EXCERPT: Indigenous icons

Published February 14, 2010

Pakola family lore says it was derived from one of several concoctions offered by the raireewallah (the quintessential subcontinental pushcart man) to pedestrians on hot, sweltering days.

One may pause here and imagine a young Seth Haji Muhammad Ali Teli in Saddar on a summer's day, in dire need of refreshment, stopping the raireewallahs and chancing upon a formula derived from vanilla, chocolate and rose water. Whatever the case, the Seth's taste buds were definitely onto something.

 Pakola was launched on August 14, 1950, the third anniversary of Pakistan's creation, in Karachi (the then capital of Pakistan), at the Pakistan Air Force Base on Drigh Road in the presence of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan. And thus was forged an enduring association between brand and country.

 It was patriotic advertising at its best.

 The brand flourished and the '50s and '60s became Karachi's Pakola tinted decades. Pakola has always been a Karachi drink. It would be relevant to note here that although Pakola had, and still has, a presence in Sindh, the brand never made it big up north, perhaps because by the time the company got around to thinking about this, it was too late. Multinational cola companies had already monopolised all available market space.

— 'The Pakola Tale' by Mariam Ali Baig


for over half a century, PIA's uniforms have reflected the psyche of the nation. The first uniform designed in 1955 by Chausee Fontaingnelle, a PAN AM hostess on deputation to PIA, had hostesses donning a beret with militarised elegance meant to signal a new wave of independence for both the nation and her newly empowered women. This was followed by another classic the legendary, hooded tunic and straight pants, dubbed the PIA pajamas, by Pierre Cardin. Although the outfit had some design flaws, the pajamas captured the magic of the liberal, sexy swinging 1960s and sparked an international fashion statement on the runways of Paris and Milan.

Sadly, in 1977, the arrival of General Ziaul Haq led to the Islamisation of the uniform and the adoption of the dupatta. Negus decided that there had to be a stylish way to work around the fundamentalism.

In partnership with Sir Hardy Amies, the Queen's designer since 1951, he initiated an aesthetic change that worked around the limitations of a standard shalwar kameez. Instead of sticking to staple greens, creams and whites, Negus and Amies introduced an array of vivid contrasts purples, magentas, bottle greens, golds — and, for the first time, replaced solid colours with delicate prints and embroidery.

The idea was to have a 'multiform' — as opposed to a uniform — so that an air of informality could pervade the flight's atmosphere in a remarkably subtle gesture of defiance against the sociopolitical straitjacket that confined the country.

— 'Brand Take-off' by
Abbas Ali and
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi


The packaging of Tibet Talcum Powder has remained unchanged since Kohinoor Chemicals launched the product in 1951. Today, the Tibet lady serves as a reminder that in a world of bewildering change, some things reassuringly remain the same.

Small wonder then, that the Kohinoor Chemicals call Tibet Talcum Powder its 'good luck' product. Notwithstanding the low price — half that of its nearest imported rival — the loyalty of its buyers suggests that there is more to its lasting success than market forces.

It appears to be inexorably linked to its predecessor, Tibet Snow Cream which marked the Allawallah family's debut in manufacturing (after centuries of trading) as Kohinoor Chemicals.

 The cream was the local equivalent of the English product Hazeline Snow, which in 1936 was the only cream available in the Indian subcontinent. What Kohinoor Chemicals cleverly did was harness India's desire to partake of the English Dream evoked by the perfumes of the talcs and soaps wafting tantalisingly from the shops onto the streets of Karachi.

— 'Tibet Talcum Powder' by Durriya Kazi


 A collective crisis of masculinity, religion, sexuality and love is evident in the nature of advertising directed at the masses. A psychocultural reading of these texts indicates that they are primarily addressed to males.

Basically, brief, widely prevalent slogans and messages in Urdu and other regional languages, they are written on rocks, walls and different publicly visible structures.

The scale and frequency is impossible to ignore from roads and thoroughfares. In the last two decades, these advertisements are increasingly around three themes reflecting the mix of concerns dominating mass (male) Pakistani-Muslim consciousness.

At least till 9/11, and even now in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the most frequent advertisement is the call to jihad, urging men to join one of the numerous fundamentalist organisations that have proliferated in the country.
The second type of advertisement, and of equal scale concerns all manner of quick and sure cures for what is euphemistically termed 'male weakness', that is, impotence.

  —'Heroes and Zeroes' 
  by Durre S. Ahmed


If it is true that publicity design reflects film content in the Pakistani context, there should have been a significant change in publicity design around 25 years ago. Pakistani films underwent a thematic transformation while viewership waned. Regional cinema in Punjabi and Pushto shifted the focus from urbane relationship dramas to action flicks set in the rural heartland — violence, blood and gore became standard Lollywood fare. These changes were probably a direct outcome of the social fragmentation of the state post 1971, the political assertion of the previously sidelined rural and working classes under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as well as the increasing militarisation of society under the military dictatorship of Ziaul Haq.

 Unfortunately, there is not enough documentation regarding the cinema hoardings of the early 1970s to ascertain whether they too changed. Billboards were temporary and were painted over once their immediate usefulness was expended. But another medium of film publicity, the commercially available poster, has survived through various private collections and can be used to map changes in design.

— 'Aina Mirror' by Hasan Zaidi



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