Once the centre of filmmaking, Lahore has witnessed the bloom and gloom of many actors, writers, directors, producers and cameramen. Although actors and directors are among those who manage to get the spotlight against all odds, camera wizards have often been undervalued in the local film scene.
They made invaluable contribution to the golden era of cinema from the 1960s to 1980s, but the decline of the film industry in the 1990s was exacerbated by the demise of many notable cameramen. Senior cameraman Ali Jaan, who witnessed the glory days of Lollywood, is brimming with hope at age 74 and looks towards the revival of the film industry.
Since many years, Jaan customarily sits down with old colleagues at Evernew Studios in Iqbal Town and reminisces about the good ol’ days. He served as the supervisor of the studio and, during his tenure of nearly 55 years, worked as a cameraman for 170 films. “I was 20 years old when I came to Lahore. My career began here and I’m still in the same place to see the film industry blossom again,” says Jaan, who was born in Hangu and moved to Lahore to explore a career in film.
He showcased his camera work and skill set in various Pakistani hits, including Mehndi Waley Hath, Choorian and Ghungat. In the field of camera, Jaan’s name was known to be one of the reasons for a film’s success. He was equally acknowledged and respected in India for his professional work. Sharing reasons behind the crisis that the film industry, he states, “Influx of Indian films in Pakistan was a major reason why the industry collapsed.” He claimed that the industry could be revived in months, only if the import of Bollywood films is stopped. “Lack of adaptability, following new trends in films and repetition of scripts are also reason for the recent crisis,” he adds.
Jaan believes that the last two years, when newcomers started producing quality films, is not a step for revival. “It is a ground reality that producers get nothing in return after spending millions of rupees and the reason is that we have no cinema,” he laments. He explains it is difficult to target international and local investors if there is no reward after investing a huge sum of money into the production process. “Only Indian films are doing business”, he notes. He says he can’t accept the notion that the film industry is reviving when thousands associated with it are still suffering.
Jaan has received the best cameraman award from the Japanese government and the Fujifilm award, among many others. He hopes that the situation gets better as people don’t like to see films in cinemas of poor quality, as new producers and directors struggle hard for the revival of the industry.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2015.
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