Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Will Tele-Dramas Be The Death of Pashto Cinema?

PESHAWAR: The real charm of cinema for a viewer lies in the theatrical and congregational experience; a large screen, high-quality audio, movie popcorn and a crowd of people are essential to movie enjoyment.
Unfortunately, this picture is largely absent in Peshawar since the arrival of tele-dramas – the final nail in the coffin for Pashto films. Tele-dramas (similar to tele-theatre and long plays that were initially aired on PTV) are a mixture of drama and film, which incorporate song and dance but are longer in duration than dramas.
The DVDs of these tele-dramas are available at cheap price at CD shops, can be copied to cell phone memory cards by mobile shop owners and are also aired on TV by local cable operators. This availability has allowed them to spread like wildfire in Peshawar, burning behind whatever is left of the Pashto film industry. The power of cheap entertainment at home has led the locals and hujras to stay home and watch tele-dramas instead of going to the cinema.
A director’s perspective
“The tele-drama industry has declined a little due to piracy issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” says Farhad Ahmad, a tele-drama director. “Up until last year, more than 50,000 copies of tele-dramas were sold on average.”
“We are losing the congregational space of a cinema but making films for television has actually made directors more cautious about the kind of stories they narrate as they are now catering to Pathan families and not to a bunch of angry, frustrated men,” he elaborates.
Saadullah Jan Barq, one of the finest and oldest Pashto film and television writers, feels that this is the ideal time for tele-drama directors to capture the current audience. He feels that directors should go the extra mile and transform this industry into mainstream entertainment, as Pashto cinema is on the verge of dying. “Tele-dramas have the potential to completely replace Pashto cinema from its roots,” Barq told The Express Tribune. “It’s cheap, safe and equally entertaining.” He emphasised that the real challenge for the tele-drama industry is to continue to bring in innovative and diverse ideas. Additionally, in order to avoid forming stereotypes like Pashto cinema, the directors will have to be on their toes.
Barq further adds that unless a director like Shoaib Mansoor comes to the rescue, Pashto cinema will easily be destructed by the flood of tele-dramas. “It’s sad but true and has pretty much already happened,” he says regretfully.
The replacement
The concept of tele-dramas was introduced early on in the year 2000 but became a multi-million-rupee industry later on when prominent actors of the Pashto film industry such as Arbaaz and Jahangir Khan entered the tele-drama industry.
“In a cinema, it takes Rs1,000 to entertain five people whereas it takes only a Rs50 CD in the case of a tele-drama,” Ashfaq Ahmed, a shop owner at Nishtarabad CD Market tells The Express Tribune. “These are dramas that can be comfortably seen with the whole family, so why shouldn’t one opt for them?”

Monday, 30 July 2012

" Screening Pakistani films across the border "

Indian scholar Salma Siddiqui discusses how contemporary films offer insights into issues of identity issues in Pakistan.

LAHORE: “Screening Pakistani films has opened a window for us [in India] across the border,” Salma Siddiqui told The Express Tribune
Brought up in Dehli, Siddiqui is currently pursuing a PhD in Media Art and Design at the University of Westminster in London. She was presenting a research paper at the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) on Friday on her fourth visit to the country since 2000. She had visited Islamabad and Karachi on her earlier visits.
Her paper, published by the Academy of Third World Studies at the Jamia Millia-e-Islamia in Delhi, where she completed her Masters in Philosophy, examines the construction of history and identity in contemporary Pakistani films by analysing three films: Khuda Ke Liye, Khamosh Paani and Ramchand Pakistani.
Siddiqui said the political comes into contact with the personal in these films. “Identity is contingent on political events,” she said. “For example, in Khuda ke liye, the identity of Fawad Khan’s character is contingent upon the political context in Pakistan.”
“Films are an important source of history,” she said, “All three films push its boundaries.” She said Walter Benjamin’s edict that ‘contemporary crises can be articulated by reference to earlier crises’ stands true for the art of film making.
Narrating the reaction of Indian audiences upon watching Ramchand Pakistani, Siddiqui said, “In India, people were surprised that a non-Muslim could be a Pakistani.” The film’s protagonist, a Hindu boy who crosses into India by mistake, narrates a story about a member of a marginalised community in Pakistan, she said.
She said every filmmaker has their own purpose behind creating a film. “Ramchand Pakistani director Mehreen Jabbar was inspired by an actual incident while Khuda ke liye director Shoaib Mansoor said his film was an expression of his personal outrage at his friend Junaid Jamshed’s transformation from a ‘musician to a radical’,” she said.
“Speaking from the position of an Indian Muslim who watched Khuda Ke Liye, I thought the movie made some bold and interesting statements,” Siddiqui said. “It argued that the terror timeline in Pakistan started before 9/11.”
She said the movie addressed both growing radicalisation of the Pakistani society and rising Islamophobia in the rest of the world. However, Saeeda Diep, the IPSS chairperson, said the film took an apologetic tone about religious radicalisation in the Pakistani society. She contested that the film had tried to link radicalisation in Pakistan to events in the outside world.
Speaking about similarities in the three films, Siddiqui said the protagonist in each was depicted as “an idle and na├»ve male.” She said the protagonists reflected the heterogeneity in the Pakistani society. She said, “Another similarity is that the love relationships in the three films cut across religious, ideological or geographic boundaries but fail at the end.”
“The three films acknowledge taboos in society about such relationships, and portray that they are bound to fail,” she said. She said a “fankaar” [artist] was depicted in all three films, which provided an insight into the prospects of those with creative and artistic abilities in the country. “While all other identities in the films are hyphenated, the artist is free from these,” she said.
Gulnar Tabassum, a documentary filmmaker, contended that the films under discussion were not made for local audiences. “The funding and production aimed at projecting a certain image of the society instead of focusing on filmmaking,” she said. Anmmar Rasool, an advertising professional who has studied filmmaking, argued that the films reflected art too, which was why they became popular.
Speaking to The Tribune after the talk, Siddiqui said, “Khuda Ke Liye did well in India because no such film had come out of Bollywood,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Will Kaptaan make it?

Karachi: If a film-maker takes on a subject like the popular Imran Khan for a project, he should anticipate that expectations and public interest will be high. Films like Waar and Seedlings have raised the bar for film-makers in Pakistan, but projects likeKaptaan (which revolves around Imran Khan and Jemima Goldsmith) and Kolachi remain a cause of concern.
While Kolachi did not move beyond delivering a trailer, Kaptaan has now been under production for two years, raising questions about poor planning and execution. According to a source affiliated with the production unit, despite being shot and re-shot a few times, the release of the film cannot be expected in the near future. Director Faisal Aman Khan should have known better.
In early 2011, the crew had completed the shooting and released the trailer as public interest mounted. “People were abusing the Kaptaan crew on Facebook for not delivering on time,” the source told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity. “That is when they decided to upload the trailer of the film to YouTube, to calm the fans down.”
But as the initial filming done by Lahore-based cinematographer Tariq Pitafi concluded and the footage was previewed by the crew, technical glitches surfaced and the plan to move to the post-production phase was halted.
“After consultation with the key members of the crew, the director decided to reshoot the whole film,” the source revealed. “The film crew was so desperate (for an alternative cinematographer) that the task of filming was given to the editor,” he concluded, adding that others were reluctant to take on this project as its prospects seemed murky.
The team embarked on a journey to shoot Kaptaan once again, but the quality of the new footage was so poor, that the crew decided to shoot the entire film in black and white.
“This was an easy way out since the look gets classy and most of errors are hidden,” said the source. “But frankly, the film wasn’t going anywhere.”
The most recent development is that Kaptaan has entered the shooting process for a third time now, with Pitafi once again as the director of photography (DP), who will shoot the remainding portion of the film in black and white.
Are we going to see a black and white film after a trailer in colour? If that is indeed the case, then the more serious question that will be raised is, will the project be completed?
PTI says no
While the director and film crew have spoken of their meeting with Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) “continuous support” to the film, PTI tells The Express Tribune that it has no clue.
When asked if the party was in any way endorsing the film, PTI’s secretary of information Shafqat Mehmood said that there has been no collaboration or funds extended to the film-makers. “I can totally deny this,” Mehmood said, adding that this “never happened”.
While the Kolachi team re-gained credibility with Seedlings – which may win an award at the New York Film Festival – the Kaptaan project seems to run high on ambition and low on pragmatism.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Iman Ali Denied Link Up with Imtiaz Ali

Iman Ali – a popular Pakistani Model, TV and film actress – has denied link up and marriage rumours with Imtiaz Ali. She in a clear statement,  said that she is not going to tie the knot with the Bollywood director.
Previously, Indian media had reported her alleged affair with Indian director Imtiaz Ali. When she was questioned about her marriage rumors with Imtiaz, she said,” That really hurt me, if I am to marry why wouldn’t I choose an ideal Pakistani boy of my own age”. ”I won’t get married for next five years, I have got to prove myself in the showbiz”, she added.
Iman got her sky high fame by performing as Anarkali in a seven-minute music video directed by Shoaib Mansoor. She co-hosted the Lux Style Awards in 2005 and has since starred in various television productions.
In 2007, Ali made her film debut in Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye for which she received the Lux Style Award for ‘Best Actress’ in 2008. She appeared in a supporting role in Shoaib Mansoor’s second film, Bol.