Lollywood through a Transitional Lens

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Lollywood-448x241[1]Lollywood is the term coined after Bollywood and Hollywood that represents Pakistani Film Industry. It is considered the hub of feature films mostly produced in Urdu and also in various regional languages including “Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, Sindhi and very few in English language. Till 1971, Pakistani film industry had three film making centers viz., Dhaka, Karachi and Lahore.However after fall of Dhaka, it lost one of its key production hubs which further confined to Lahore during 80s in the Zia regime.
The cinema of Pakistan is known for generating some really finest artists, directors, producers, writers and musicians. Immediately after the partition, the newly founded Pakistan faced a brain drain when most of its highly talented and skilled workers migrated to India including most actors and directors. Shortage of filming equipment further paralyzed the national film industry.Since the newly born Pakistani film industry was too young to meet the demand of the native cine goers, Indian movies remained exhibited in the country even after 1947.

Pioneers in the Lollywood: A large number of film people from Bombay and Calcutta migrated to Pakistan after partition·They made Lahore, the only city actively involved in filmmaking, their home·Prominent amongst the first batch of migrants were:
Directors and Producers: Nazir, Daud Chand, Zahoor Raja, Shukat and Hussain Rizvi and Sabtain Fazli etc.
Actors:Noorjahan,Santosh Kumar, Ghulam Muhammad, Ajmal and Shamim Bano etc.,
Musicians:FerozNizami,Ghulam Haider, Rashid Attre and Khursheed etc.,
Lyricists: Saadat Hussan Manto, Nazir Ajmeri, Tanveer Naqvi& and Arsh etc.,

The Controversial Twist
Pakistani Censor Board raised an initial barrier against freedom of expression by banning two feature films Roohi and Wada directed by Ahmed; These were the first feature films to be banned for propagating Socialist ideology on the pretext that the newly created Islamic Republic of Pakistan can’t afford to project communism on big screen. After the ban of these two movies, no film maker dared to touch the sensitive socio-political issues. The self-censorship policy hampered the development of parallel cinema in the country.

War of 1965 and Formal Ban on Indian Films: Following the Indian invasion in September 1965, all Indian films were taken off the screen from cinemas halls in Pakistan and were completely banned all over the country. Though the ban presented formally in West Pakistan since 1952 and in East Pakistan since 1962, however, it was strictly implemented after 1965 war” (Select Timeline of key events in Indian Cinema). Fall of Dacca proved to be the second major jolt to the Pakistani film industry as it lost its Dacca based film center along with an array of refine performers and singers including Runa Laila, Shahnaz Begum, Habib etc., who migrated to Bangladesh and left the local film industry at the verge of disaster once again.

Undue Censor and Social Restrictions: Pakistan’s Film Censor Board unduly restrained local film makers even at that time. A living example of it was the film Tehzeeb which was released in November 1971. The director of the movie was ordered to alter the lyrics of a song that contained reference to “Misr” Egypt. The rationale given was that it might spoil the diplomatic relations with the Arab country; ultimately the wording “Laga hai misr ka bazaar dekho” was changed to “Laga hai Husn ka bazaar” in the film’s soundtrack (Mazhar, 2008); First Balochi film Hamalo Mah Gunj was ready to showcase in 1976, but could not see the day of the light since a protesting crowd in Quetta burnt down the cinema hall where it had to be released. Pakistan’s first and perhaps last film dubbed in English is Beyond the Last Mountain’ was premiered in December 1976 with Urdu version titled as Musafir, both films flopped at the box office.

Bollywood Boom & Lollywood Decline begins in 1970s; Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s military coup in 1979 led to the so-called Islamization of Pakistani society which devastated almost every section of performing arts and film industry was one of its initial and worst victims; the radical registration laws (1980) made it mandatory for filmmakers to be degree holders. In result, a number of the leading producers and directors were disqualified. Compared to the total output of 98 films in 1979 (including 42 films in Urdu), only 58 films (including 26 in Urdu) were produced in 1980. Further several cinema halls were demolished in the country especially in Punjab and govt. imposed increased entertainment taxes that raised the cinema tickets’ cost and thus reduced the number of cine goers further.images[2]    Pakistani commuters, sitting on top of a

Revolution; the Punjabi Movies’ Era in Lollywood: The film makers who survived had dull plots and gave a bland story-line to Punjabi cult classics in 1979; A regulation against public displays of affection confused the industry; Thus violence-laden gundasa culture Punjabi films flooded the cinemas as film makers were left with no choice. Stars of Pakistani film industry in that era were Sultan Rahi and Anjuman; Besides Pushto cinema was replenished with soft-core pornography and attracted a flock of viewers to cinemas from the Pushto community Afghan; The educated viewers off shouldered the rowdy audience and showed disinterest in the films; In these circumstances, VCR was introduced in Pakistan in the mid 70s proved to be an instant hit; Considering growing public demand, pirated video cassettes of both Bollywood and Hollywood were smuggled and made available at very low-cost concurrent to their release in cinemas.

Through the 1970s and 1980s Hindi films were about fictitious heroes and heroines who envisioned unimaginable situations, broke social norms and taboos & emerged as victorious. This was the period that yielded films such as Sholay and Dewar (1975), which projected the heroes as rebels; The rise of Amitabh to superstardom during 1970s must be seen in the context of the anger that’s inflicting the Indian society; It was the era of gritty, violent films about gangsters and bandits. “Amitabh Bachchan, the star known for his “angry young man” roles, rode the crest of this trend with actors like Mithun, Anil Kapoor, which lasted into the early 1990s. Actresses from this era included Hema Malini
Jaya Bachchan, Rekha (Evolution of Bollywood, 2009)

Lollywood’s turmoil continued in 1980s and 1990s.  It was the difficult period for Pakistani Film Industry;Death of Waheed Murad in 1984, Anjuman’s marriage and departure from film industry in 1989, Sultan Rahi’s murder in 1996 and Nazrul Islam’s death proved to be major setbacks to the already declining Pakistani film industry; Specifically Punjabi film production died a sudden death with the loss of its leading icons; the new millennium dawned with the death of native film industry; Bollywood’s penetration in local market in 80s; On the other hand VCR reached mass households by the 80s; Indian movies were candidly rented and sold at no of rent-a-shops in each locality all over the country; Viewing Indian Movies on VCRs was a major source of family entertainment arranged on weekends and at wedding ceremonies as a collective pastime; People spent hours in front of rented VCRs and television to enjoy Bollywood hits offering bara masalay ki chaat to satisfy their leisure buds in absence of quality entertainment at the local front.images[4]

Satellite Channels increases Bollywood’s Craze in 1990s: Mahmood (2004) affirmed that Indian movies gained instant fame in Pakistan in the 1990s due to its easy, free and excessive exhibition on Satellite channels’Satellite dish’ arrived in the early 90s in Pakistan and people were bewildered by galaxy of Indian channels such as Zee, Star Plus, Sony, B4U and MTV. With such a cut-throat competition and multiple choices, people glued to their TV sets and their evening gupshup and gossips revolve around the Indian soaps and films.

Consequently, it started affecting native culture and transform local clothes, language, rituals and even fashion strikingly; It also changed the concept of family entertainment since formerly considered obscene language, vulgar dialogues, indecent themes and gestures ignore recently as commercial requirements

Nineties was the Decade of Contradictions: Action movies era that lasted from 1970s to mid 80s was soon replaced with family-centric romantic musicals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the success of films such as Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak(1988), Maine Pyar Kiya(1989), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaingay (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998

The blockbuster films of the 90s and early twenty-first century revolved around socio-cultural conflict aroused due to fast globalization that blurred boundaries and led to an adjustment struggle between traditional and modern lifestyle and values. Undoubtedly, 1990s was a decade of contradictions; On one hand romantic musicals and reality based art movies revived in the era following pompous action-based 1980. On the other hand, Hindi film producers projected more graphic and frequent violent crimes on silver screen in films like Satya; It is not wrong to say that Indian Cinema was going through an age of transformation to leave its marks on the history of Indian Cinema

Nineties was also declared as the Age of Designer Film: Chatterjee (2003) rightly declared the decade of 1990s ‘the age of the designer film’— a carefully packaged and branded product in which every little visual and physical detail; from the components that make up the backdrop to the attire and accessories of the stars, is of utmost importance. Indian Cinema flourished significantly with international appeal and gained unparalleled global recognition in the last decade of the 20th century;It was marked with creative edge and efficient marketing that ensures commercial success; Arrival of a new generation of directors with international exposure, professional training and an urge to take Indian cinema to new heights besides its state-level acceptance as a corporate industry were some of the most distinct and representative features of 90s; Pakistani viewers welcomed the new romantic family sagas combining modern, westernized life styles with sub-continent traditional value system as a wave of fresh air; The craze for Bollywood flicks also heightened due to the absence of active/functional local film industry; Influenced by the Indian hits of the decade, the young generation of Pakistan started adopting designer clothes, foreign cuisine and international brands as a fashion statement while they idolize Indian film stars as their icons.

Cable TV and Hindi Films Mania in 2000s: Kramat(2005) commented that the ease with which Hindi films currently India’s most potent weapon are overcoming the barriers that’ve separated the two nations since 1947 is astonishg<; Zuberi (2003) quoted official estimate according to which a little over 800 cable companies were operating in 2002-2003 in almost all cities and in some towns in the country which might have been doubled in number by 2010-12; Bollywood films, which have been banned in Pakistan for decades, can easily be obtained for a few rupees in any of the video/DVD shops in the country’s small as well as big cities; Indian TV and Video Channels through satellite and cable network and online movie channels also fulfill local viewers’ appetite for Indian films in the current decade.

Lollywood’s Deplorable State; According to the Pakistan Film Producers’ Association (2010), Pakistani film Industry in its current deplorable state hardly produced “61 films in 2000 (31 in Urdu and rest in Punjabi) The number of local productions further reduced to 41 by 2006 with only 8 releases in national language; There were hardly 45 cinema halls in Karachi in 2000-01.” Most of them were replaced with shopping centres and plazas and as per federal bureau statistics, only 32 cinemas were left by 2005-6; most of which preferred to exhibit Hollywood and Bollywood films which are filling the gap in the absence of quality local productions

Current Scenario: Around, 16 to 20 Indian movies are telecast daily on 24-hours movie channels on cable television; Besides a number of Indian movies are showcased in Pakistani Cinemas since 2006; after ban has been supposedly relaxed on the public release of Bollywood films in the country imposed after the Indo-Pak war of 1965; hundreds of Hindi films are released in Pakistan now every year; the big ones have the ability to do business of US $1 million (Rs 4 crore to 5 crore) or more, said Pakistani sources; Some experts say Pakistan is now one of Bollywood’s top five overseas markets and could soon rival the business done in Australia; On the other hand, Pakistan’s film industry was hardly able to release only 10 films last year and there is no that these numbers will go up by the end of the 2012.

The Last Reel of Pakistani Cinema;
The 64-year long history of Pakistani films has had its story of successes and failures; Films produced in Pakistan indicate that despite all odds, the local film industry has a lot of talent in every area of film production; Yet, for some reasons, successful combinations have not been able to sustain themselves long enough to contribute significantly. As a consequence, we have only been exposed to a few glimpses of rare productions in Pakistani film industry; Whenever filmmakers think out of box and introduce a novel concept in sets, theme, script, casting, music or technique, the local film lovers admire and welcome it with open arms.

Prime examples of these are illustrated through films like Armaan, Aina, Jeeva, Choorian,Yeh Dil Aap Ka Huwa, Khuda Kai Liyai, Ramchand Pakistani, Bol etc.; Film Critic Nawazish Ali says that the poor quality of films being produced in Pakistan deters viewers from visiting movies; Lack of vibrant ideas, proper storyline, suitable casting and ‘original’ titles, repetitive themes, absence of modern facilities of editing and cinematography, and the film industry’s infighting has thrown people into the lap of Bollywood and Indian television; Pakistani films have been suffering due to the inconsistency of its censor policy, which fluctuated from providing ample breathing space to smothering it completely, in accordance with the changing governments.

Lack of government patronage like India is one of the core factors of the uneven journey of Pakistani Cinema: Film experts say that the illegal screening of Indian films on cable, new electronic channels and pirated films have pulled away cinema audiences; According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (2002), cinema houses in the country declined from 545 in 1994 to 445 in 2002;Lollywood needs to turn a new page ; Future Prospects. Battling because of its survival within the last couple of decades, Pakistan’s cinema industry has retrieved significantly, simply to emerge like a lucrative business seeing ‘biggest opening’. However, despite surpassing Rs1.5 billion annual turnovers the falls way lacking fully benefiting around the growing demand leaves an enormous scope for brand new opportunities within the sector. Cineplex the pioneer company building Pakistan’s first nationally branded Cineplex chain proved to be a breath of fresh air; It plans to have multiple cinemas in various urban cities, with a view to provide quality family entertainment and to draw decent audiences to the cinemas once again. Overall the current environment seems to be conducive to filmmaking in Pakistan which encourages new and qualified filmmakers to venture into the field with better projects.  Pakistan’s Cinema has gone through different transitional periods and in recent years, the realization of its conscious decline have stuck both cinema lovers and founders;

New institutions and academies are being formed with the aim to provide formal education in performing arts such as acting and direction whose efforts assisted in getting Indian movies to Pakistan – stated he setup Atrium Movie theaters Karachi trading Rs million last year and states he’ll surely recover his money through the finish of 2012. About 50 Hindi films release in Pakistan now every year and the big ones have the ability to do business of US $1 million (Rs 4 crore to 5 crore) or more, said Pakistani sources. All the top Khan films are sold for $200,000 to $300,000 (Rs 1 crore to 1.5 crore). Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar films go for $75,000 to $150,000 (Rs 37.5 lakh to 75 lakh), said experts;As the cinema business is continuing to grow significantly within the last couple of years, latest releases have damaged all previous records for ‘the greatest openings’ within the good reputation for opening week revenues for ‘Body Guard’, another Indian hit, came to Rs31.3 million, smashing the record of ‘Bol’. The most recent Bollywood release ‘Don 2’ made 36.9 million within the first week, breaking all previous records, he stated. The sources attribute the development in cinema business towards the import of Indian movies adoption of technology and also the growing middle-earnings class going to movie theaters cost for any three-dimensional movie tickets is Rs and despite the fact that people from middle-earnings places appear in huge amounts, he added. Considering the recreational needs and taste buds of the local cine-goers, Lollywood needs to explore the niche market and develop it on its cultural strength at a larger scale. The boom of the Pakistani cinema demands a multifaceted approach to improve simultaneously quality, quantity and economics of the situation.

Lollywood[1]

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2 thoughts on “Lollywood through a Transitional Lens

    • thxs Bareera. Of course there are references. Mostly Mustaq Guzdar’s book on the history of Lollywood and dawn, Jang + yesteryear’s filmi magazine and online links. Since there is no tradition of mentioning references in blogs so i didn’t include it.

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