Historically, politically and culturally, it seems the Pukhtun diaspora residing on either sides of the Durand Line shares a bond that cannot be weakened via manufactured narratives. While Karachi is gradually taking over from Lahore as the bastion of Pakistani cinema, within the regional Pashto film industry, the mantle is gradually slipping into the hands of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Director Qaiser Sanober chose the city over Pakistani locations for filming portions of his upcoming project Yu Zal Bya Rasha whereas director Farman Khan and actor Madhu also decided to shoot a song and fighting sequences of their film Jananaa in a city that has been taken apart by terror in recent times.
With its concentration in Punjab, the Pashto film industry itself was never centered in urban centres of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Now that Pakistani films are periodically being screened at cinemas of the neighbouring country, it is in a way a positive sum game for some and a negative sum game for others.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Sanober says, “Yes our shooting is under way and the response from the locals has been overwhelming. It is no secret that Pashto cinema is turning over a new leaf and investors from both countries have shown interest in injecting money into it.” He maintains the idea of shooting in Afghanistan is heavy on the pocket, but he will reap benefits in the foreseeable future. “It is a tragedy that the law and order situation has broadened the gap between our audiences in K-P and Afghanistan.” He however states Pashto films that were earlier restricted to Lahore and surrounding cities will now find a new home in Afghanistan.
The director goes on to say that the effort isn’t one sided only. “Afghan filmmakers like Haris Khan and Mohsin Khan are approaching the Pakistani government and we have every reason to believe this industry can bridge gaps.”
Actor Jahangir Khan Jani feels Pashto cinema is on the brink of going digital. Trends in scripts and storylines have changed completely, he adds. “The Afghans want to see good Pashto films. The reception of our product is very promising.”
Kabul is no more a city that it once was at least ten years ago. Pakistani Pashto filmmakers have made good money spreading their wings across the volatile border and Afghan filmmakers are themselves seeing a glimmer of hope in these shifting dynamics. Since Eidul Azha, films like Ishq-e-Mamnoon, Charta Aashqan Charta Raqeeban, Ishaq Khana Kharab, Haider Khan, Zah Malung Jaan Yum, Hero Number One, Liyounay Pakhtoon, Zindan and Muhabbat Ka Dilyounoun Dy are still up and running at numerous screens across Pakistan.
Madhu believes this outreach will help the industry break out of the monotony that has surrounded it for decades, contributing to its decline. “Things have to change with time. It will only worsen if we stick to our guns. Urdu and Punjabi filmmakers in India and Pakistan have been collaborating for a while. India has always ignored Pashto cinema and there is no harm in exploring a market in an area where Pukhtun art is appreciated.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.