sight.


Roars of rhetoric filled the air. Men attired in traditional dress raised emphatic slogans, echoing “Pakistan Zindabad! Quaid-i-Azam Zindabad!”

The atmosphere was unmistakably celebratory, marking the exodus of Indian Muslims into a land they could call their home — that was at least the plan laid out to them.

However, this display of patriotism was but only a scene from the film “Jinnah,” that was screened at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts on Monday.

If the screening was meant to serve as a prelude to the celebrations of the forthcoming Independence Day, it clearly lacked the audience to stage any enthusiasm except for a family of three, seated in the fourth row from the centre.

Through the course of the two-hour-long film, one could make out a hushed voice intermittently explaining the scenes and dialogues, much like an adult reading out a storybook to children.

“It is a sad state of affairs,” said Tariq, an audience member and businessman, as the credits rolled and the lights flickered back on.

He had brought his two children to watch the critically-acclaimed film that told the story of Pakistan’s creation.

“If this were a hall screening a Shahrukh Khan film, it would be packed. But even the organisers didn’t care to show up for the screening today. My children asked me why all these seats were empty and I didn’t know how to reply. What values are we imparting to our children?” he said.

Ironically enough, the film was screened without delays. The visuals — though nowhere close to high-definition — were clear enough to help discern the subtleties that lent the film its intrinsic essence.

The sound was audible, perhaps because it had external noise to compete with. None of the whistling, hooting or clapping usually accompanied by evocative lines or symbols was heard.

Touted as a sweeping historical epic, the film portrays the life and times of Muhammad Ali Jinnah through the Pakistan Movement.

It begins with a frail Jinnah on his deathbed, unfolding the story in flashback. Depicting the subsequent bloodshed during riots and massacres, it also sheds light on Jinnah’s inseparable bond with his sister Fatima Jinnah, his controversial wedding to a Parsi woman Rattan Bai and his troubled relationship with his daughter Dina.

More than a lesson in national history, the film talks about the determination to follow one’s dreams and ambition and holding on to human values and strength of character through testing times.

With many a memorable dialogue and thematic anthems punctuating the script, the film could add perspective for an average, curious audience. The screening was organised by the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.


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