Politics and Pakistan seem to cling on to each other. Kind of like that couple that never wanted to get married, but has been married for so long they don’t know how to do anything else.
Take the recent shenanigans for example. So, I’ve mentioned that I don’t care for award shows. But apparently, some people do care.
They care a lot. So when Mahira Khan won an award that some people felt should have gone to Mehwish Hayat, they threw caution to the wind. Forgetting the newly minted motto, ‘don’t hate, celebrate’ these people took to social media to air out some biases.
But, this was really just the recent addition to a list of WTF moments that shows no sign of shrinking. And as our political scene goes from bad to worse to bizarre, let’s find comfort in the fact that it isn’t alone. The crazy gene runs strong amongst us, and our cinema isn’t immune to it. And don’t worry, I am here to remember our most infamous moments. And of course, I will be listing them down.
Aksbandh Banned (And Unbanned)
Ah the censor board. Now, really, this paragon of virtue, and headquarter of the local moral brigade, should get a list of its own. But today, let’s remember one of its finest works.
Recently, some people were left scratching their heads when Indian horror film Pari was banned in Pakistan. These people of course don’t remember when a similar fate befell (well almost) a local horror feature. In 2016 Aksbandh, an independent, found-footage venture was also banned.
Now, there are differences between the two cases of course. Apparently Pari was banned for moral reasons, while Aksbandh was banned for creative differences.
No no, don’t let your jaw drop just yet.
Yes, apparently the fact that the film was “frustrating and without a central theme” was enough to prevent a theatrical release. Well, for a couple of hours at least. After which they reversed their decision.
Yes, it was banned and unbanned within 24 hours.
Now, let your jaw drop.
- Project Ghazi Walk Out
How excited were we when the trailer for Project Ghazi was released?
A sci-fi, super-hero film, with a political angle? And all of this coming out of Pakistan? Could it be? Do we dare?
Of course not!
Because good things come to Pakistan in moderation. And well, 2017 promised so many local films, that one of them had to be nipped in the bud.
On the 13th of July, 2017, the premier of Project Ghazi took off with expected aplomb. The film began playing, there were complaints, and then lead actor Humayun Saeed walked out of the screening. Followed by the rest of the cast. Apparently there were technical issues.
Leading man Sheheryar Munawar said that a new release date would be announced soon. This was in July, 2017. As of March 2018, there has been no update. And as someone who really wanted to watch the film, I’m genuinely worried.
Chain Aye Na; So Bad It’s Good
Many of us have been told about Syed Noor’s many, many achievements. Multiple award shows offered him accolades for his work. And, no television debate about Pakistani films was complete without his two cents.
But, let’s be honest; there is a generation that grew up not watching his films. Now, you can lump us in with the ‘anti-nationalist’ crowd, but there you have it. We grew up in Pakistan, completely oblivious to Mr. Noor.
So, when Pakistani films began ‘coming back’ he decided that he wanted to be on that boat. And voila! The legend of Chain Aye Na was born.
Now, many people have problems with the film because it glorifies violence against women. Which it does. But really, that isn’t the only thing wrong with the film. You only had to gauge the reactions to the trailer to realize this.
The film is the warped fantasy of a man obsessed with his own hype. It also presents a singularly misogynistic world view. But above all, it is the only film in recent history that united Pakistan. In that, none of us liked it.
Jawani Phir Nahi Ani, Hamza Ali Abbasi and (literal) Politics
How could I write a post linking Pakistani films with Pakistani politics and not mention Mr. Abbasi? Has any other member of the local entertainment scene been able to initiate such controversy? And that too, without even trying?
Again, his antics deserve a list unto themselves. But let’s edit, and stick to one that started it all. In 2015, a trailer for Jawani Phir Nahi Ani showcased Mr. Abbasi engage in some questionable business. What was questionable about it, you ask?
To be honest, I don’t know. But the man himself questioned it. So much so, that he resigned from a then held ‘Culture Secretary’ post for PTI.
The Raasta Saga
Another member of the ‘so bad, it’s good’ roster. And this time, at least part of the burden has to be shared by the aftermath of the film. Now, when a film is directed by and starring Sahir Lodhi, you don’t really need to guess much about it. You know what to expect.
What you can do, is decided. Do you want to spend precious brain cells critiquing the laughable ineptitude? Or, are you just going to go with it?
Some film critics made the mistake of opting for the former option. Enter an enraged Mr. Lodhi, whose ensuing outburst is forever etched into my brain. It was unhinged, angry and as entertaining as the film itself.
So there you have it. My list of WTF moments that blurred the lines between cinema and politics. Why the lines were blurred varied according to the film in question. But, oh my were they blurred. Ensuring, every time, that Pakistani cinema would never be the same again.