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All eyes skywards, Rashid Rana
All eyes skywards, Rashid Rana

An introduction to the ‘I am Karachi’ Film Festival due to take place in February 2017, was held at the Fomma DHA Art Centre, Zamzama Park in Karachi, where a captivating collection of artworks — including paintings, digital prints, acrylic on canvas and video films — was shown. Presented by Matteela Films and curated by the distinguished artist / writer Dr Adnan Madani, who is currently a lecturer in visual cultures at Goldsmiths University in London.

The production manager of Matteela Films Anam Abbas was present to answer numerous questions on the event and a very insightful talk was given by Adnan Madani, Meena Gaur and Mazhar Zaidi. They spoke of the early Lollywood films and industry, its decline and the new and exciting developments that are taking place in the contemporary cinema.

Matteela Films was originally established by Mazhar Zaidi and Farjad Nabi and have produced a number of documentary films for international broadcasters and the feature film, Zinda Bhaag.

A multimedia exhibition brings the essence of Lollywood to Karachi

Bani Abidi — as always — had selected a deeply meaningful theme showing a man wandering through the remains of what had once been a popular cinema before its destruction by a violent mob. The ruins were placed in an area that had once been a thriving centre of cinema — now a silent reminder of past times.

Ahmed Ali Mangahar, who started painting billboards at the age of six years, had contributed dramatic work depicting scenes from films with great drama. One could tell a story from the expressions of his subjects.

Untitled, Ahmed Ali Mangahar
Untitled, Ahmed Ali Mangahar

Moving on, one discovered a video installation ‘The ghost will leave if you ask it nicely’ produced by Gaur and Nabi. Gaur explained that the title came from something a friend had told her years ago. The film portrayed the famed actor Sultan Rahi, whose murder coincided with the downfall of the Lahore film industry, and it was a film with strong sound, light and extremely haunting. As the film producers pointed out, the industry — like the actor — has not been put to rest but still returns to haunt us.

Covering a corner of the room from ceiling to floor was the amazing image, ‘All eyes skywards’ by Rashid Rana. The work portrayed a crowded portion of an arena during an annual parade, showing portraits of men, women and children of all ages, too many to count and teeming one over the other. Looking closely at the work, one saw innumerable portions of photographs the artist had used in his work.

Mohammad Ali Talpur interestingly created the suggestion of a story with acrylic and photocopy on printed paper, and Iftikhar Dadi presented a series of images from an Urdu film. Another very unusual and moving video ‘Manifesto for the dead’ was made by Gaur and Nabi, and altogether it was an excellent show.

Untitled, Iftikhar Dadi
Untitled, Iftikhar Dadi

‘Art Sabka: Pakistani cinema reflected’ was held at Fomma DHA Art Centre, Zamzama Park, Karachi from October 14 to October 16.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 23rd, 2016