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Silver Screen: Redefining Lollywood

August 13, 2011


The ways popular music videos were shot in Pakistan have come a long way from the days when music video directors stuck to two basic formulas: the khundur mein kharra band video and the Pir Suhawa mein cruising band video. These two pretty much summed up most of the videos from the nineties, give or take the few shot on Karachi’s seashore. With directors Bilal Lashari, Jami, Saqib Malik, Sohail Javed and Zeeshan Parwez (amongst others) the formulas have changed and music videos are now pushing boundaries: Sajni, Gallan and Chal Bulleya being examples.

These directors with a spate of adventurous producers, actors, etc, are now also redefining the way Pakistani cinema is cinematographed. With a greater volume of songs featured in Pakistani films still choreographed circa last century, what we see in Pakistani films is still not refined enough to be easily digested, let alone desirable. But one does notice an effort being made for change and songs like Reema Khan’s Love Mein Gum, for example, may be a bucket in an ocean but it is a start.

Here are three examples of recent songs that attempted to redefine stereotypes and made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Song: Challa Film: Altaf Hussain’s Khamosh Raho Choreographer: Nigah Hussain Claim to fame: Juggan Kazim’s grand entry into Lollywood Charge sheet: “We didn’t expect this level of cheapness from Juggan Kazim!”

Many of Juggan Kazim’s fans got the shocker when they saw Challa doing the rounds on YouTube. It was a shocker because after elevating her image through morning shows and as a brand ambassador for Garnier, no one expected Juggan to succumb to the chunky ways of Pakistani film choreography. While her fans were looking forward to her debut on the big screen, no one had imagined it would come with a number as generic and gyrating as this.

“I chose to do a typical Lollywood film,” Juggan spoke to Images on Sunday in her defense. “The song was the last shot I gave in the film and while I didn’t like it, I couldn’t back out. I knew it was a bad decision but I bit the bullet.

“I will continue to do Pakistani films and will gradually make a difference,” she continued. “This is my way of supporting Pakistani cinema. There are so many problems within the film industry but they are not in our control. A film is a director’s medium, but look at the choices we have. This was the choice I had; it’s not like Shoaib Mansoor had approached me. When I saw the video I said to myself ‘Oh s***, how did this happen’?”

Juggan is adamant that the only way to change the system is to first become a part of it. She said that she wanted to show support to the industry and not just criticise it. She realised that she made the wrong choice by agreeing to do Challa but she does not regret anything as she has now been offered the finances to produce her own film, and she is talking to Sarmad Khoosat regarding it.

Song: Love Mein Gum Film: Reema Khan’s Love Mein Gum Video Director: Saqib Malik Claim to fame: Bringing together Pakistan’s galaxy of glamorous stars from TV and fashion Charge sheet: “We didn’t expect a director of Saqib Malik’s caliber to rip-off a popular Bollywood song!”

To its credit, Love Mein Gum is one of the most admirable and hummable songs coming from contemporary Pakistani cinema. It is fun and addictive, and joins the ranks of Kaho and Hona Tha Pyar from Bol.

The video is enjoyable to watch with Pakistan’s celebs from fashion and television coming together: models, designers, actors, stylists and many others.

While the video may be eye candy, critics have complained about its lack of originality and the fact that it appears to be a conceptual imitation of Deewangi Deewangi from Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om featuring Shah Rukh Khan. Fans expected more from Saqib Malik, the man who gave Pakistan Na Re Na, Behti Naar and Garaj Baras amongst other ground-breaking concepts.

“Reema asked me to do a title song for her film Love Mein Gum and I wanted to do something that showcased a positive and glamorous side of Pakistan,” Saqib Malik responded to the offensive. “I agree that it wasn’t a very original idea but whenever you put a bunch of celebrities in one frame, people will find similarities. This idea was conceptualised in Sajjad Gul’s Haseeno Ki Baraat and Anjuman’s comeback film back in the nineties. We rehashed that and not Bollywood. If our public is more exposed to Bollywood then it is ignorance on their part.”

“The presentation of this video is very different,” he added. “We brought television and fashion celebrities together for the first time and they are shown having a good time, rooting for and supporting a Pakistani film. If it looks like OSO then even OSO wasn’t original to begin with.”

Song: Saiyyan Bolein Film: Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol Claim to fame: Iman Ali Charge sheet: “The cinematography of this song was plain and Shoaib Mansoor should have invested more into making it impressive!”

Shoaib Mansoor’s issue-based films are changing the perception of a hit film in Pakistan. Khuda Kay Liye, just as hardcore as Bol, offered a harsh dose of reality and while critics suspected it would sink at the box office, people’s response to it has been just the opposite.

That said, Shoaib Mansoor is getting a quiet dose of criticism (quiet because like so many other things in Pakistan it has become sacrilegious to criticise his work) for cutting corners on the production value of the film. Saiyyan Bolein is just one example of a song that should have seen a little more investment. While Iman Ali looks just as regal as she did in the Supreme Ishq video (also directed by ShoMan), the cinematography of this song is weak and forgettable.

“I totally disagree,” Yousuf Salahuddin speaks on behalf of the elusive Shoaib Mansoor. Saiyyan Bolein was shot at Salahuddin’s mansion in Lahore’s Red Light Area. “This is not a Devdas, where you are showing the rich culture of Calcutta. It is a realistic film and the mujra shown is shot in a realistic light. I think Shoaib Mansoor did not have the kind of budget Reema did.”

“I live here,” he continues, “and I know what people’s lives are like here in the Heera Mandi. Bol is realistic and the video does complete justice to the reality of Heera Mandi. This is the story of a Lahori tawaif and not some rosy-eyed rich girl in love. Supreme Ishq portrayed a princess. This girl is nothing like that. The film did well and that’s what matters.”

Conclusion These three songs/videos are by no means flawless but eventually it will be actors like Juggan Kazim, film directors like Shoaib Mansoor and music video directors like Saqib Malik who will stand the slightest chance of redefining Pakistani cinema.

These small movements may not qualify as a revival just as yet but they have the makings of a new era. If only feature film investors were as easy to land as corporations pumping money into commercial campaigns.