A weekend Eid visit to the Lahore cinema prompts Raza Naeem to commemorate Saadat Hasan Manto’s 110th birthday with an original translation of his little-known but far-sighted 1948 essay Pakistan ke Film.
Translated from Urdu by Raza Naeem
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Translator’s Note: The translated essay “Pakistan ke Film” was published in Daily Imroze, Lahore on August 15, 1948
Imagining purely Pakistani films as well is like a man getting carefree with thirst just before he digs a well. There is no doubt that a year has passed since the founding of Pakistan. But in that time no film institution has been set up that we could put a Pakistani stamp on.
There was distance between the faiths, but the distance wasn’t that great in everyday life, and films are very much connected to everyday life. No matter how many films were made, almost every one of them had something of interest to people of all faiths and nations.
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Such films were also made from a commercial point of view for everyone to see, and this point of view was to be established for a very long time. The division has taken place. The population exchange also took place. But here and there that perspective of filmmakers hasn’t changed and how can it change when it comes to earning.
If someone in India has made a film against Pakistan, then it is clear that it will not be shown here in Pakistan. Likewise, if someone is making a film in Pakistan that hurts the feelings of Indians, there is very little point in sending it to India to be screened. Firstly, the censors will not let such films through.
Before partition, the market for Indian films was India alone; or India and Afghanistan or the small markets of East Africa. On the other hand, the field of American and English film was and is very large, that is, the whole world – that was the reason why Indian film could not thrive so well.
Today the film industry has become even weaker, having split here and there on both sides. Everything has come in small amounts to Pakistan’s share. The film industry here is next to nothing now and its future is not so bright.
There were very few studios in Lahore, all three or four. One was leveled in the riots. Now only one remains, Mr. Pancholi, where some Muslim filmmakers work. It has two levels. But the furniture in it is not good. However, the filmmakers here are turning the same thing on its head, making films while crying bitterly.
Although it’s fair to say that as conditions improve, the very filmmakers who are now making inappropriate films will stand on their feet; They will strangle the falling walls of Pakistan film industry but if a person hears the speeches from these Maulviswho want to enforce their so-called Shariathen the future of art becomes very dark.
For the past few days, an elderly man carried around these large scissors and said that if I see an unveiled Muslim woman, I will cut her braid. If two or three such barber greats are born now, what’s left in the movies? Actresses who wear a burqa also have to work in it.
In view of this and the picture of the effect of so-called Sharia the future of music is also becoming dark before our eyes. If, God forbid, the wrong kind of priesthood begins to reign, then the art of music that Muslims breathed life into will die out very badly here, and when it does die out, the question of filmmaking certainly doesn’t arise.
This is the dark side of the picture. Even looking at the positive side is not so encouraging. The life of the film is its story. Think what kind of stories are filmed here; the topics here are very innumerable, but who wants to write about them anyway. There are many, many obstacles associated with any subject.
Write something on the veil and present something on the cinema screen; You can imagine his reaction for yourself. Divorce is such a good subject, but we are not able to make a daring film about it, and even if they make a film by being careful, there will be fear of miseducation spreading among people.
Over there in India there are no such hurdles in the filmmaker’s path as here in the filmmaker’s path that will appear at every step. These people will make films the same way they have always done because the majority of films are related to Hindu society. Muslim filmmakers also made films in generally the same way, and it had become their habit too. But what kind of films are they going to make in Pakistan now? It’s one of those questions that no one knows the answer to, so there’s no clear program in sight these days. someone does Army Ranjhasomeone jihadand someone Teri Jaad (Your Memory), which is very much about Hindu society.
jihad, it is obvious that a film like this will only be shown in Pakistan. The dealers over there won’t even touch it. Teri Jaad can go from Wagah and there Army Ranjha also because the division cannot do much harm to these lovers.
perhaps jihad could work but then the business field is not so big as all India is cut off from its trading circuit and if God forbid it fails then you understand that a director will suffer a great loss.
The filmmakers do not have a clear program here, since the government has not yet been able to give itself a clear program. But the filmmakers have to think about profit and loss themselves. For the patronage of the government has not fallen to them before or now.
The government is probably not thinking about films because there are countless other complex problems that need to be solved first. In addition, the importance of this industry is not so high in the eyes of the government. She will levy a tax but not think of improving it. Clearly, filmmakers need to sit together to find a path to success for themselves and their industry.
There are also many ways to find the way. One thing is exactly the same, whatever happens, let it happen; Whatever is built, let it be built. People will decide for themselves and say which way is wrong and which way is right, but this way is also costly. Experiments look good in times of prosperity, but here it’s very much the other way around. If two or three films fail in a row, the whole industry will suddenly disappear.
There is also another way, which is that only Mughal films are made, but that requires unlimited wealth, which our filmmakers don’t have at the moment. Suppose someone also boldly makes a film, then what about the innovation that was started in mogul films Pucca? This means the filmmaker has to coerce the story into some compulsion to stuff Rajput characters in competition with the Mughals so others can be happy too.
There are other paths, but all are thorny. Movies are still being made there. Further advice is given here. I’m not saying this to make a fool of myself. The conditions are much worse. Here is the fight in Kashmir. The dispute over Hyderabad is present there. Sometimes the canal water is turned off; sometimes it is resumed.
Now you see, if you happen to get there, get a permit; and now you see that commerce is closed in Wagah – what capitalist in this state of delusion and confusion will open his chest to pour money into filmmaking?
Although there is hesitation on all sides. But it has taken over the film world intensely. Should we build a studio or not; and if so, what is the place that will be safe and sound in the event of war between the two dominions?
Should Hindu characters stay in the film? – What if people don’t like here? It hardly matters to keep Islamic characters, but what if the people there are sad?
Those who are planning to make an Islamic film think, I think, that they can now show an actress who recites the Holy Quran or prays or not; and many film producers have not been able to decide whether to work here or there.
It is not yet possible to say which films will be shot in Pakistan. What will happen tomorrow, no prediction can be made about that either; and what we imagine as purely Pakistani films is far from it.
However, the very few film institutions of ours are fighting hard, and these efforts are commendable; as they shoot arrows in total darkness. If the intelligent people lead them and the government’s laxness is reduced a bit, then I think the conditions can be promising and the film industry can recover from the point of death.