Pakistan Film Magazine: Inside the largest online database of Pakistani films

Published: December 5, 2013
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LAHORE: 

Mahzar Iqbal is not one to talk about himself, but his personal endeavour has turned into the most thorough archive of Pakistan’s cinematic history. Iqbal’s website, the Pakistan Film Magazine, is the largest online database for Pakistani films to date.

“When I began to surf the internet in the late 90s, my searches on Pakistani movies, actors and music failed to provide any results. Even searching for Heer Ranja gave results of Indians movies only,” says Iqbal, who has lived in Denmark for most of his life.

“I’ve seen movies from around the globe. No doubt they are both technically advanced and professionally made, but our movies are the best entertainment for any average Pakistani like myself.”

The Pakistan Film Magazine is part of Mahzar.dk, which Iqbal launched in 1999 as a hobby to document Pakistan’s history and culture. His own interest in cinema has been inherent since he was a child. The website, which has been functioning for over a decade, has information on more than 4,000 movies, 4,500 artistes and 6,500 songs, with complete movies for online viewing as well.

“I still remember many songs from Radio Pakistan Lahore’s very popular programme Aap Ki Farmaish, with additional information such as film, singers, poets and music director’s names. I also remember many movies, trailers and songs on black & white TV. I will never forget my first cinema experience at the age of just seven, in 1969,” says Iqbal.

A young film enthusiast, his grandfather would give him pocket money to buy film editions of Jang, Mashriq, Imrooz, Musawwat and collect weekly film magazines such as Musawar, Tasawur, Tasvir, Mumtaz, Screen Light and later, Nigar. By the time he migrated to Denmark in the 1980s, he had a vast collection of Pakistani films and had collected a large amount of information on local cinema.

His passion for cinema inspired a larger endeavour; to make a publicly accessible online archive for Pakistani film. After the relative success of his news-portal Mahzar.dk, he made a separate website for Pakistan Film Magazine in May 2000. The first content was a review of iconic Punjabi film Heer Ranja, with complete film details such as cast credit, music information and unique images from the film which he took from his digital camera.

“I have a very strong point-of-view on movie making in Pakistan. I believe that we should make more local movies with small budgets; it will increase the interest in local cinema. We should also change the main theme of our movies, since the most popular subject is our social and cultural problems,” says Iqbal.

“Personally, I hate actions movies, but I know that these movies are more appealing to the public. Female cinema-goers prefer romantic and musical movies, and the golden era of the 1950s-70s, consisted widely of these types of movies.”

After taking initial steps to increase on his website, Iqbal published a complete chronicle of film history dating back to 1948. His source of information was the Urdu film directories, compiled by renowned film journalist Yasin Gojra. Famous journalist and writer Aqeel Abbas Jafri helped him make corrections of dates related to artistes and films.

As the site expanded, Iqbal was faced with an issue of technical expertise, in which he had to publish information page by page, making it necessary to develop web design skills. He had heard about online database technology and soon enrolled at Copenhagen University in 2011, where he obtained degrees in both web development and design.

He used this newfound expertise to develop a complete database which streamlined his archiving process. This year, the reworked website was completed and uploaded a database of 3000 films from the pre-partition era, marking the celebration of 100 years of cinema.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • suresh
    Dec 5, 2013 - 9:15PM

    what pakistan produces is not called films. ‘gujjars’ killing each others and sub-par standard image quality is not considered film.
    they should concentrate on their traditional business of terrorism.
    LOL

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  • Shueyb Gandapur
    Dec 5, 2013 - 9:54PM

    Mr. Mazhar has done a remarkable work of creating this database, which documents the history of Pakistani cinemas. Kudos to him.

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  • balu
    Dec 5, 2013 - 10:52PM

    @suresh:
    we made waar on that but endia did not like it

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  • Moiz Omar
    Dec 5, 2013 - 11:57PM

    Thanks for bringing my attention to this. Going to check this out.

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  • Breaking Bad
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:07AM

    @suresh:
    and indian movies are so much close to reality. There is absolutely no comparison.

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  • goggi (Lahore)
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:50AM

    The above article has awakened my nostalgic yesteryear memories of Lahori cinema freaks!

    As a teenager I have experienced three different kinds of crowds at the cinemas. The one was the sophisticated crowd at the english movies, the second a reserved crowd at the Urdu movies…… but the third was the real high-mettled, temperamental Lahori crowd at our Punjabi movies.

    I loved watching Punjabi movies together with the street boys of Lahore. It were OUR Noor Jahan´s songs like: sun way balori akh waliya……….aanda tere layi reshmi roomal…………pyar nalon pyar sajna……. main te mera dilbar jani………picturized on Firdous, Naghma etc which drove us all crazy and the whole cinema hall roared with Baraks and Hooting and the front 12 aane wali lines danced and threw change money as well!

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  • Giri
    Dec 6, 2013 - 4:09AM

    Better to shut in a room life long than watch these movies.

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  • Gufaor
    Dec 6, 2013 - 6:03AM

    Lets watch Pakistani movies and give up on Indian movie. Either go just for Hollywood movies. No way to Indain any more

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  • RHS
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:12PM

    I have been a long time fan of Mazhar Iqbal’s website and have tried to highlight his work in the past. It is great to see an article about his efforts here.
    Pakistani movies are not as well put together as the ones across the border but they need to be encouraged.
    Thanks to people like Mazhar, at least we can look back at Pakistan’s film industry on the web.
    His website on Bhutto Sahib was not too bad either but I cannot access it anymore..

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 2:33PM

    @suresh:
    You are generalizing an industry on the basis of a handful of films. It’s just like generalizing Bollywood on basis of Bhojpuri films. Please research about the masterpieces Pakistani film industry has produced since 1950’s. Dozens of Lollywood films have been copied by Bollywood.

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  • islooboy
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:37PM

    @suresh:
    there is a target audiance they love it and besides waar and its successors will totally kill the competition

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  • Dada
    Dec 6, 2013 - 4:20PM

    If you ask pakistanis, majority of them never recognize well with there hero and heroines.If you ask them to sing, then majority of them do not know pakistani songs well.This is a fact….

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  • Asad
    Dec 6, 2013 - 6:11PM

    @suresh
    as if indian movies have any standard at all.you guys just dance n flash :D

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  • optimist
    Dec 7, 2013 - 1:16AM

    His website has been a great source of information and I knew there is some great person behind that.
    .
    I try to read about Pakistan film industry. I think the name I have read in Urdu of Film journalist is more likely to be written as Yaseen Goreja, not Gojra!
    .
    Salute to such patriot heroes.
    .

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