Exploring What We Won’t
Like to Call 'Lollywood'
‘In cinema, as in any other art, the truly indigenous style can be evolved only by a director working in his own country, in the full awareness of his past heritage and present environment.’ -Satyajit Ray. Mandva is an exploration of seven and a half decades of Pakistani cinema. An attempt to initiate archiving and reading of our very indigenous cinematic syntax. We have loved and owned it sometimes but also hated and abandoned it intermittently. It’s our heritage and let’s reclaim it, to inspect, dissect and interpret.
7 & a Half
Video (Duration 1:41)
Ismat is an Urdu word which means Purity, or chastity. Bara-e-farokht means for sale. Tawaif is a term used for a highly talented entertainer who performs dance (Mujra) and music. The term got famous during the Mughal Era in the subcontinent. Decadent emperors called tawaifs in their courts (darbar) to entertain them through their fine skills of classical dance and music. However, this term faced a harsh reaction among the middle-class, to the brutality of society where tawaifs were not able procure enough and get by. Initially, their main purpose was to entertain the guests and sex was often a choice or something secondary that was entirely dependent on their will. Afterward, this term was criticized, and shamed by society making lives hard for tawaifs. My montage sequences are also based on the psyche of the masses towards them. It sheds light on how Pakistani cinema presented these highly skilled entertainers in their movies, and how it used to be. Below, I have listed all the movies that I used in my montage.
Disco Diwani |
Videos (Duration 1:08)
Disco Deewani memorializes the long-forgotten leading ladies of disco in Pakistani cinema. Since the 70s, disco fired up the dancefloors of clubs all around the world, thus informing the cinematic culture of Pakistan in the 80s. Despite the fact that censorship has always been at the forefront of our cinema, these films serve as a time capsule for a period when sequin dresses, nightclubs, on-the-floor beats, synthesizers, campy set design, and flashy fashion were accepted. And so much of it has to do with the music that was being produced in the country at that time, so to commemorate the history of disco further, I’d like to pay homage to Nazia Hassan, our beloved Disco Deewani.
Videos (Duration 1:16)
Hypermasculine characters have been a staple of Pakistani cinema since its inception. This representation laid the foundations for the iconic stereotypical Punjabi hero that emerged in the late 1960s and lasted up until the early 2000s. This video attempts to explore and consequently disseminate the macho man by looking at seven Pakistani studio films from 1942 to 1995. Exaggerated staging, larger-than-life blocking, melodramatic dialogue, chiaroscuroesque lighting, violent action choreography, funk music and overemphasised sound design are some of the audiovisual tools that have been identified. Using the aforementioned tools, an eight second montage was created to pay homage to the pioneering Pakistani filmmakers and artists of the past. It looks at machismo and is a portrait of a man exhibiting it. The soundtrack created for the video takes inspiration from the scores of the same class of Pakistani cinema. It underlines the sonic aesthetics of these films. The amalgam is a revisualisation and resonification of the past — inducing nostalgia.
Video (Duration 4:01)
Videos (Duration 2:14)
Nature has always been a central part of depictions of romantic intimacy in Pakistani film. Serving as a metaphor for all that is pure, its vastness epitomizes the extents of love and emotional intimacy. Often times, the characters are seen isolated from the world in all-encompassing natural landscapes, emphasizing on an other-worldy and ethereal sense of intimacy. Beyond just a dream-like manifestation of love, it also serves as a visual denouncement of materially driven desires and an escapeist way of realizing feelings that are often forbidden in reality, especially for women.
Videos (Duration 0:53)
This video explores the male gaze that has been a consistent part of Pakistani films since forever. It’s ironic that the cinema has evolved with time, but the need to use female characters and project their bodies on screen for the pleasure of the heterosexual male protagonist and eventually the male audience has been there. Special thanks to Mr. Sarmed Cheema for his guidance throughout the project.
Sindhu & Cinema |
Video (Duration 1:08)
The history of Sindhi cinema goes back to the 1940s with the first ever Sindhi-language film ‘Ekta’ in 1941. After the Partition, both Pakistan and India continued to produce Sindhi films with hits such as ‘Abana (1958) and Umar Marvi (1956). Umar Marvi, a Sindhi film, became one of the earliest box office hits in Pakistan. But we rarely hear about that. In fact, most in my generation, including me, has never seen a Sindhi film in our lives. Through my participation in Lahore Biennale Foundation’s Pakistani Cinema program, I can now say that I have seen Sindhi films besides my own productions. For this project, I chose to focus on a very specific element of Sindhi cinema: the Indus River, also known as Darya-e-Sindh, Sindhu or Sindhu Darya. I feel it was important for me to explore the representation of this great river which has been at the core of our civilization in this part of the world. Large bodies of water give birth to civilizations and through Sindhu, we can trace the history of not only the Sindh province and its people but major parts of the history of our subcontinent.
Video (Duration 2:06)
“Following are the films depicted in this montage titled “Inqalabi Cinema”
1. Jaago Hua Savera (1959), Directed by A.J. Kardar, Written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
A socialist film written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz shot entirely in East Pakistan depicting the plight of Bengali fisherman. A truly revolutionary film, the likes of which are yet to be seen in the
country, it won the Golden Medal at the Moscow International Film Festival and was selected as Pakistan’s entry for 32nd Academy Awards. It was banned in Pakistan.
2. Khamosh Raho (1964), Directed by Riaz Shahid, Written by Riaz Shahid & Habib Jalib.
Made with close association with Habib Jalib, who wrote the songs and included his famous poem “Main Nahin Maanta”. Revolutionary in its filmmaking and filled socialist symbolism, it
cleverly juxtaposed the idea of arranged marriages to prostitution. It is also remembered for being a premonition of a war about to happen which it did in 1965.
3. Zarga (1969), Written & Directed by Riaz Shahid.
Another film by the Shahid-Jalib duo, raged against the idea of totalitarian dictatorship and recreated the scene where the actress Neelo was forced to dance for the Shah of Iran. Neelo
herself was casted and Jalib’s poem “Rags zanjeer pehen kar bhee kiya jata hai”, that he had written on Neelo’s incident, was used as the main song.
4. The Blood of Hussein (1980), Written & Directed by Jamil Dehlavi.
Groundbreaking in all aspects, it uses the beloved Islamic tale of the killing of Imam Hussain by the hands of a despot as a framework to explore the tyrannical infiltration of the oppressive
national army into the local spaces of Pakistan. The film is still banned in Pakistan.
5. Khamosh Pani (2003), Directed by Sabiha Sumar, Written by Paromita Vohra.
A nuanced exploration of how radicalisation of a populous slowly creeps up on a country. Set on the backdrop of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization to legitimize his regime the story
expertly navigate through the complex relationship between radicalization, insecurity and need to control. It won the Golden Leopard (Best Film), Best Actress, and Best Direction at the
56th Locarno International Film Festival alon g with winning The Lux Style award for Pakistan that year.
6. Zibahkhana (2007), Written & Directed by Omar Ali Khan.
The best horror/slasher film of Pakistan to date. The film offers a queer anti-hero, the first of its kind for Pakistani cinema, that challenges normative modes of being, belonging, and desire.
Not only is it a much-welcomed revision of Western slasher film tropes, it blazes a trail for transgressive and incendiary portrayals of queer embodiments and intimacies in Pakistani visual
media (Syeda M. Masood, 2019).
Video (Duration 2:11)
Pakistani horror is a unique blend of local stories of supernatural powers with the aesthetics of South Asian, American, and British cinema. It offers a distinct study of how Pakistani art has evolved over time under the influence of local and global impressions, reflecting the multiple realities of Pakistani society.
Video (Duration 1:36)
This work is a recreation of cinematic visuals. Using his power of imagination to extracts new meanings out of existing frames to prolong brief moments in them. The idea is to create a dialogue between contrasting images while reliving those distant locations and time through the very act of painting
Hamid Ali Hanbhi, Mera Naam hai Muhabbat, Oil on canvas, 8.5 x 11 inches, 2021
Circus Of Life |
Video (Duration 5:51)
From attracting attention to holding interest of the viewer. Color is a weapon every movie director uses to infatuate their audience. “Zindagi Tamasha Reimagined” is a testament of this fact. By deconstructing the complex visuals of the film Zindagi Tamaha, boiling down the frames down to just columns of colors. A magic of emotions is unleashed, that the director has tried to depict through his chosen color pallet. Since, Zindagi Tamasha has been censored and not yet been released in Pakistan. The columns also levitate towards the dystopian world of censorship. By giving a new life to this censored movie, through the medium of color. The column of colors moving on the screen; are a retaliation, are an eye-opening truth that art has no bounds. Put a damper on one medium of artist expression, a million different versions will pop up in different mediums.