If reports and announcements are to be believed, 2020 is set to be the biggest year for Pakistani Films. That is, if all 43 already announced movies make it to the big screen and aren’t confined to censor-board or production hell. In a country like Pakistan, there is a very real risk that a film which has been teased, promoted and likely even cleared by all censor boards may never make it to release. Viewing that risk as a given, I won’t be stopping myself from getting excited. It is cinema after all.
The risk just adds to the metric with which one can truly judge a film. What good are awards and recognition if the film isn’t released right? The Pakistani Film industry is currently averaging 20 films a year so it’s safe to assume, about half of the announced 43 will be getting the axe. Thus, I have decided to put this out for the fates to see, the 2 films that I hope, see the light of day in 2020.
Starting this list is a film that is already facing censorship hell. Despite being cleared twice by both Sindh and Punjab censor boards, the release of the film has been halted. Possibly indefinitely. The prime reason is in fact, the reason the film was made in the first place. The misuse of religion to justify one’s hatred towards their fellow human beings. The plot follows the life of a “naat khuwaan” and his family as they deal with each other, the perils of this world and the spite of others.
This seems familiar…
It seems the story of the film has begun to echo in the life of director Sarmad Khoosat. On the eve of its nationwide release, after a successful screening at the Busan International Film Festival, complaints were once again filed by a group of people. The aim being to stop the release. That, coupled with the severe harassment faced by the director, prompted his penning a series of emotional open letters in the defence of his film. Eventually, the release was all-together halted to allow the complainants time to ‘review’ the film to allow its release.
The first release of the year usually sets the tone for the year. Had it been released, Zindagi Tamasha would have set the bar miraculously high. Intense, intimate story-telling that also deviates from the norms of romance and comedy, the film was set to break new ground for Pakistani Cinema. Instead, its stoppage sets a dangerous new precedent, one that is entirely detrimental to the progress of the Pakistani Film industry.
The Legend of Maula Jatt
I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a movie just by watching one trailer. I also have never been more disappointed when the release of said movie failed to materialise. And no, my excitement isn’t just limited to watching Mahira Khan on screen. Though yes, that is a contributing factor. I guess I’ll let you watch the trailer first before I proceed.
Now can you see my excitement?
No Pakistani movie has ever looked quite like this. The attention to detail alone speaks for director Bilal Lashari’s skill and passion. Each frame shown is meticulously crafted with Bhansali-esque determination. Determination to show exactly that story as the director has envisioned. It would thus, be safe to assume that the director would only put out the film if he is entirely satisfied with the quality of the film.
I wish that was the only reason for the delay though.
While yes, delaying the film for the sake of its quality is Lashari’s MO, halting production to deal with a few lawsuits would also be detrimental to the release. Ever since the film was announced in 2014, Lashari and producer Ammara Hikmat have faced several lawsuits. Most of which came their way via one Sarwar Bhatti, who claims the film is an unauthorised remake of the 1979 movie, which he produced. Both Lashari and Hikmat maintain, the only commonality between the two is the source material, Gandasa, a short story by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi.
The drama broke, once again, just months before the scheduled release. And it got messy. New lawsuits were filed by both parties but eventually a stay order by the Sindh High Court allowed the production of the film to continue. By which time, however, the damage was done. Focus was shifted away from the content of the film to the drama behind it. Choosing not to release the film in such a climate and using the additional time to further improve it is a smart move indeed, if that is what was meant by “strategic reasons”. The hope now is that all the wait and effort is worth it.
A little confession before I end.
I had initially intended this to be a list of 5 films. I had also shortlisted 5. During the writing process however, I realised two things. One, I wouldn’t be able to do justice to at least two of the remaining three films. Secondly, I didn’t feel a strong enough attachment to all of them to include them on the list. That doesn’t imply I do not want their release however. I do. Just not as much as the others on this list.
There is also the matter of a lack of information about these films. Articles and press release about them limited me to a few lines synopsis and information of the main cast and crew. That in itself made it hard to fit them within the context of this post.
Context, which has also evolved.
When I began initially, the aim was to write about the films I was looking forward to. That too, in terms of what they would bring to Pakistani Cinema as a whole. I was most excited about the two already mentioned. Researching about them and their struggles with just getting a release caused a shift in purpose.
The aim now is to highlight the challenges the Pakistani Film Industry is facing. In particular, by its most talented that seek to transform it from its current Bollywood-esque state. In such a way that it may find an identity of its own.
As the Pakistani Film industry tries to find its footing, impediments as mentioned above work to derail its progress. If it wasn’t the censor board suggesting extensive cuts as in the case of Hammad Khan’s ill-fated films, it was lawsuits. Impediments that make it very hard for innovative new cinema to be produced. The result would inevitably be, a lifetime of failing to emulate Bollywood. That is a fate which I for one, am not prepared to accept.