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heer ranjha or terror, taliban and totay – where is Pakistan’s cinema?

I just returned from the cinema watching Boz Salkyn, a Kyrgyz movie – a simple story about bride-kidnapping, love and the Kyrgyz people. It has some Heer Ranja aspects. It’s emotional, completely a-political without the aim to critizice society, the state or question religion. Central Asian states, although in similar troubles as Pakistan when it comes to political turmoil, social unrest and religious fundamentalism seem to bring out movies of this type steadily while movies from Pakistan always have to revolve around Religion, it’s history still presentGuns, the “failed state” image or trying to be independent of these popular topics by creating material void of context and storyline or simple splatter. Some film makers have started initiatives, others are producing marvellous work but where can you watch it apart from the DOP’s private hard drive?

Who dares to make a Pakistani movie that does not have to claim to be made “60 miles away from the Taliban” to gain attention? A movie that’s worth watching because it’s simply a good movie without having to associate Pakistan with TerrorTaliban or Totay. A movie that can be shown in Trannum cinema in Androon Sheher and people will leave being touched by the story rather than one that is just screened in a living room in DHA before it immediately leaves to European/US film festivals where people are moved because they associate veiled women with Videos from Swat and bearded men with Videos from as-Sahab.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


One thought on “heer ranjha or terror, taliban and totay – where is Pakistan’s cinema?

  1. Moving away from this situation is one of the main objectives we have at the Pakistan New Cinema Movement (find us on facebook). The Industry is in decline because of many reasons but the vacuum is creating a rush of well packaged rubbish. I was one of the first batch of film grads from BNU, none of my class fellows are ‘making films’. Why? I think because we learned enough about how hard it actually is, not to make fools of ourselves! Film making needs a wealth of expertise in a range of disciplines. The problem is lack of investment in human resources by those that can for fear of loosing the little attention that they get. Ultimately one is only a film maker if the film has been watched by thousands if not millions of people.

    As for the question that Jakob raises about theme, he is absolutely correct. Foreigners only know what they are shown. If all that gets made is films about the Taliban about political and religious issues, then thats how they define us. In Iran they make films about peoples lives, showing them as the same as anyone else just with a unique and less well known cultural backdrop. The same is true of Russian cinema. The filmmakers in those countries often work with low budgets but still manage to make works of art appreciated all over the world.

    Art is Art, a good story is a good story, what we need is the right people (with talent) to start to use this powerful medium, rather than just mediocre wannabees with access to money but no will to stay quiet and learn. PNCM has had a fantastic response from donors, actors, various students and all sorts of people apart from the filmmakers themselves who seem to think that this is nothing to do with them.

    Cinema is a vital cultural power matched only by advertising in it’s ability to change peoples perception of situations and even ideas like an individuals route to happiness. It is all about the people as audience, not the filmmakers in the end.

    At PNCM we have a clear ideology towards building the industry up from scratch, slowly but surely. This is not a ‘grabbed’ pirated idea, it is completely new and original carefully thought out over time and executed by professionals. In Pakistan when someone has a good idea, the same old boring process of copycats starts straight away. Anyone who cannot leave the clique mentality behind will get left behind eventually. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and one that demands sacrifice. I could call myself a director and make films, anyone can, but I choose to learn from those who can really do it, because thats how it works all over the world. That is why I have worked on projects like ‘Khuda Kil Liya’ with Shaoib Mansoor, and with FTI and not TV, or rushed to grab donor money to make another piece of propaganda.

    Posted by Sarah Tareen | January 5, 2010, 5:54 AM

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December 2009


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