Written By: Omair Alavi
2017 was not a kind year to the Pakistani film industry – not only did the number of releases was less than last year, the quality of most of the films was bad as well. Only a couple of films – Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 turned out to be blockbusters with the former managing to cross Rs. 50 crores worldwide, a first for a Pakistani film. Na Maloom Afraad 2 managed to do better business than the original while Mehrunisa V Lub U won the race of Eid-ul-Fitr as it managed to recover its investment. Yalghaar’s business profit did not stir the market despite all other powerful ingredients.
The coming year seems to have a lot of films lined up for release but will they perform better than last year or will they falter at the box office that remains to be seen. Let’s analyze the films released in 2017 and then move on to the releases due in next 12 months and come up with an analysis that gives us the clear picture regarding the direction of our film industry. In short, 2018 will determine whether the industry is moving upwards or going down. Read on:
2017 started on a sad note with Rafay Rashdi’s Thora Jee Le that seemed more like a student film than a commercial film; it was followed by Haisam Hussain’s much-awaited Balu Mahi that launched Osman Khalid Butt in films as well as Sadaf Kanwal and was the comeback flick of Ainy Jaffri. The film proved to be the plagiarized version of Bollywood flicks Jab We Met and Dil Bolay Hadippa and the audience rejected it despite its excellent soundtrack. Then came a couple of highly forgettable films namely Whistle and Raasta that couldn’t even last one week in the cinemas.
While Whistle was a failure with new cast and team, Raasta featured Sahir Lodhi as the actor, director, producer and even the scriptwriter, alongside Abeer Rizvi, Sana Fakhr and Aijazz Aslam as co-stars. The film’s dismal run at the box office prompted the actor to bash the critics, an act that was followed by Yasir Nawaz, Syed Noor, and Shaan Shahid who considered their below average films as a gift to the audience, one they didn’t ask for.
The second quarter brought as many as three films to cinemas – Chalay Thay Saath that was brilliantly shot but with a weak storyline; Yalghaar that was based on a real-life war between the Armed Forces and terrorists and Mehrunisa V Lub U that managed to recover its investment despite some critics blasting it for its vulgar and double-meaning dialogues. The month of August then saw two Pakistani films being released on the same date – Geo Sar Utha Kay and Chain Aye Na. One was produced by Shafqat Cheema and glorified the Police Force in Lollywood style while the other was Syed Noor’s comeback film featuring Shehroz Sabzwari and Sarish Khan. The film reminded the audience of Shah Ji’s classic cinema from the 90s and that’s the main reason why it didn’t look like a modern film, faltering at the box office.
Then came that time of the year when either Nabeel Qureshi or Nadeem Baig or both deliver their much-awaited hits to the audience. What’s surprising is that the two know what the cinegoers want and deliver exactly that in an era when the others are as clueless about their film’s fate as the audience. Nadeem Baig’s Punjab Nahi Jaungi not only broke all records domestically and internationally but also helped Humayun Saeed and Mehwish Hayat to reach the top position. The film had an excellent soundtrack as well as dialogues such as “Help Me Durdana”, making it a modern-day classic. Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi’s Na Maloom Afraad 2 got banned in the Gulf States because the heist in the film revolved around a Sheikh who speaks Arabic that is incorrect and illogical. Despite the ban, the film did well at the box office and managed to finish second in the year’s lineup.
The successful September ended with the release of Saawan, Pakistan’s official entry to the Academy Awards and one of the better films of the year. However, due to its non-commercial value, it couldn’t fare well at the box office. Then came the biggest shock of the year – Shoaib Mansoor’s Verna ¬– which failed to impress the audience due to its bizarre story and execution. Mahira Khan’s acting was the saving grace but with bad story and direction, it was doomed from the moment it was released. The film benefited from its pre-release hype since it was supposedly banned by Censor Board although they claim that it was done on moral grounds.
The last month of the year brought as many as 3 films to the cinema screens – Aamir Mohiuddin’s Rangreza and Shaan Shahid’s Arth which failed to attract the audience because of their weak story, misguided direction and inability to appeal to the cine-goers. However, it all changed with Chupan Chupai that was released just three days before the New Year. Ahsan Khan’s comeback film connected with the youth who came to watch their favourite actor as well as Neelam Munir, Faizan Khawaja and Adnan Jaffer on the big screen. With the film set to do well, we can say that the year ended on a better note than it started on.
Come 2018 and we have loads of films lined up for the year – the year kicked off with Parchi that has been doing well in the cinemas, breaking the ‘first film of the year’ jinx. Next in line is Maan Jao Na that features Adeel Chaudhry and Elnaaz Norouzi in the lead, while Hajra Yamin and Ayaz Samoo will feature in supporting roles. Allah Yar and the Legend of Markhor is all slated for a February release followed by Pakistan Super League that will keep the audience entertained till the end of March. Asim Abbasi’s directorial debut Cake will then be released in the last week of March and the wonderful teaser has made people mark their calendars for this Sanam Saeed-Aminah Sheikh starrer.
The second quarter of the year is likely to see the clash of Jawed Sheikh’s Wujood, Ahsan Rahim’s Teefa in Trouble and Meenu – Farjad’s Saat Din, Mohabbat In. All these films are eyeing the Eid-ul-Fitr week and one hopes that one of them is released sooner than later. Wujood will bring Jawed Sheikh, Nadeem, and Shahid together for the first time while Teefa in Trouble will be Ali Zafar and Maya Ali’s big screen debut. Saat Din Mohabbat In will reunite Shehryar Munawwar and Mahira Khan for the first time since Ho Mann Jahaan that was released in 2016.
The next Eid will see Fahad Mustafa in action since he stars in not one but two films – Nadeem Baig’s Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 and Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi’s Load Wedding. The former will also star franchise regulars Humayun Saeed, Ahmad Ali Butt and Vasay Chaudhry whereas Mehwish Hayat will play the female lead in the latter. The audience all over the world will be looking forward to both these films since the track record of both the directors is spotless and all the films that have become blockbusters in last four yours have featured either of them behind the camera.
Allah Yar and the Legend of Markhor will also not be the only animated film slated for a 2018 release – there is Tick Tock as well as the third installment of 3 Bahadur. Both these films haven’t finalized a release date but whenever they will be released, the audience will be waiting since not many animated feature films have been released in Pakistan. There is also the unreleased Project Ghazi that might finally make it to the theatre sometime in the next 12 months, hopefully as a proper release instead of the half-baked version that was screened last year.
A few projects that were supposed to be released last year will get to see the light of the day in 2018. These include veteran film director Sangeeta’s Tum Hee Ho featuring Danish Taimoor and Shahid Shafaat’s Jhol now with Zahid Ahmed in the lead instead of Bilal Ashraf; Rehan Sheikh’s Azad will also come to a screen near you, after doing extremely well in festivals abroad. Then there is Moammer Rana’s comeback vehicle Azaadi that also brings back Imran Malik to the director’s chair. The film also features Nadeem Baig and Sonya Hussain in the cast and tackles the Kashmir dispute in its own way. Then there is Shaan Shahid’s spy thriller Zarrar that has an entirely gora cast as per the director. The film is touted to be the most expensive Pakistani film ever and if all goes well, it will become one of the highest grossing films of the year.