What a year it has been for the Pakistan film industry so far. The much over-hyped ‘Revival of Cinema in Pakistan’ has been exposed as it has all but stuttered to a halt. Production levels have plummeted to the levels of when the industry was on its fledgling wobbly legs back in the early 1950s with just about ten local productions managing to reach the screens thus far in 2008. Amongst the rubble, apparently a film called Basanti that nobody has ever heard of has managed decent business according to a website more reliable than most ‘Lollywood’ oriented websites. All the others have flopped miserably both commercially and dare I say aesthetically too.
Those who never go out to cinemas in Pakistan were getting quite excited about Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand Pakistani which is at least aesthetically several cuts above the usual garbage that serenades as cinema here in Pakistan. Yet it was a film clearly made with International Film Festival audiences and juries primarily in mind and though the film makers have stated they are least bothered with such trivial matters as box office returns, it must have surely hurt that hardly anyone went out to watch the film. The film has been a resounding flop although the few that did watch it have lauded it. I got a chance to watch it at the Osian Film Festival in Delhi earlier last summer and I found it to be one of the best Pakistani films of recent memory. Now you can take that statement either way a) as suggesting the miserable state of Pakistani cinema or b) that Ramchand Pakistani was truly a cut above. Mehreen remains, not least on the basis of Ramchand Pakistani, one of Pakistan’s brightest film directing prospects; it was a debut of considerable promise.
Jawed Sheikh (sahib – just in case he reads this!) is a great man – imagine the envy of actors here in Pakistan as Sheikh sahib overshadowed even the great Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om, stealing the show in front of a galaxy of stars and despite the highly publicised metro-sexual (read gay) six pack. People may soon stop casting Jawed Sheikh if he continues to steal scenes on such a regular basis. His hugely hyped home production was to open simultaneously across the globe according to Jawed sahib – in America, London, Europe, Moscow, Dubai, Pakistan, Australia, and of course Mumbai (and no doubt the Moon?). No doubt it did (though not in Mumbai!) and now we have the world economic crisis coming to crunch-time. Not that it has anything at all to do with Jawed Sheikh’s romantic epic that opened and sank without a trace by the name of Khulay Asmaan Kay Neechay or as in current Bollywood parlance KAKN. Anyway KAKN clearly stank and that was that. Still, it’s a minor hiccup for one of the major players on the Lollywood scene – a man who even managed to influence the government to block the release of any Bollywood movie the week his own movie opened. Now, that just shows the great man’s stature and influence. Can we dare call him the Amitabh Bachchan of Pakistan? Doesn’t sit quite so well on that cowboy square chin, does it? Maybe we could dub him the Vinod Khanna of Pakistani cinema without the Rajneesh bits, or maybe with them, who knows. The bombast alone is admirable and clearly in Bollywood, his charm has worked wonders. I am not a bit surprised. Jawed Sheikh could be the Deepak Chopra of Pakistan and should consider writing a series of books on how to succeed and get ahead. The man remains a genius and an inspiration in an age when the only other great Pakistani we have to look up to is, erm, Shoaib Akhtar.
Apparently Shoaiby’s impending entry into Bollywood has got even the mighty Khans running scared. These days Shoaiby is sporting the deadliest six-pack yet – except it has the propensity to sag all over his waist and wobble and jiggle alarmingly at times. Female fans and indeed male fans would be well advised to carry smelling salts lest they catch sight of the Hunk with the Chunk.