Coffee table book on Pakistani film industry launched

July 18, 2019

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Dr Mohammad Arif speaks at the book launch in Islamabad on Wednesday. Aijaz Gul and Jamal Sohail are also present. — White Star
Dr Mohammad Arif speaks at the book launch in Islamabad on Wednesday. Aijaz Gul and Jamal Sohail are also present. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: A coffee table book on the history of Pakistani cinema was launched at the Lok Virsa Media Centre on Wednesday.

The book titled, Journey through Lens: Pakistani Cinema has been authored by Aijaz Gul, film historian and critic, and Jamal Sohail, a young entrepreneur, filmmaker and teacher.

Mr Gul spoke about the history of the Pakistani cinema, its golden era and decline. He held state’s apathy and invasion of smuggled pirated CDs of Indian films into Pakistani market responsible for the decline.

He said the decline of cinema could be gauged from the fact that only 20 films were released in 2018 compared to over 100 in the late 50s. Cinemas have also been demolished to turn them into shopping malls. There used to be 700 cinema houses in the country in the 50s.

However, he was optimistic about cinema’s revival with the joining of young and educated filmmakers. He also spoke about collaboration and cooperation in film-making with Chinese filmmakers and industry.

Jamal Suhail, the co-author, spoke about the motive and process of writing the book and challenges of finding reference material and resources in publishing it.

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Suhail, who has been a student of Mr Gul and now teaches media and film students at Rifah University, said it took him five years to gather material from various sources including Lok Virsa archives and old film magazines.

He added that the second edition of the book will be coming in a year or two. He said that the book also covers international as well as film history of the subcontinent starting from 1895 till 2017.

“For the success of a good film,” Mr Suhail said, “a meaningful story, and script are important elements.”

“A good film must reflect on real issues and cover broader perspective of life and culture of the people of Pakistan,” he added.

Dr Mohammad Arif, head of media and films department at Nust, who has reviewed the book also spoke on the occasion.

He said entertainment should bring happiness and smile on the faces of the people. He described the book a great contribution towards the efforts of revival of the film industry.

Responding to a question about the MoU signed in 2015 by Pakistan and Chinese authorities on cooperation in film production, Chinese Cultural Consular Zhang Heqing said his government had submitted the revised version of the MoU to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs afresh and was waiting for a nod from the Pakistani government to move forward.

Mr Zhang said his government was ready to provide assistance to Pakistan in the revival and promotion of its film industry.

Responding a question about film academy, Mr Gul said the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) had been authorised to produce and screen films from China and other friendly countries to diversify Pakistani screens.

“We strongly believe that this book will be of use to film and media students, enthusiasts and members of the industry who would like to understand the historic and current film activities,” he added.

Since film is a visual medium, we have ensured that photographs from the past and present become an integral part of the book, Mr Gul said.

Writer Saleema Hashmi said there was little writing readily available on Pakistani cinema for researchers and general readers alike. Much of Pakistan’s early film history has disappeared, archives are non-existence and celluloid is notoriously difficult to store.

Hopefully this book will turn a much-needed spotlight on the pioneers who were once a household names in Pakistan to those who are now coming forward to don the mantle.

Academician Rehan Hasan said the Pakistani film industry had seen many changes in recent years. In this book, the writers have successfully brought together academic perspectives.

This book reflects on the current state of cinema with references to popular research models in the field such as cinema historiography transnational cinema and political approaches.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2019