If someday, while sitting in your cozy lounge with your parents, you ask them about Syed Noor, Sangeeta, Mustafa Qureshi, or Zeba, you might hear praises and lauds about the greatest assets of Pakistani cinema. This list can go on and on and end up on names we still see on our TVs today but these were some of the pioneers of our Cinema. Since the partition, most of the people associated with the industry had left the newly born state, Pakistan had to establish everything from scratch- even the entertainment industry. With the untiring efforts of Nazir Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani-Indian film actor, director, and producer who worked on nearly 200 films during his 55-year career and his friend A.R. Kardar who after immigrating to Pakistan sold all of his belongings to set up a production company, cinema was able to resurrect itself in Pakistan. These two names laid the foundation of the post-partition cinema in Pakistan. Mushtaq Gazdar, in his book “Pakistan Cinema 1947-1997” calls the first decade after the partition the “Decade of endurance” due to this very fact.
The first film was made in 1948 by the name of “Teri Yaad” was not much of a success. And, took almost two more years for the first success of the Pakistani film industry. Based on Hakim Shuja’s story about the self-obsessed elite class of society, Do Aansoo ran in Cinemas for almost half of the year. It marked the beginning of the golden era of the Pakistani cinema industry. More and more people entered the industry and excelled. Famous names came out of the films, more after the complete ban on Indian films in September 1965.
Parveen Rizvi is known to most by her stage name “Sangeeta” came out as a child star in Agha Husaini’s film Koh-e-Noor, starting her professional career. The 1970s brought some of the most valuable gems of the industry and produced several films that are still praised by critiques. These films include Aansoo Ban Gaye Moti (directed by M.A. Rasheed starting Shamim Ara and Muhammad Ali), Naseeb Apna (starring Shabnam and Waheed Murad), and Hamjoli (starring Nayyar Sultana, Darpan and Mustafa Qureshi). At the same time, screenwriters such as Nasir Adeeb came out with his first breakthrough, the Wehshi Jatt in 1975. The movie brought a new life to the industry, followed by one of the greatest hits of all time, the “Maula Jatt” as its sequel. This era also brought with it the greatest directors including M.A. Rasheed, Rangeela, Parvez Malik, and Hassan Tahir.
But, let’s face it- this has not always been this easy. In a conservative country like Pakistan, where working in the film industry is not seen as a respectable profession, it has not been considered to be prestigious, in the country. Actors even had to change their names to work in this industry. In 1949, the industrial ministry censured filmmaking saying: “In principle, Muslims should not get involved in film-making. Being the work of lust and lure, it should be left to infidels”. With this frame of mind from the birth of a country, we did not a good foundation for the industry to prosper and Excel. Moreover, there had also been many other reasons for the stunted growth of cinema in Pakistan including the banning culture started in 1962, Zia-ul-Haq’s strict policies on film production, and political turbulence throughout the history. By 2005 Pakistani cinema only produced around 20 movies. But the question remains, Can we still revive Pakistani cinema? Yes! But that would require steady long-term planning and conscious, practical action from policymakers for Pakistani cinema to recapture momentum.
If we look at it today talent is pouring down in the industry, some of the most versatile directors (including Bilal Lashari, Nadeem Baig, and Nabeel Qureshi) have been producing many hits based on the scripts of some of the most versatile writers (including Sarmad Khoosat, Nirmal Bano and Kamran Bari). We might not call it a “revival” though, however, if we continue to appreciate and support our people, we might see another golden age of our cinema in our lives. We might see stories which no revolve around the lead’s cunning sister-in-law, or the love stories of poor and rich, or the stories of cheating one’s partner. We might see reality. We might see social issues, which need to be addressed.