This is my second post about Project Ghazi. Clearly my excitement for this film cannot be contained. And since we have already established that it is science fiction or sci-fi (regardless of what the marketing team wants you to believe) I thought that we could use the industry’s sudden turn towards the genre to discuss Pakistan’s sci-fi archive.
Initially I had planned to turn this into a video. But while we do have an old affinity with the genre, but there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. So I thought that it would be quicker and easier to do a blog post instead.
Today I will recount Pakistan’s bout with science-fiction and can I just say this is going to be fun.
Zinda Laash: Science; the horror, the horror
Released in 1967, this film was marketed as Pakistan’s first horror movie. Which it was. But as I mentioned in my last post, genre is always a bit fluid and tricky. Hence while this was undeniably a horror film, it also definitely experimented with sci-fi.
Unlike the Hammer Horror version, which it was inspired by, this film begins with the well-meaning but clearly misguided scientist Dr. Tabani who in a bid to cheat death is attempting to create Ab-e-Hayat (the elixir of life). His experimentation backfires however and his created potion transforms him into the titular Laash. The film then becomes the typical vampire movie.
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rendezvous with science is so out of place that you can’t help but notice it. Particularly when the film’s prologue contains a verse from the Quran and warns the audience that to attempt to cheat death is to challenge the natural order of things.
In essence, the film juxtaposes religion with science in an attempt to assert that the latter cannot challenge the former, as when it does the consequences are horrific.
It has a not so optimistic outlook on science.
Shanee: beautiful aliens and Babra Sharif
Okay, so this is how I know that local cinema has never been a fan of genre because this movie was marketed as a horror film. Which it is not. It’s not scary at all. And I don’t mean that it isn’t scary now but when it was released in the eighties it must have been terrifying. No, it isn’t scary in that the premise, the plot, the handsome leading man, nothing about it fits the horror genre.
The film begins with a UFO descending onto a secluded Pakistani village. Out comes a glowing man (the alien) who follows a terrified Babra Sharif all the way to her house. He then dons the appearance of her ex-fiancé, Shanee, who was brutally murdered. And so begins the most original love story the country has ever produced.
Unlike Zinda Laash, this film doesn’t adopt a pessimistic vision of science. This is most prominent in the decision to cast a good looking Pakistani as the alien. And make the alien the protagonist.
The religion and science angle is still present in the film though, as when Shanee’s true origins are revealed to his now wife and her family, they are immediately upset that their daughter maybe married to someone who doesn’t share her faith. Shanee then reveals that his planet too has been touched by Islam.
He then unbuttons his shirt in Superman fashion and a glowing First Kalima emerges.
With windblown effects in tow.
This I’ll admit is the most bizarre part of the movie, simply because I couldn’t decide what the message was. Was this a quintessentially Pakistani way of claiming that aliens may not be that different after all? Or, was the implication that the girl’s family was okay with her marrying an alien, but him being a non-Muslim would’ve been a deal-breaker?
I can’t hazard a guess. But, I will say that the film is a lot more endearing than usual sci-fi films of the decade (both The Terminator and Aliens were released in the eighties) and the chemistry between the lead pair is adorable.
Omar Shah Gillani: cyborgs amongst us
Slight deviation. Omar Gillani’s artwork hasn’t been turned into a film (much to my perpetual disappointment) but it caught everyone’s attention and it is easy to see why. He loves merging the technologically unfathomable with the mundane. Perhaps the inherent nonchalance is what makes his work so important for Pakistani sci-fi.
Early projects, even when they didn’t find it horrifying, projected science as this foreign element that we made contact with, but never fully owned. In contrast, Gillani’s work seems to suggest that technology need not be feared. We can have it be part of our everyday, and appreciate how it alters us.
Project Ghazi: embracing the uncertain
It isn’t fair to make assumptions about a film that hasn’t been released yet. But I have to say that the upcoming flick seems to meld new attitudes towards science with old. In 2017 technology is very much part of the mundane. Most of us no longer fear tech, rather we use it to advance our goals. Problems then stem from the intention behind it as opposed to the science itself.
In Project Ghazi, scientific advancements give us our super-soldier protagonist, Major Zain.
But they also give us the clear antagonist.
Science here seems to be an extension of our personal flaws or virtues.
So there you have it. We have gone from complete mistrust to awkward love stories to embracing science. A quick side note, as you may know YouTube was not feeling the love for our work, so we’ve moved on to greener pastures. We will be uploading our content on Vimeo going forward. Here is our most recent video, please continue to support us, just not on YouTube.