Actor Hamza Ali Abbasi says the influx of Hindi films has spelt trouble for his country’s entertainment industry, which he feels is losing its distinct identity in a race to “be a cheap copy of Bollywood”.
“I feel the Indian film industry has had a huge impact on Pakistan because they filled the void, which was created when films were not being made [in my country]. Our filmmakers have grown up watching Hindi films, so they are trying to make films which look like Bollywood films,” said Hamza in an interview.
“Pakistan’s film industry should make its own identity. I don’t want our film industry to be some wannabe film industry,” added the actor, whose maternal family hails from Amritsar.
Now he has walked into the Indian small screen through his show Pyaare Afzal, which beams on Zindagi TV in India.
Hamza, who has studied bachelors in international relations and development from US and is also the former cultural secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, sees hope in the new wave of Pakistani cinema.
While there was Zinda Bhaag, which was sent as a prospective Oscar nomination, Pakistan’s first Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has brought in animated films to the country with 3 Bahadur.
“Our film industry is still in a process of emerging. With this new film industry, we have a chance to make it a distinct medium of representation instead of trying to be a cheap copy of Bollywood,” he added.
The actor, who has worked in films like WAAR and Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, and whose theatrical repertoire includes local productions of Bombay Dreams, Phantom of the Opera and Home is Where Your Clothes Are, added that the Pakistani film industry can learn a thing or two from its own TV industry.
“TV dramas are our only representation across the globe. Our identity is brilliantly represented in TV dramas. I think our film industry need not learn from Bollywood ‘masala’ films, but from our drama industry,” said Hamza, who notes that “Pakistani TV dramas stay true to the country’s culture”.
And how is that going to happen?, “For instance, I’ve not seen an item song in Pakistani dramas. Whether we agree or not, Pakistan doesn’t approve of such things,” he said, and added: “Item number is a phenomenon, which is creeping into Pakistani films and is not being appreciated by our people.”
Hamza also believes that Pakistani film industry is “not adapting good Bollywood films, but which are full of ‘masala’ like Grand Masti and Housefull, adding that the current trend is disappointing as “Bollywood is itself trying to do away with such cinema with meaningful films like 3 Idiots and Piku.
On whether he’d like to feature in a Bollywood film, Hamza stated, “I don’t see myself in Bollywood for a while because I think I’m more useful in Pakistan.” He said if there’s ever a joint venture, where Pakistan also has a stake in the project, then he’d probably consider it. Hamza had previously turned down an offer to feature in the Akshay Kumar-starrer Baby.
While he has nothing against actors like Fawad Khan and Ali Zafar, who have made their mark in Bollywood, he pointed at one drawback. “Our actors become really big in Bollywood and then they become a bit inaccessible and a delicacy for Pakistan,” said Hamza.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2015.
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