LAHORE: Veteran film actor from Pakistan with international fame Salman Peerzada says the younger lot of filmmakers in the country need to understand the business of film and come out of TV style of filming, paying more attention to the visual part of storytelling.

The Blood of Hussain actor was a part of panel discussion on ‘The Future of Films in Pakistan’ as a part of the 40 years celebration of a private chain of schools at a hotel on Saturday. Film producer, director and theatre actor Sana Jafri, premier transgender actor Alina Khan, film producer Zakir Thaver, and producer, writer and director Kamil Cheema were the other participants.

Mr Peerzada saw a lot of hope as the younger lot of filmmakers was doing a marvelous job. He saw a lot of hope for the future of films as new subjects were coming up from time to time.

He said the Pakistani market was very sizable and the filmmakers needed to explore the home market while the movies needed to be seen in the cities like Multan besides Lahore.

“When I was working there were 1,000 cinemas in the country but now there are only 300 cinemas,” he lamented at the less number of screens with the passage of time.

Perzaada said the young filmmakers needed to come together and form unions to help each other in making films.

When asked how her journey had been in the film as a woman, Sana Jafri, the co-prouder of Joyland, said she had been asked this question so many times that she would like to move forward from that. However, she talked about how people on the sets would not take her seriously at the start but things had changed for her now and she did not feel being discriminated against on the sets for being a woman. “But if I go out of the industry to get things like NOCs etc in govt offices, I feel a lot of hardships. I think that comes from the general attitude towards women in society.”

Sana acknowledged that just being a filmmaker in itself was hard as there were so many other problems such as censorship would start with the start of scriptwriting.

Kamil Cheeema, the writer and producer of Laal Kabootar, said when he started there was a boom in the cinema in Pakistan as every week we had a premiere of some Indian movie with the visits of Bollywood stars and there would be a Pakistani film released every fifth or sixth week. “That boom ended just two weeks before the release of Laal Kabootar as the attack happened (in India) and India stopped sending films here,” he lamented.

Alina Khan, who played the lead in Joyland, talked about how her life as a trasnperson changed after the release of her film and the response it got. “It was a dream for me as earlier my community was shown in comic roles only but the producers and director of Joyland gave me an opportunity to represent my community in a more humanising way.” She said the movie gave her a chance to work with senior actors like Salman Peerzada in the industry who encouraged her.

Alina said she had got some success too in changing the mindset of the people regarding the transpersons.

Zakir Thaver, the producer of Salaam—The First**** Nobel Laureate, said the Sacred Games was made with a million dollar budget. “The delta between the kind of budget that we have here in Pakistan and other film industries is huge,” he said.

Zakir rued the fact that Pakistan did not have archives and it was so hard to get archives from the PTV which was acting as a gatekeeper regarding the archive. He pointed out that he spent years to collect archives on Dr Abdus Salam from Multan to South Africa, adding that it was easier to get archives even in Italy compared to Pakistan and whatever archives he had got from Pakistan were from personal collections of private people, not the government institutions like the PTV.

Cheema said if we had Bollywood films being screened in Pakistan, we would have a different discussion right now due to the influence of Bollywood cinema. “Bollywood has essentially a South Asian storytelling style and we have forgotten that that’s our art of storytelling with song and dance. Since the time of Waris Shah (Punjabi classic poet) we have been narrating our stories with poetry.” He called it a really very indigenous style of storytelling, saying that he would reclaim a Bollywood style of story and tell it for the audience here in an independent way.

Sana Jafri endorsed the point of view of her fellow panelists, saying that Bollywood had a big budget to tell its stories in the cinema which was missing in Pakistan. “All the films that do well in Pakistan are actually inspired by Bollywood, having songs and action.” She said the filmmakers tended to do the films that the audience wanted to watch but there should be indigenous stories made with the local resources without replicating what they do in Bollywood.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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