Written By: Madeeha Raza

Walking into the cinema theatre to watch a Pakistani film has become a significant choice considering the loopholes of Pakistani entertainment perceptions. The wow factor coming to light is the increase in the cinema going culture, which has shed light upon some of the brightest functions of the Pakistani film industry. Despite the fact that a large number of multiplexes had opened up only to show houses full of Indian films, it is now visible that Pakistani films tend to cover up daily schedules, which also remain house full even weeks after their release. Is this because of a trend or is this the revival of Pakistani cinema? The truth is that the hunger of Pakistanis for entertainment has never died, and wherever there is opportunity for satisfying this hunger, there is an abundance of appreciation by all and sundry. Thus, the ‘merry-go-round’ of the Pakistani film industry has once again spun in full speed, drilling into the cracks of dryness that had torn apart the interest of masses in local productions. The way the cinema used to be a mere boondoggle for both the producers and the audience has changed like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, after years of growth and development. As much as the Pakistani television drama industry has remained successful, the film industry is also glittering; being appreciated by the audiences, though both industries are growing due to completely different reasons. This acclamation is not simply meant for their mere presence, but both the genres are being appreciated for trying to serve an audience, which is not easily fooled. However, the revival of the Pakistani cinema is a byproduct of a long run dry port of lacking creativity, though the new films being released seem to be taking a new turn. However, similar to the randomness of the Pakistani fashion industry is the arbitrary development of the Pakistani film industry in terms of their themes and codes, which are working regardless of their strength and hold. Considering the newly released films, the content/story on display seem to have lost a grip on vitality, demand, structure, and ideology. Filmmakers have started making films for the heck of it, and as much as it sounds astonishing, this trend seems to be working well for the Pakistani cinema. Not all Pakistani films are as trashy as some may seem to be, but the truth is acceptance leads to formation. The day films like Khuda Kay Liye and Bol by Shoaib Mansoor and Waar by Bilal Lashari were released, the Pakistani cinema and the audience seemed to have been taken up by a fire and a want for innovation. One after another films started coming out, but as soon as the Pakistani industry realized they had a chance to fool the audience for a mere monetary gain, films with item songs and the absurdity came up front. The silence broke when movies like Na Maloom Afrad, Jalaibee, and the very recent Karachi say Lahore included provocative dance numbers, more commonly referred to as ‘item songs’, and a specific rather large segment of the audiences flocked towards the cinemas to watch these performances. The filmmakers, when questioned on this need to copy Indian cinema in this regard, come to their defence stating that they prefer giving the mass audience what they anticipate and would like to see on the big screen. Whether or not this justification makes sense, but fact remains that this has done good to the overall Pakistani cinema and industry. More and more people have started heading towards cinemas to watch films with glamorous displays. Having to believe that films made in Pakistan would have the same sound effects, the same video clarity, the same action, the same glamour and the same level of acting, which the Indian movies have had, is interesting. What is interesting is the manner in which Pakistani actors use Indian themes and codes to entertain the Pakistani audience, and what is intriguing is the longing, which the Pakistani audience feels for such shows. Calling the current state of the Pakistani cinema as a ‘revival’ seems to be clouded for an industry that remained close to dead for a very long period of time, because the role of people like Waheed Murad, Nadeem, Shabnum, Rani, and Shamim Ara in their own way has kept the industry alive for decades. However, the turns, which this industry took in terms of storyline/plot, presentation, and distribution is what seems to be revived. But wherever there is smoke, there is a fire, and years after Arman, Ayna, Chakori, and Bandish went behind the curtains of memory, the fire of genuine entertainment dimmed and the smoke of mere performance began to hum. It seemed that hopes of seeing a sustainable and functioning Pakistani cinema had been blown away, but what is intriguing now is the new trend, which is driving it towards incorporating themes and codes, which are more bizarre and less genuine. This trend seems to be working well for the Pakistani cinema and the industry is booming with positive responses from people.

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In terms of storyline, the film Karachi say Lahore, for instance, follows a very ordinary and predictable plot; the execution is even worse in terms of production. The focus has been put on unnecessary elements, and not so much on the characterization or the performances per se, both of which lack depth, are very superficial, and fail to make an impression on the audience, except for one of the supporting cast who is the only star of the show with his one-liners and dialogue delivery. Where films like Karachi say Lahore and another recently released Wrong No. seem absurd, movies like Shah and Moor have won the hearts of many. In the recently released film Shah, the manner in which a real life story has been translated into a film with good characterization and commendable acting seems to be quite prominent. Though for many, the film does a terrible job in terms of its production, with many flaws in cinematography and sound, but the story stays with the audience as they exit the cinema house, and the message is not only meant for gaining attention but has an ideological function. Moor on the other hand gives the audience a great cinematic experience, with remarkable production and post, brilliant background score and songs, and an excellent storyline; however, where it lacks is in the characterization of characters, with some underlying loopholes in the plot. Nonethless, all of these films have attracted audiences to the cinemas and have kept running full house for several weeks all across Pakistan.

Even with all this ‘revival of the Pakistani cinema’ becoming talk of the town, I say that until every car has Pakistani film songs playing, instead of Indian, and we have produced a thousand actors like Shaan, our cinema has a long way to go keeping in mind the dullness it has remained in for decades. The producers and other stakeholders seem to be using this medium for paradigm shift, patriotism, and even propaganda, besides basic entertainment by focusing on the significant dimensions of plot, dialogue, and action in different ways, some of which could be improved. If the current stance of the Pakistani film industry has stirred an overwhelming response, what is essential is the dive into the future. Even though there may not be a complete shift from Indian cinema, but people can be lured into the true essence of Pakistani talent by incorporating genuine ideas and themes for display.

The writer is a professional documentary filmmaker. Twitter:@madeeha88
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