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Has the Pakistani Cinema Revived Completely?


Writing and Communication (SS100-S4)

Cinemas are being used by various developed countries to​​ arouse awareness among​​ people​​ about​​ the social and ethical issues​​ that those countries face.​​ Some states also use cinemas as a platform to announce their manifestos.​​ Suppose a government makes the most​​ of its cinema. In that case, it can easily eradicate problems that the​​ contemporary society faces, such as​​ honor killings, infanticides, terrorism, corruption, dowry, kidnapping, and rape​​ by making films on these issues and then screening​​ them​​ to give the audience a moral lesson​​ and completely nip these evils from their roots​​ (Phull).​​ Studies show that​​ watching a brief clip of moderately violent scenes​​ can increase feelings of hostility, and did so in an audience that had not been provoked in any way”​​ (Anderson 175).​​ Thence,​​ showing that movies affect the human​​ psyche,​​ so,​​ if used correctly,​​ movies​​ can​​ bring​​ meaningful changes.​​ By cinema, one means the production of films or movies as an art or an industry.​​ Thus, cinemas serve as a medium to convey one person’s or a group’s message to a much larger group of people​​ across​​ the world.​​ The United​​ States​​ cinema​​ - Hollywood, Indian cinema – Bollywood, and Pakistani cinema – Lollywood is​​ among​​ the world's most renowned cinemas.​​ This paper​​ focuses on Pakistani cinema,​​ which is nicknamed Lollywood because of the​​ Lahore film industry. This paper has the function of illustrating that the Pakistani cinema is indeed in the process of revival after its demise. The audience intended is anyone who is somehow related to the films, whether he is a director, a producer, an actor, or​​ an​​ average person​​ who gets​​ entertained by any movie and is​​ affected​​ by​​ them.​​ Although critics say that the revival of​​ the​​ Pakistani cinema has​​ been​​ made possible​​ because of the sole reason of the publicity of movies in social media, however, the​​ quality of​​ the​​ film​​ as evident by movie reviews as well as the​​ revenues made by the film​​ at​​ the box office are the real factors which show that Pakistani cinema has indeed revived.

At​​ first, Pakistan's cinema was soaring since independence​​ from 1948. Teri Yaad, considered the first-ever Pakistani feature film​​ had​​ hit the​​ cinemas, to 1979, when​​ the​​ fantastic action movie,​​ Maula Jutt, debuted and became an instant classic.​​ This was when the industry was in the hands of great actors and actresses like Noor Jehan, Sultan Rahi,​​ Waheed Murad, Syed Kamal, and many more.​​ This era is remembered as the golden era of Pakistan. Some awe-inspiring movies of the golden age were​​ Armaan,​​ Zinda​​ Lash,​​ and Maula Jutt.​​ Armaan was released in 1966, and it "broke all previous records of receipts and​​ claimed​​ its place as the first platinum jubilee movie of Pakistan”​​ (Ahmad and Khan 45).​​ Zinda Lash was released in 1967 and was the first​​ of its kind​​ horror movie in Pakistan. The acting, costumes, choreography, visual effects were so good that​​ “a woman was reported to have died of a heart attack in Gujranwala” (Khan and Ahmad).​​ The other top-notch movie at the end of the golden era is Maula Jutt, which​​ was​​ shown to audiences​​ when the legacy of Pakistani cinema crashed down because​​ of​​ the vulgar films made at that time​​ – changed​​ the parameters of Lollywood for good (Khan).

According to​​ primary research conducted​​ regarding​​ Sultan Rahi and Maula Jutt,​​ out of 186 responses,​​ about 81.2% of people said that they know​​ who Sultan Rahi was, and​​ 88.7% people responded that they had heard of Maula​​ Jutt even though​​ 65.6%​​ people responded that they had​​ not seen Maula Jutt.​​ This survey was filled by the youth of today showing​​ that even though Sultan Rahi and Maula Jutt were in the 1970s, yet,​​ they are so famous​​ and perfect​​ that people know who Sultan Rahi was and how good Maula Jutt was even though they have not watched it by themselves but have heard about it.​​ Coming towards the downside of Pakistani cinema,​​ there is no rise without a fall, and so did​​ happen​​ with the Pakistani cinema. The Pakistani cinema started its way down​​ since the separation​​ of East Pakistan in 1971, which turned out to be a severe blow to the film industry, causing the film markets in Karachi and Lahore to​​ lose a significant​​ chunk​​ of market and investments because when East Pakistan parted away, all the Bengali​​ actors and actresses also left resulting in a decreased​​ number of good actors and actresses in Pakistan.​​ After​​ 9/11, Pakistan's​​ fading​​ political situation led to a further​​ reduction​​ in cinema halls​​ in​​ public places, and cultural activity has come under​​ battering​​ from reactionary clerical forces​​ promoting​​ fundamentalist​​ values.​​ Also, there​​ was​​ an increase in the sum of terrorist and drone attacks in Pakistan, so people hesitated to go to public places, including cinemas. Thus, resulting​​ in a less​​ influx​​ of audiences in cinemas, which reduced revenues for the films, which demotivated​​ filmmakers​​ to produce and direct more​​ decent quality​​ movies. So, they started to make movies​​ where​​ they used women to promote​​ vulgarity​​ as​​ the portrayal of women in this era was an object of desire​​ and sensuality for the audience” (Daudpoto). This​​ changed the movie audience from​​ once​​ families to​​ only male adults because this was​​ the only​​ idea they thought of increasing their revenues, which proved beneficial​​ but only for​​ a​​ brief period. Also,​​ Zia’s draconian censorship laws were​​ catastrophic. He​​ canceled​​ all censor certificates issued before​​ martial law and instituted a draconian regime which stands to this​​ day, banning films that​​ impair accepted moral standards​​ or​​ hurt​​ national sentiments.​​ However, at the same time​​ as​​ Zia’s​​ censorship​​ laws, there were advancements in technology, and the videotape recorder came in Pakistan, which​​ transfigured​​ cinema. People started preferring to watch movies at home​​ rather than spending a considerable amount of their money by going to cinemas with their beloved ones.​​ Also,​​ because of the vulgar content, people preferred to watch​​ movies at home and not go to cinemas with their families, which had a catastrophic effect on​​ Pakistan's film industry, ultimately resulting​​ in​​ Pakistani cinema​​ (Khan and Ahmad).​​ Furthermore, according to the results of primary research​​ conducted on the movies which were released during this​​ period, out of 131 responses,​​ 74% people responded that they have not watched or heard of​​ Mujhe​​ Chand​​ Chahiye, 66.4% people responded that they have not watched or heard of​​ Ghar​​ Kab​​ Aao​​ Gay​​ and 65.6% people responded that they have not watched or heard of​​ Deewane​​ Tere​​ Pyar​​ k​​ which shows that how badly these movies failed as​​ compared​​ to the likes of Maula Jutt, Armaan and Zinda Lash.

The word revival means an improvement in someone or something's condition, strength, or fortunes. The term revival refers to the fact that something is improving from its previous states. By reviving Pakistani cinema, one understands that once the Pakistani cinema had its prime time, it suffered​​ a demise. Now, there are improvements in the conditions of the Pakistani cinema.​​ Now,​​ the question arises how can​​ one​​ justifiably​​ say that​​ the Pakistani cinema has​​ indeed​​ revived? The response to this query is very straight forward, but​​ most people ignore these simple answers.​​ If one​​ looks​​ at the​​ new Pakistani movies' revenues,​​ one would easily comprehend that indeed the Pakistani cinema is reviving.

A lot of movies have been released in Pakistan recently, such as Waar, Bol, Actor In Law, Jawaani Phir Nahi Aani, Janaan, Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, Mah e Mer, Maalik, etc. and they all​​ were​​ so​​ spectacular that they earned​​ record-breaking​​ revenues on their opening days.​​ Jawaani Phir Nahi Aani, released in 2015, made the most revenue on its opening day​​ insofar, i.e.,​​ 2.07 crore. Actor in Law, written in 2016 made the second-highest revenue on its opening day, i.e., 1.65​​ crores. Then, there are​​ movies such as Janaan, which caused a record profit of 1.04 crore on its opening day, and Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay made revenue of 0.75​​ crores​​ on its very first day in cinemas​​ (Munshi).​​ Both​​ these​​ movies were released in 2016. One should remember that these are the revenues made by these movies on​​ just​​ their​​ first day at cinemas, and by now,​​ every single one of these movies has made revenues​​ of​​ millions.​​ Such significant gains made by these movies incentivize the movie makers to make as​​ many​​ movies as​​ possible because now is the time to​​ do so. The time is now​​ because recently,​​ the​​ Pakistani​​ government has lowered the entertainment​​ tax, which draws investors' attention​​ to building more cinemas. Thus,​​ the government's lowering of entertainment taxes has proved very​​ beneficial to the​​ investors,​​ cineplex​​ honors, and the movie makes. Investment​​ in cinemas​​ increases the number of cinemas in Pakistan, allowing the movie makers to make more movies as​​ their​​ movies will have more screen timings, leading to more significant revenue at the end of the day.​​ Also,​​ “Pakistani filmmakers will no longer go to neighboring countries to promote their films as the opportunity to screen their films with modern equipment is now available right here​​ because of the new cinemas​​ (Hussain).​​ It can be argued that the substantial revenues made by Pakistani films today as compared to the​​ marginal profits made during the film industry's slump are a strong indicator that the Pakistani film industry has indeed revived.

By ignoring everything,​​ critics say that although one can​​ see that the Pakistani cinema has indeed revived​​ because of the turnout, revenues, and screen timings of current movies, however, this is just​​ because of the social media or social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc. on which hype is created regarding​​ upcoming​​ movies that this movie is this good, it​​ has these features, it is of this genre, these stars are​​ in​​ action, along​​ with some spoilers too to create an urge among the users of social media to watch these movies. In turn, these users tell these things to their friends, which say to their friends, and thus a chain is created that promotes the film, which is why the Pakistani cinema is currently earning such significant revenues. One can perceive this as a publicity tactic by the moviemakers, and​​ it has lately proved to be a good one. Once​​ a hype is created on social media, people are more likely to go to cinemas to watch these movies with their​​ families and friends by buying tickets, which​​ are​​ the primary source of revenues for these movies, in fact, for every film.​​ In the discount of this argument, if​​ social media is the sole cause of the success of the film, which in turn directs towards​​ being the cause of​​ the revival of Pakistani cinema, then​​ every movie there is which is released must earn millions of dollars, but this is not the case when one​​ comes​​ down​​ to the facts.​​ Almost​​ 684 films are released on average per year in the United States, or one can say in Hollywood and only 63 movies on average per year cross the $50000000 milestone​​ (Hanson). And these are the facts for only Hollywood; if we combine the number of films released on average per year of Hollywood, Lollywood,​​ and Bollywood, the figures will be​​ much​​ more significant. Still, the success ratio of movies remains the same. Thus, if social media is the reason behind the film's success, every movie should be a blockbuster because almost every movie is discussed on social media, whether it is a hit or a flop. However, this is not the case; only a small proportion of the movies taste success not because of the promotions on social media, but because of their quality, which includes everything​​ from the acting to the costumes, from the choreography to the dancers, from​​ the lyrics to the songs, in​​ short, everything.​​ Talking about Lollywood's situation, hundreds of​​ movies are released every year, but only some manage to hit the box office. The successful film is not because of social media; it is because of their quality.​​ Some people also argue that Pakistani movies use cheap tactics​​ such as item numbers in​​ some recent​​ movies, namely​​ Na Maloom Afrad, Jalaibee, and​​ Karachi, say Lahore. Still, these​​ songs are​​ justified as​​ these are what people want to see, and​​ these are the things they are paying for, as​​ argued by most of the contemporary directors. Although this is not entirely justified as Pakistan is an Islamic state, Pakistani cinema​​ needs to do some work on these things(Raza). So,​​ these sorts of things​​ are justified for now because this is from where Lollywood is going to learn shortly, and hopefully, it​​ will be able to improve​​ further.

It is in the innate nature of humanity​​ to​​ criticize​​ everything it​​ comes across. By the passage of time, this critiquing nature has found its way to movies too. During the golden era of Pakistan,​​ the world was not advanced enough to gather all the statistics and numbers;​​ thence, no one ever critiqued on or reviewed a movie, whether it was a movie made in Hollywood, Bollywood, or Lollywood. But during the demise of Pakistani cinema, people started to write reviews on movies released in the same period in Bollywood or Hollywood. Still, none of them bothered to write reviews on Pakistani film because all the Pakistani films produced at that time had one thing in common, i.e., vulgarity. So,​​ even if​​ anyone tried to review the movies, they would end up with​​ the​​ same review for all the films made throughout that period that they were very vulgar because there was nothing innovative back then in Pakistani cinema, only one type of movie – the action film –​​ was​​ being produced and nothing new. However, today, the whole situation has changed.​​ Several​​ movies are being made these days, from comedy to film​​ that raising voice against social issues. The quality of films produced nowadays is evident from the fact that a single movie has hundreds of reviews. This shows how much good movies are being made in Pakistan, indicating that the Pakistani​​ cinema​​ has indeed revived.​​ For example, a study of Bol, released in 2011,​​ states that the director​​ focuses on the countrymen's domestic concerns, their​​ community, and by large​​ humankind. The film primarily highlights the bitter reality of our society about male dominance and the reproduction of human beings without proper planning. The director never talks about Zainab's failed marriage, but there was so much more in the movie that no one bothered to know about it (Malani).​​ Reviews on​​ Khuda Kay Liye,​​ another Pakistani masterpiece released in 2007,​​ say that it explores “certain​​ fundamentalist’s​​ false beliefs circling Islam and the state of Muslims in today's contemporary modern society. The film also dwells into the state of Muslims living abroad post the 9/11 attacks.” (Zacharia).​​ Similarly, Actor In Law is one of the​​ masterworks​​ of Pakistani cinema, which was released in 2016. Reviews about Actor in Law say that​​ Actor In Law dares to question many of the social vices in our society and does so with finesse while keeping the comic element intact” (Awan).​​ These reviews clearly show that today, Pakistani cinema is doing nothing but spitting out masterpiece after masterpiece.​​ Sharmeen​​ Obaid​​ Chinoy​​ is a Pakistani short​​ filmmaker, and in recent years, she has been able to pull out​​ 2 Oscars because of her documentaries, namely A Girl In The River and Saving Face,​​ which​​ focuses on creating​​ awareness about social issues of today, especially in tribal areas​​ (Khalil).​​ Although one may feel​​ that making documentaries is a piece of cake, however, “working​​ on documentaries can be a​​ demanding process, and in the excitement,​​ it is all too easy to overlook the ethical dimension which comes into play when real people are represented on the screen​​ (Holland 172), and Sharmeen overcame this hurdle​​ very well.​​ This​​ shows how much the quality of Pakistani films​​ has​​ enhanced.​​ So, it would not be wrong​​ to say that Pakistani cinema has​​ indeed​​ been able to revive​​ completely​​ after its demise.

Concluding all the above discussion,​​ one cannot simply ignore the fact that at once, Pakistani cinema was at its prime time and​​ was soaring as​​ most​​ people recall that time​​ by calling it the golden era of Pakistan. But, there came the downfall of Pakistani cinema due to​​ several reasons, and the cinema lost its charm because there were only vulgar movies prevalent there.​​ But now, one can see​​ that Pakistani cinema has indeed gone through​​ revival because of the quality of films made today and its revenues nowadays. Also, grabbing two Oscars is an accomplishment​​ for the Pakistani cinema. That the Pakistani cinema has indeed revived because of the statistics, the quality, and the applause they are getting from their audience.​​ Critics​​ argue​​ that success is because​​ social media is not real and is nothing but a false claim. The revival​​ is​​ possible​​ because of the hard work of the people associated​​ with​​ the Pakistani cinema.​​ ​​ So, it would not be wrong to say that Pakistani cinema has indeed revived.

Works Cited:

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  • Anderson, Craig A. “Effects of Violent Movies and Trait Hostility on Hostile Feelings and Aggressive Thoughts.” AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR​​ 23 (1997): 161-178. Web., 2 May 2017. <http://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/abstracts/1995-1999/97A.PDF>.

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  • Holland, Patricia. The Television Handbook. Great Britain: Biddle's Bookbinder's, 1997. Print

  • Hussain, Arshad. "‘Cinema Industry Is Now Reviving in Pakistan.'" Pakistan Today. 3 July 2016. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/07/03/cinema-industry-is-now-reviving-in-pakistan/>.

  • Khalil, Shaimaa. "Pakistan's Sharmeen​​ Obaid Chinoy: The Oscar Double Winner." BBC News. BBC, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35690403>.

  • Khan, Ali, and Ali Nobil Ahmad. "From Zinda Laash to Zibahkhana: Violence and Horror in Pakistani Cinema." Third Text 24.1 (2010): 149-61. Web. 02 May 2017. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09528820903489024?needAccess=true#aHR0cDovL3d3dy50YW5kZm9ubGluZS5jb20vZG9pL3BkZi8xMC4xMDgwLzA5NTI4ODIwOTAzNDg5MDI0P25lZWRBY2Nlc3M9dHJ1ZUBAQDA=>.

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  • Malani, Gaurav. "Bol: Movie Review - Times of India." The Times of India. 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 May 2017. <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/Bol-Movie-Review/articleshow/9795843.cms>.

  • Munshi, Momin Ali. "Box Office Update: 'Actor In Law' Leads the Race While 'Janaan' and 'Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hay' Score Big Too!" Galaxy Lollywood. 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.​​ <http://galaxylollywood.com/2016/09/14/box-office-eid-releases-actor-in-law-janaan-zindagi-kitni-haseen-hay/>.

  • Phull, Imran Ali. "Revival of Pakistani Cinema." The Express Tribune. The Express Tribune, 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017. <https://tribune.com.pk/story/1205875/revival-pakistani-cinema/>.

  • Raza, Madeeha. "Revival of Pakistani Cinema." HILaL. Sept. 2015. Web. 10 May 2017. <http://hilal.gov.pk/index.php/layouts/item/1616-revival-of-pakistani-cinema>.

  • Zacharia, Savio. "Khuda Kay Liye Review. Khuda Kay Liye Bollywood Movie Review, Story, Rating." IndiaGlitz. IndiaGlitz, 02 Apr. 2008. Web. 11 May 2017. <http://www.indiaglitz.com/khuda-kay-liye-hindi-movie-review-9678.html>.

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