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Reality bites | Pakistani cinema isn’t that bad May 25, 2008

Posted by lollywoodhungama in Uncategorized.
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Sameer Ahmed

Pakistani cinema, an oxymoronic proposition to many, is arguably painted blacker than it is. This is probably because of the profusion of things black here; consider for a moment the black marches, black flags, black coats, blackened faces (courtesy, spray paint); black boots rampaging wildly, and the black and blues this ferocious footwear leaves behind. Read Pakistani history and there is little wonder left over – black comedy has had the best run on the Pakistani political stage.

See, the cinema screen provides an insightful window of comprehension into the intricacies of the raw subcultures that thrive ‘out there’ in the ‘real world’. What goes around normally comes around; Pakistani cinema is not, contrary to widely entertained perception, completely divorced from reality. In fact, unlike many film industries, Pakistani cinema is not a smokescreen concealing the actual demands of the majority of its cinema-going population. Consider a recent flick titled Ghundi Run. ‘Ghundi’ in Punjabi is a female thug and ‘run’ is wife, so ‘Thug Wife’; not impressive even after translation. The Unsavoury Adventures of the Wild Consort sounds much more Hollywoodish, right? But feminists in the human righteous West would have raised the fighting sails over this chauvinistic nomenclature, so they would probably have renamed it The Unsavoury Adventures of the Slightly Aggressive Female Companion. But that would not have satisfied anybody, The Savoury Adventures of the Temperamental Companion? Close but no cigar. ‘Temperamental’ sounds demeaning for it belittles the emotional quotient of an individual who is subject to the same pressures and constraints that inhibit her male companion. Why does she have to be labelled ‘temperamental’, especially if mood swings are normal in all human beings regardless of gender? So, we have our new title: The Perfectly Normal Ups and Downs in the Domestic Life of the Female Companion. Better but it still does not tell the whole story, it somehow sounds as if ups and downs in domestic life occur exclusively for women. The Perfectly Normal Sporadic Hiccups in the Perfectly Normal Domestic Life of the Perfectly Normal Female Companion. ‘Hiccups’ you say, I say it should be The Perfectly Normal Digestive Complications in the Perfectly Normal Domestic Life of the Perfectly Normal Female Companion. Eureka!

You see, Pakistani cinema brings the barf bag, contents included, to the screen; Hollywood empties it, rinses it, dries the paper and sends it to the recycling plant, pours filtered filth in it and presents the new end-product. Consider another flick: Sooha Jorra corresponding roughly to ‘Red Wedding Dress’. Normal in Pakistan, flat in Hollywood or elsewhere. Marriage is not such a big deal there; it does not last long normally, so they try different spousal candidates employing the-hit-and-trial method. There is no transfer of property or significant cash either, no drooling in-laws, no fancy dress shows variously called Mehndi, Hina, Doodh Pilaee, etc., and no food marathons at the end either. So, Hollywood wizards would have to rename the film The Crimson Gown. But that adds a horror-movie chill to the title. The Gown, short and simple, right? But what is so special about a darned gown? To sell it to the audience, it has to be the garb of the heinous masterminds of 9/11; so, The Real Story of the Evil Undergarments.

Here is another flick for your consideration: Rano Padha Baz. ‘Rano’, a common rustic name, ‘Phada Baz’, pugilist, so we have our Hollywood title Gloria the Savage. But hold your bloody horses awhile – ‘savage’? This word reeks of masculinity. So, Unrestrained Gloria? No – borders on double entendre; likely to be misinterpreted – A Day in the Life of No Non-sense Gloria. Better. How about Don’t mess with Gloria – that is more like it.

They say Pakistani cinema is obscene. Obscene? And Hollywood is fit for any family, so too Bollywood? Will somebody say we should not compare Pakistani cinema with Holly or Bollywood because we are a Muslim country? Just how ‘Muslim’ are we on other fronts? Bollywood flicks that Pakistani families comfortably enjoy in their drawing rooms are more scandalous than what Lollywood produces, so what is the clamour about? The only difference is in the way obscenity is presented on screen. Holly and Bollywood are more chic – filth presented sophisticatedly – ours is sleazy, but the essence is primarily the same. The preference for Bollywood stems from our congenital xenophilia. So, as a toast to all patriotic Pakistanis, let us remix Hollywood blockbusters. Ben Hur should me made as Harra Gujjar (The Green Milkman), The Advocate as Pappu Mistri (Pappu the auto-engineer), Ghost Dad as Piyo Bhoot and so on. Reality bites!

The writer is a staff member

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