Pakistan’s 35mm dream yet to be realized
July 06, 2012
The significance of cinema is paramount when it comes to the promotion of a country’s image. It is an art that is lost to the Pakistanis -- sadly. At a time, where cinematic trends are evolving, we seem to be in a fix with a very primitive approach towards film making. The golden era of the 60s and 70s is remembered robotically, but the soul has been long forgotten, or, conveniently, shelved. The regression has been so extreme that the industry once known for producing gems is now capable of churning out poorly-thought out Bollywood parodies.
In the past five years, a few films were produced that are worthy of praise; in fact, they have been such well-thought out fares that even the world has been forced to take note. Talent in Pakistan is available in abundance; with the right kind of support from the government and big business houses, the industry can in no time find stand on sound footing and compete in the global arena.
Across the border, films are being used as an image-building tool. Indian cinema has a global audience, and no stones have been left unturned in order to make India a very attractive proposition. Multinationals line up to have Bollywood stars endorse their products resulting in billions of dollars being injected into the economy. In today’s times, a country’s importance is directly proportional to its marketability; investors are like moths, and they only get attracted to the light that shines the brightest.
Pakistan film industry no doubt has suffered many setbacks; the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and Zia’s Islamization are key factors in the degradation of Pakistani films. Cinemas that used to figure in the hundreds at one point were reduced to a mere handful due to an unfortunate decline in the production of a quality product. Production value dropped, direction became shoddy, scripts were outlandish, vulgarity was promoted, and the personas seen on screen were no longer relatable to say the least. To cut a long story short, the respect for the craft and the love of the art was replaced by a bag full of cheap tricks and gimmicks done in a very bad taste.
It is easy to talk about everything that is wrong with this industry, but the need of the hour is to find ways in which this impending disaster can be averted. A possible way of doing so is for the government to get involved. Filmmakers need to be given some leverage here; duties on the import of state-of-the-art equipment should be reduced, and tax breaks be granted to them. For the revival of cinema in Pakistan, the number of quality films has to increase rapidly. The viewer should not have to wait years for a high calibre Pakistani film to hit their local screens. Construction of single screen and multiplex cinemas need to be made certain by providing the owners incentives for doing so. Latest releases from around the world, namely Hollywood and Bollywood, should be allowed in the local cinemas, not just in the major cities, but also the smaller centres, so that local filmmakers can learn from the competition, rather than be afraid of it.
Film is a cheap means of entertainment for the entertainment-starved masses, but the revenue that this medium has the potential of generating is by no means small. Big businesses in the country can aid this revival by financing these projects; the success of a few films here in Pakistan and abroad is a proof that a well-made product is a safe bet financially for all those involved. Pakistan as a brand has to be promoted across the globe and film is a great place to start with this venture.
We live in a country that has everything possibly needed in pursuit of prosperity; all that is needed is a guiding shove in the right direction and we are good to go. Like our drama and music industry, our cinema too needs to evolve. A Pakistani film needs to find its identity, let it never be mistaken for a borrowed idea; it should engage our sensibilities and spark our emotions.
The dream to have a film industry that every Pakistani can be proud of can come true, all that is needed is for the right people to take charge, and pretty soon the world, too, will start taking notice of Pakistan for all the right reasons. And on that day, Pakistan’s 35mm dream will have been realized.