When I listened to Malala Yousufzai address the Canadian Parliament the previous day, I felt nothing but respect for that girl. No, that woman. The way a nineteen year old woman could command the respect of the entire house, conservative and liberal was mesmerizing. I wished she spoke longer, I could listen for a long time perhaps with a Nazia Hassan tune playing in the background. She said she wanted to see more young ones sitting in the house of Parliament instead of many sitting there now, such was her appeal that even the oldest parliamentarians found themselves to be nodding.
I was quickly brought back to reality, the reality of pessimism and anger. My country folks don’t really let such moments pass easy, you see most people can’t tolerate strong independent women. She stood their telling them that they have not done enough to support a girl’s education across the globe, she told them that they need to do more. It pained me to watch so many of my own people accuse her for working on an ‘evil foreign’ agenda, obviously a girl’s right of education can only be something evil for the patriarchy.
Society on this side of the world, both sides of the border have internalized misogyny. It comes easy for them, they all feel threatened by a woman who can speak, who has her own voice. Be it the Fatima Jinnah daring to stand up to the dictator Ayub, standing up for the rights of the Bengali people or even the Sharmeen at the Academy Awards wanting to protect millions of other women from ending up like the girl in the river. Every female politician in this country has had to bear with misogynistic remarks, has had to face attacks such as not being fit to rule because of course she is a woman. Ms Bhutto paid with her life after all. Don’t take me in the wrong sense, I do not mean to say that women can not rise above all of this or that they haven’t been able to ever, but we need to understand the fact that just because that they do, does not mean that the problem does not exist. When a sitting Defence Minister can refer to a woman as a ‘tractor trolley’ to shut her up, to silence her voice, or when the leader of the opposition can crack a joke at the expense of women in a ‘light mood’, because it’s annoying when women speak, it’s obviously business only when men speak, It does help in bringing me back to this harsh reality.
For as long as Asma Jehangir’s refusal to compromise on principles means being ‘uptight’, for as long as Malala is just another foreign agent along with her partner in crime Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, as long as parents continue to stop their daughters from going out for an education, even in urban centres, and people continue to turn a blind eye we can not hope to progress. This battle is not and was not one to be fought alone by Ms Jinnah, Mehtab Rashdi or Nazia Hassan trying to break cultural norms, this is not just ‘a women problem’, this is a moral problem and we all must be a part of this movement, to break the patriarchy and to call out misogyny.
Millions gather together at the same place, at the same time, they cheer, they jump. They stand all day in the sun, nothing but excitement and revolution in their hearts. They stand hours, just for a few second glance of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. It doesn’t matter to them if her government was successful or corrupt, the intricacies of her agenda don’t matter to them. They believe in the woman with a loose white scarf on her head, they see the future with her. She is no more, but millions still can’t help but feel that they are betraying her sacrifice if they don’t vote for her ballot. It is said that when Jinnah spoke at rallies, he usually spoke in English, most people did not know a word of English but still hung on to his every word, because they believed, they trusted. They saw freedom his voice, in his eyes, oh what a beautiful thing is freedom.
We are not free, we are constantly, throughout our lives put into shackles by society. Women are enslaved by the patriarchy, the poor enslaved by the owners of wealth, the rich enslaved by their status. Freedom means different things to different people, Pakistan meant freedom to the Muslims in India in 1947. Not a day goes by when the Kashmiris, Palestinians, the Kurds and millions of others don’t wake up as prisoners seeking freedom, to be able to call their land their home, to live and die in dignity.
We all go through different times in our lives, we all carry our chains with us, some with more, some with less. Everyone has their own unique struggle, unique battle to fight. Millions all over the world have it worse than many, that does not mean that the chains of one are any less important than that of another. We can not be free until there exists even one person in chains, allowing the enslaver to survive. Let there be no enslaver for there to be freedom. I write this as I am embroiled in turmoil as a student, I too am enslaved by this system of competitiveness of education as a brand versus another. The millions who seek to just steal a glance at the former Prime Minister, are not enslaved by her as they remain even when she is no more, they carry the chains of their belief and revolution. The leader is not the revolution, the millions in the crowd are the revolution. Theoretically it is not people from whom we have to seek freedom, it is the mindset.
The workers of the world did not lose their chains in 1917 or in 1959, they did have nothing to lose but their chains, but were they really prepared to lose their chains? Fayyaz Hashmi says that in this prison of time, there is life but only a few moments of freedom. We need to look for those few moments, we need to believe that such moments may exist or will exist, only then will we be prepared to lose our chains, only then will the spectre that surrounds us be within us.
It can be reasonably assumed that the ideology of ‘liberalism’ is on a downward trend globally. In most parts of the world, more and more ‘conservative’ or ‘right wing’ candidates have seen success as opposed to their ‘liberal’ counterparts. The ‘Left’ is losing the battle against the ‘Right’. Let’s focus on why that is so, why is it that ‘liberals’ have started to become demonized in many societies? They are ‘anti-national’, they represent ‘foreign agendas’ and work against the overall national supremacy of their home country under the guise of human rights is what is now being associated with ‘liberals’. I am mostly referring to social liberalism rather than economic liberalism here, although economic liberalism is too on the downfall but that’s another discussion for another day.
Lets take Pakistan for example. Usually, ‘liberals’ are seen as Kaafirs(Infidels), people under the payroll of the evil west whose sole agenda is to derail the religious values of society. Terms such as ‘libtards’ or ‘liberal fascists’ are used quite often to describe social activists campaigning for secular values, criticizing the military, calling out religious extremism rigidly and perhaps even at times calling for improved relations and greater art exchange with our alleged enemies from across the border. In highlighting all the problems that exist within the country, speaking on sensitive religious issues, the ‘liberals’ are often charged with defaming the country globally, speaking the tongue of our enemies. Critiquing the military, which has a cult like following is also viewed as an anti-national activity. So because of all of these reasons within a generally conservative society, the word ‘liberal’ has become something of a slur. It is true that often people on one side of the spectrum don’t really give due consideration or respect to opinions on the other side of the spectrum and eventually fuel tension. This perhaps can also be seen the United States, when the ‘liberals’ were charged with demonizing Trump and his ‘deplorables'(followers) too much, not willing to hear out their concerns or what circumstances they come from.
I think we all need to consider and look at what being a ‘liberal’ generally means and whether or not the generalizations and/or demonization of this term is justified or not. Even here in Pakistan, the general liberal would be a supporter of a secular government, would want a tough crackdown against sectarian terror groups and the freedom to practice your religion without prejudice. Most people would probably agree in principle with all of these ideas, just like most people would agree that sexism and racism are unacceptable acts. The problem comes about in actually going into these subjects in detail: ‘Does the state have the right to declare someone an infidel?’, ‘Should women have the freedom to dress however they want in public?’, ‘Should a non-muslim be eligible to becoming the head of the state?’. Most people would have strong unfavourable opinions towards these questions and most people would get offended when someone tries to debate these issues, as most of these ideas are grounded within the religious belief of that person and anything that even comes close to questioning that offends them deeply. This offense is then translated into anger towards the debate generator, which is in most cases a self described or publically accepted form of a ‘liberal’. It is because of this offense and anger that people have moved away from the principle of liberalism and have started to view liberalism as something that is generally against their religious beliefs and against their national identity as well. When that is all liberalism is limited to, it automatically becomes a slur, because in the mind of the ‘non-liberal’, it doesn’t represent anything more than that. In a society that has generally been suspicious of the west, does not do so well with ‘liberalism’ especially when it is viewed as the brainchild of the west.
I think, for liberalism to be successful as a movement there needs to be a change in approach. There needs to be less ridiculing of other ideas to prove their ideas correct and more of trying to understand the opposing ideas and gradually try to alter them. Most Facebook pages campaigning for liberal values often end up becoming echo chambers after they successfully offend and push away most of the opposite spectrum. Radicalism and misplaced nationalism is allowed to grow and consolidate power when ‘liberalism’ alienates most people. In the American elections, most people took to ridiculing the opposite spectrum so much so with the holier than thou attitude, it actually brought about results that no one anticipated. The idea of liberalism means a generally free society, a society where everyone is equal and no one is the sacred cow. That doesn’t sound all that bad, we need to make sure that this is what it is in the minds of the people to bring about a progressive change. When activist Jibran Nasir’s posts ranging from the environment to radicalism are all met with only ‘anti liberal’ slurs, we must acknowledge that the term ‘liberal’ isn’t really a positive one in the minds of the people and we must help change it to mean what it actually is.
Everyone’s favorite pass time in Pakistan is to sit in drawing rooms, sip evening ‘Chai’ and discuss politics. With the spread of social media, a bit of arguing on Facebook with random people, entrenched in swearing and little logic has also come up as a serious competitor to drawing room discussions. I can’t claim to say that this is present only in Pakistan, perhaps it does happen elsewhere too but I speak from experience in Pakistan, an authority and privilege that I can’t claim to have from other parts of the world. In Pakistan, everyone tends to see themselves as geniuses, everyone is extremely smart and can quickly comprehend ‘behind the scene’ agendas of everything that is happening. Most of stuff that goes wrong is almost always if not all the time an elaborate conspiracy to work against the national interests of the State. All nations around the world, especially our neighbors and the West seem to have an unusual agenda to dismantle and crush the not so strong economically, drenched with foreign debt South-Asian country with extremely unusual and elaborate schemes.
When film-maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy wins Oscars and global recognition highlighting the plight of women in Pakistan it’s all just an elaborate conspiracy. Women have had their lives destroyed by acid attacks and are killed for honour. But most Pakistani’s are too smart to buy that scam, just last year 400 plus women were not killed for honour, even more so were not attacked with acid, it’s all a lie. An elaborate scheme to defame Pakistan in front of the world, thank god the Pakistanis are smart enough to figure it out. I mean, who else doesn’t know that Oscars are only awarded for defaming Pakistan and not based on artistic excellence, nope. Countrymen going all out on Social media cursing Sharmeen and calling it a ‘RAW’ conspiracy and denying the oppression faced by women definitely does not ‘defame’ Pakistan, assuming that the national image is the sole important cause of this struggle. When a girl gets shot by the Taliban in tribal Pakistan, she is again, obviously a western agent. This is quite obvious because all the other girls or children shot by terrorists were not given the same recognition as this particular girl was given. What about the cause she represented? Pfft lies! I tell you, the situation is perfectly fine, girls are not stopped from gaining an education in the tribal areas, the Taliban in fact are fighting against foreign agents only, I mean they were all feminists during their stint at governance in Swat pre-2007. Polio drops funded by yet another western Agent, Bill Gates are actually aimed to make Pakistani citizens impotent! These people think that we are fooled by this? Polio doesn’t even exist, it was created as propaganda by forces that want to harm the national unity of the country! The people of Baluchistan have in fact not been oppressed by the state, ever! (Hint: Neither were the East-Pakistanis and nor was there a military operation in the 1970s to crush the provincial and local governments in Baluchistan). Those that try to speak up for the rights of the ‘falsely’ oppressed are in fact… yeah you guessed it right again, RAW agents!
Terror attacks in Pakistan are actually acts perpetrated by foreign Anti-Pakistan governments, the home-grown extremist organizations are actually good people, forced to do all of that by foreign governments. Although whether or not there is presence of foreign government funding is questionable, but the idea that radicalism has become entrenched in our society and has created an attraction of symbolic ideals for the people, leading them to join these organization are pure lies I tell you! There are no religious centre of Education that teach children that it is their duty to join the struggle of these terrorist organization, people who call for a crackdown on these schools are mere puppets of the West trying to gain their favour and nothing else.
Thankfully, we are extremely smart people and we know what is actually going on, none of the problems are our own fault, we are just victims of global political agendas. Everything is a conspiracy in Pakistan, and we know so because when we said this in our drawing rooms or on Facebook we got applauded and got a lot of likes. Thus reaching the logically sound conclusion.
(Note: This article is satire, this article does not aim to harm or hurt anyone’s sentiments or struggles. Nor does it aim to make generalizations. Any generalizations made are purely for satirical purposes to prove a point)
Strangely, the world has always had this uncanny attraction towards violence. From the medieval times all the way to modern times. It however needs to be acknowledged at some level, society today does strive and campaigns for peace, governments may(honestly) not, but society does(majority). This idea brings my attention to our society, sub-continental or Pakistani society, do we really prefer peace or are we inherently lovers of violent ideologies? I do understand that such generalizations are not accurate pictures of our society but considering it is important for the sake of understanding the issue at hand and to place it accurately within the sections of society. It is often seen on social forums that even to condemn violence, people often call for violence, that too, extremely brutal forms of it. People would suggest without shame the public hanging, stoning, amputation, gutting and at times even the burning of alleged perpetrators of violent crime and would even garner considerable support for such ideas. We as a nation actively suggest/support the brutal ‘crushing’ of all elements that we view or grow to view as ‘Anti-state’ ones, we do not think about ideological issues, we do not look towards permanent reconciliation of grieved parties or even perhaps structural development at a scale that would erase the ability of the said actors to operate with success. Our most easy and desired solution has always been ‘bombing them into oblivion’. It is important to note that I am not denying the need for armed force against groups that principally aim to oppress and murder innocents but what I am saying is, can it work independently without structural, social, economic and ideological changes in the narrative? Another question, do we really admire the brutal crushing of elements that are at odds with our morals? Do we see our military ability and viciousness as a source of pride? If Yes, then there exactly we have a problem. I understand that these questions may hold true for most societies around the world and under such circumstances we have a general problem around the world of rise in the culture of militancy, however the degree to which it is deeply entrenched into the minds of the people tends to be greater in regions that are war torn, have a poor literacy rate and extreme inequality or wealth and opportunities. I mean to place a lesser emphasis on ‘violence’ on let’s say on the border involved between forces of two nations or militant groups, but I wish to emphasize on acts of communal violence, oppressive state violence against innocents which tend to garner support from the masses, justifications such as, ‘They asked for it!’, ‘Should not do something that hurts others’ sentiments in the first place’.
During the 80s military government in Pakistan, protesters were often flogged in public, those who had the courage to speak up were thrown into jail cells, tortured and starved there. The state was extremely brutal and did not flinch in using violence to suppress or even ‘eliminate’ those who hurt the ‘social order’. Lawyer, poets, journalists and free thinkers were brutalized,censored and labelled traitors. Yet people would come out in hundreds onto the streets to watch the public floggings and hangings as if it were a spectacle, a large section of society would continue to justify the state’s actions, even sections in today’s society continue to justify those past atrocities. When the state butchered and suppressed countless innocents in the former East-Pakistan, even then there were champions of nationalistic causes who referred to the brutality as ‘saving the country’. Such violence was not even toned down by future democratic regimes, police brutality was always an acceptable force to crush those who were a ‘National threat’. Even today, a large section of the country lives as the oppressed, thousands live under forced bonded slavery, women are killed and burnt to death for honor. Violence gradually over all this time has become embedded into our society and we don’t even realize it. The oppressed are traitors when they demand rights and the women are immoral when they demand rights. Those who speak up are traitors and are often called to be ‘hanged to death’ very casually on social forums. Those who even die in violent crimes, state or third party are casually flicked away by statements such as, ‘They must’ve done something’, ‘He/She should not have done or said that anyways’, ‘He/She did not posses a good moral character anyways, why do we even care?’, ‘I condemn it, but you know he/she was partially at fault too’. I don’t only mean social activists, journalists and politicians, I also mean alleged criminals, killers and alike. Why do we/can we as a nation justify violence so casually as if it is completely normal to us and happens all the time. Have the years of state violence and war on terror truly desensitized us to violence?
Is it suddenly ‘not that bad’ to kill just because ‘She asked for it’? Why does it matter who the victim is? I understand that the world is not all rainbows and flowers, I understand that violence, crime and hate is also a large reality within it but does that really justify us being okay with it? Even if it is, does it then go far enough to be justified for us to be celebrating it? Why has, ‘Hang all you people’ become the default counter to most opinions and ideologies that are not in line with yours? Showcase of arms and ammunition and ‘hawayi firing’ (shooting bullets into the sky just for the fun of it) have become rituals and symbols of pride. So the question comes about, do we really enjoy it? Do we love it when violence is practiced against those who are not us nor dear to us? We are truly onto the path towards an increasingly militaristic society without us even realizing it, we can not expect social development and progress until and unless we realize it and take corrective measure to gradually change the narrative, just like it has gradually been constructed with the passage of time.
Refreshing Start, immersive throughout, excellent execution and beautiful music.
Ho Mann Jahaan had everything that a modern day movie should have. It was relatable, it was not far fetched and it all seemed honest. This was a movie based on the life of three friends from College, how their lives were interconnected and how events unfolded as time progressed. I know it all sounds like an over used and cliché idea. But the way it was executed, connecting with how the different facets of society and family structures in Pakistan operate did not allow the viewer to think ‘cliché’ even once. And the way it was panned out, it all linked back together like a well direction-ed, well steered boat. In the end Converging together with the initial message of the film, ‘dosti'(Friendship).
Ignoring the occasional flaw when the musician’s fingers or hands were not moving on the guitar yet the tune was altering. The direction, the location and the way in which the film was paced was impeccable. It did seem a bit of a drag a little before and after the intermission, but that effect was unnoticeable when fused with beautiful yet refreshing music. And understandably it seemed vital to the stroy, the film would have felt incomplete without all those little scenes, connections and details.
None of the characters seemed unnecessary, everyone on-screen had some part to play. And everyone played their part near perfect. Be it the evergreen Bushra Ansari, the beautiful Mahira Khan, Adeel Hussain or Sheheryar Munawar. Each actor had a distinctive character, no one seemed to be put on the sideline and none of the characters seemed fake. Which is extremely important because the actors need to believe in characters as a start to even have a chance of making the audience believe.
The music was the undisputed star of this movie. Considering that the plot was largely based on music, the art itself. The film shined in the music that it brought forward. Be it the beautiful Balochi tunes, Atif aslam’s Dil Kare, the pure entertainer Shakar Wanda or most importantly the classical Revitalized Zoheb Hassan and Nazia Hassan’s ‘Dosti’. This particular song may I add fit perfectly with the story line of the movie.
Besides all the technical aspects of the movie. In the end what does it or breaks it for the viewer is whether he/she is able to ‘feel’ with the movie. Does the viewer walk out of the theater with a smile on his/her face? This movie was able to create that feel and that is why I loved this movie.
This is indeed a wonderful start to the New Year and a wonderful first step of the year in the revival of the Pakistani Film Industry.
Thriving, troubled, extinct, revival and more trouble. These words are perhaps the most truthful way to describe the timeline of the once glorious Film Industry of Pakistan. An Industry producing more than a hundred and fifty films per year in the 60s and 70s, came at a stage where it even struggled to churn out a meager two films for the year. So what happened? What went wrong? The Cinema which produced classical masterpieces such as Armaan, Aina, Sangam, Anjuman and many more stood or so still stands at the point where domestic films play to empty theaters a week after release, if there are any produced that is.
The Pakistani film industry was at its peak during the 60s and 70s, described as its golden age. Films of all genres were being produced at that point, Indian movies were not allowed in the country but with the mass amount of movies being made, cinema houses faced no problems, they regularly catered to full houses and generated profits. Individual from all social classes went to cinemas as they were inexpensive, safe, clean and decent.
Pakistan faced a major shift in its political scene in 1977. The military regime of Zia-ul-Haq brought wide scale shifts in the film industry. The first wave of censorship was launched into the Pakistani cinema, a wave of censorship which may perhaps forever cloud the industry. Filmmakers were required to have educational qualifications(which included Islamic education, made compulsory by the new regime), rules were set on female clothing to be worn in movies, men and women showing affection on screen was also restricted, movies made on sensitive political topics were not allowed. The industry already suffering from a loss of veterans due to the partition of East-Pakistan faced a storm that it did not survive. From more than a hundred films, the number of movies slowly decreased as time passed. Creativity and freedom of expression, the very essentials of theater and cinema, were blocked and therefore films were slowly phased out. With a block on issue based films, showing affection on screen, cinema took course towards showing violence. Violent action movies disassociated the general population who wanted to watch quality cinema as opposed to rowdy fighting sequences, going to the theater was now seen as a social ill, women working in the industry were looked down upon and labelled sleazy, no longer did ‘respectable families’ appreciate working in the film industry. Personal Religious beliefs were forced into cinema to make it ‘morally acceptable’, this eventually killed the cinema. Of course the lack of money to be made in the entertainment industry was another factor why younger people stopped pursuing a career in this field.
With the Industry not producing any films, the general public preferred to stay at home instead of going to the theater, foreign films were watched at homes using VCRS, local classics were also enjoyed. The films currently being made, if any, were not good enough. Cinema houses found it difficult to operate and generate profits and hence slowly shut down. From 750 cinema houses in the country, by 2002 only 170 remained. Those that remained were barely making profits and had extremely poor conditions and no new releases. These troubled times eventually led the Pakistani cinema to extinction.
The now dead Pakistani film industry needed a miracle for revival, that miracle did come in 2007. This game changer did not realistically revive the industry but it led to events that are today pushing the industry’s revival. This breakthrough was Shaoib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye(In the name of God). This film was a not just any step towards revival, it was a very bold one indeed, this movie was made on sensitive religious issues concerning Pakistan. Shoaib Mansoor was given death threats due to the contents of his film but the veteran was not to be shaken. This was a step breaking the boundaries set by the era of strict censorship, defying the conservative norms set by the past government and later society, showcasing a true form of creativity and free expression. The film was released not only in Pakistan but was allowed release in neighboring India, it was played across 100 cinemas in India. This release led to the Pakistani government lifting the ban on the release of Indian movies in Pakistan. With Indian movies up for release, operating cinemas was no longer a loss making venture, state of the art multiplexes started popping up around the country, existing deteriorating cinema houses were renovated and were up and kicking. With and increase in operational cinema houses in Pakistan, Film-makers in the country now saw an incentive to produce for the silver screen, no longer were they financially boxed up. Foreign films boosted the cinemas in the country, because of which the Pakistani film industry is now slowly being injected with life.
But its way too un-Pakistani to stare at a revival without sniffing trouble at bay. The new wave of Pakistani movies are not only based on social issues concerning society, but also commercialized films aiming to make a quick buck. These commercial films have content which is deemed as ‘vulgar’ by moral critics within and outside the industry. While individuals have no problem viewing foreign films with similar content if not more ‘morally unacceptable’, but suddenly fingers are raised if the local industry follows suit. This very behavior can be attributed to the cloud left by the fateful policies after 1977, the cloud still roams around. There is no problem for people not appreciating content which is not morally acceptable to them, they can ‘choose’ to not watch it, the same way film-makers ‘choose’ to make it, however crying for bans and demanding for them to be made illegal threatens to bring the industry back to square one as such an act will once again become the same wall to creativity and free expression. It is argued that quality films can be produced without vulgarity, but it must be realized, that was the logic used in 1977 and we saw the consequences of that. By restricting creativity, you may never see those quality films that you so dearly demand as it is often after failures and exploring other avenues, masterpieces are produced. Had Da vinci been told that he could only paint Mona Lisa, he would never have been able to paint it, because that is not how masterpieces are made, hundred of lesser pieces are made, which are made by solely creative and personal choices not by the rules set by society to eventually stumble upon that masterpiece. It is sad that there are people even within the industry choose to target others on making content that is not ‘acceptable’ or ‘pure’. Cinema is art and art is a medium of free expression. I am not defending or supporting vulgarity, I am stating the importance of being ‘allowed’ or having the ‘choice’ to produce it, it is the principle that is important and not what it protects, restrictions in art will lead nowhere but the eventual extinction of art.
There are those who stand for banning Bollywood content once again, stating patriotism as the reason but are also blinded by it. Even at this stage the Pakistani film industry produces no more than 10 films a year, of which 3 or 4 turn out to be hits. Cinemas can not stand to be profitable with just 3-4 films a year and the addition of Hollywood movies which are not in the common tongue, not highly popular amongst the masses. Such a ban will once again lead to shutting down of cinema houses and repeat the very process that begun in 1977.
There are brighter days ahead, we must not bring with us that cloud of darkness, we must leave it behind. We should not judge Pakistani content as being poor just for the fact that its Pakistani. I myself try to make it a point by trying to watch all Pakistani movies which release, in the theater. This is my part in supporting the industry, but my part in supporting the industry is also to not call for restrictions, by not acting as a moral police to the film-makers. Supporting foreign competition within the industry, understanding that it is essential for a long term revival and to churn out high quality products.