History of Cinema in PAKISTAN

Historical overview

The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved. A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998.

History of cinema from 1896-2000

Pakistan has been a part of India up until 1947. Up to that point Lahore was one of the thriving cinema producing centers in India. The first film made in a Lahore studio was "Delhi Express" (1935) and Urdu and Punjabi films were to follow. The partition of India into two independent states - India and Pakistan, caused the demise of the Lahore film industry. Most Hindu filmmakers in pakistan fleds the region when the Islamic Pakistani government became independent. Without the Indian funding and production facilities, the migration of many renowned filmmakers and stars and a lack of proper distribution channels, Lahore (Lollywood) soon became less than a footnote in the regional cinematic landscape.

However, a number of Muslim filmmakers returned to Lahore, leaving Mumbai (former Bombay aka Bollywood). Most noteworthy were film producer Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, his wife and actress Noor Jehan, actress Swarn Lata, actor Nazeer, directors W. Z. Ahmad, Luqman, Sabtain Fazli and music Lollywood soon regained strength and "Teri Yaad" was the first film released after partition. The film featured Nasir Khan and was released at Lahore Parbhat Cinema on Sept 2, 1948. Produced by Diwan Sardari Lal, directed by Daud Chand and with the music of Nath. The following year, Anis Productions released a Punjabi film "Pheray". Featuring Nazeer (also director) and Swarn Lata, the film proved to be a success and became the first Pakistani film to complete a 25-week back-to-back run at the box office. Another major release was Naubahar Films "Do Ansoo" (1950), produced by Sheikh Latif and directed by Anwar Kamal Pasha, it became first Urdu film to complete its silver jubilee (25 weeks).

Pakistan and India are two hostile neighbours in the South Asian Region, who vie whenever the national teams of the two countries come face to face, the fight is with each other in almost every sphere. In cricket, hockey, wrestling or squash, always a close one and a great deal of heat and excitement is generated on both sides of the border. But the one field in which India undoubtedly surpasses all other countries in the region, including Pakistan, is showbiz. In fact, India produces more films than even Hollywood while Pakistan's film industry is yet to make even a mark in the region.

History provides some explanation for this contrast. In undivided India, Lahore (then in the Punjab) was important as a showbiz centre. It had an established film-making centre. The first film ever to be made in a Lahore studio was Delhi Express (1935) and thereafter many Urdu and Punjabi films emerged from Lahore every year. The partition of India into two independent states - India and Pakistan, caused irreparable damage to film production in Lahore. Most of Lahore's film producers were Hindu and as the city fell to the side of the Islamic state of Pakistan, they migrated to India. This deprived Lollywood, as Lahore is referred to in film circles, of much needed investment and expertise in film production and distribution.

Fortunately, the outflow from Lahore was accompanied by an inflow into the city. Affected by the same political change, a number of talented Muslims who have established themselves in Bombay's (now Mumbai) film circles, moved back to Lahore. Prominent among them were film producer Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, his wife actress and singer Noor Jehan, actress Swarn Lata, actor Nazeer, director W. Z. Ahmad, director Luqman, director Sabtain Fazli, music director Feroze Nizami and music director Khawaja Khursheed Anwar. These creative artists laid the foundation of the Pakistani film industry. They were also responsible for producing some of the best films ever made in Lollywood.

The creative energy of Lahore's film people began to express itself as soon as the partition frenzy subsided. Lollywood became alive again and Teri Yaad was the first film released after partition. Featuring Nasir Khan, brother of film icon Dileep Kumar and Asha Posle, it was released at Lahore Parbhat Cinema on Sept 2, 1948. Its producer was a Hindu named Diwan Sardari Lal, Daud Chand was the director while Nath was the music director. The following year, Anis Productions released a Punjabi film Pheray. Featuring Nazeer (who was also its director) and Swarn Lata, the film proved to be a success and became the first Pakistani film to complete a 25-week run at cinema houses. Another important film was Naubahar Films' Do Ansoo which was released in 1950. Produced by Sheikh Latif and directed by Anwar Kamal Pasha, it won popularity and became first Urdu film to complete its silver jubilee.

The most famous amongst the migrants from Mumbai was Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. A popular film personality in Mumbaiyya film circles. He founded a new film studio called Shahnoor in Lahore. Shahnoor's first major production was "Chan Way", the first feature film directed by a woman, Noor Jehan. she also played the leading part with Santosh Kumar as the lead actor. The film was released on April 29, 1950 and was a major success. Several new studios were established (like Eastern Studio, Federal, Modern Studios, Quaisar and Karachi) in Lahore and Karachi int the first half of the fifties.

In 1954 another landmark film was the Punjabi film "Sassi" was released. Featuring Sabiha Khanum, Sudhir and Asha Posle, the film was directed by director Daud Chand while G A Chishti was the music director. The film screened almost a year continuously (golden jubilee) at the cinema. During the same period, Dhaka (now Bangladesh) build a successfull film industry, stimulated by the governments central development board. Dhaka's film industry soon became technical superior to Lahore and Karachi, releasing the first color film "Sangam" (1964). In 1956 "Umar Marvi", the first Sindhi film released, by Fazilani films. Produced by Fazilani and directed by Sheikh Hasan and with the musical direction by Ghulam Nabi Lateef starring Nighat Sultana, Fazilani, Charlie.

The first national award ceremony for outstanding cinematic performances, the Nigar Awards, was launched in 1958 initiated by the film journalist Ilyas Rasheedi. In 1961 Gul Bakaoli was released. It was the first Pakistani film with songs picturized in colour (filmed by M. Fazil and processed by Pyaray Khan). A Zaman Art Production, produced by Q. Zaman, directed by Munshi Dil, with music by Safdar. Starring Jameela Razzak, Sudheer and Ilyas Kashmiri.

Still, Lahore suffered from a lack of technical people and artistic talent. In 1962 Pakistani government banned Indian films and in 1963, required that every theatre had to screen Pakistani films 85% of playing time. This resulted in the production of many low quality Punjabi films, with stories about intrigue, violence, nonstop fighting etc.

In the late sixties several feature films were released with significant historical value. "Bahana" (1965) becomes the first black & white cinemascope, featuring Kaburi, Rehman, Garaj Babu. "Mala", that same year, became the first Pakistani colour film A Dossani-Leave films presentation directed by Mustafeez, who co-produced with Dossani, music from Ata-ur-Rehman; starring Sultana Zaman, Azeem, Irfan and Khaleel. "Arman" (1966), released at Naz Cinema in Karachi reached 75 weeks continuously screening (platinum jubilee). Written and produced by Waheed Murad, with screenplay and direction by Pervez Malik, music by Sohail Rana, Lyrics by Masroor Anwer, the film featured Waheed Murad, Zeba, Nirala, Bibbo, Tarannum, Zahoor Ahmed, Rozina. Waheed Murad became the first mega-filmstar in Pakistan. "Baharain Phir Bhi Ayengi" is released in 1969 directed by Shamim Nazli the first and the only female music director in Pakistan.

The first Gujrati film "Maa Tay Maa" presented by Asian Movies produced by Qadeer Khan with musical score from the duo Lal Muhammad Iqbal and directed by Iqbal Akhtar. The cast included Shaista Qaisar, Agha Sajjad, Saira Bano. During the same period films depicting the Palestinean were released; "Shaheed" and "Zarqa", attracted moderate local attention, despite the support of most Muslim Pakistani for the Palestinean struggle. "Zarqa" by Riaz Shahid told the story of a Palestinian girl who suffers for the cause of the freedom of her motherland. The film is remembered for an offer made by Riaz Shahid to a Palestinean militant organization Al-Fatah which was asked to collect the distribution rights of the movie for the entire middle eastern region.

The seventies were dominated by a few major productions and violence towards the film industry by Anti Bhutto (the government) forces bunred down 40 theatres casuing a satandstill in production. Still the screening record set by Arman was broken in 1971 by the Punjab Films production "Dosti". Produced by Ijaz Durrani (who also played the lead role), it became a diamond jubilee hit by running 100 weeks at cinema houses. The film was was directed by Sharif Nayyar, music director was A. Hameed. Next to Ijaz Durrani Husna, Rehman and Saqi starred.

But the best was yet to come, in 1973 Punjabi film "Maula Jat" featuring violent hero Sultan Rahi was released. The running period of this movie at cinema halls was so long that people simply lost track. This was undoubtedly the most successful film ever made in Pakistan. The typical axe (called gandasa in Punjabi and Hindi) held high by the character Maula Jat is an accepted symbol of violent protest against the cruel military regime by the poor masses. It established Sultan Rahi as the most successful film personality of Pakistan. The film acted as a blueprint for new releqses the next 15 years. The impact of the film is best symbolized by the word Jat which was tagged on to the title of every Punjabi film that was released from here, f.e. "Maula Jat", "Wehshi Jat" and "Jat Da wair".

General Zia who banned the Bhutto regime virtually diminished the film industry by using strict censorship and the demand to re-shoot all films with excessive content. Due to the death of some major crowd pleasers, the eighties started with a film industry on the brink of extinction. This also skyrocketed the illegal distribution of VHS films, heavily damaging the industry. To complete the misery, virtually no Urdu film was produced depriving the industry of Urdu-speaking viewers.

During the mid nineties the situation started to change. The film that ushered some improvement was Syed Noor's film "Jeeva" in 1995 starring new talent like Resham and Babar Ali. It had outdoor shooting on a foreign shore which allowed the director enough freedom to treat its love theme with a degree of boldness. The music was also very engaging. All these features helped the film to turn into a big success. The better situated families began to rediscover the cinema which they had earlier abandoned.

During the late nineties Pakistani filmmakers finally began to look beyond its borders. Javed Sheikh's "Yeh Dill Aap Ka Hua" utilised modern sound recording and film processing, with an investment of about 500 millions Pakistani rupees (equivalent to about six million pounds), it is rated as the costliest Pakistani film ever made. Javed Sheikh plans to release the film internationally and if he succeeds, it will be the first Pakistani film to have be launched in the international film circuit.

The Pakistani cinema which developed out of a hazardous situation still remains in shatters. The film industry is now marginally compared to the early years. Political changes and a lack of creative expression have seated the filmgoers behind their cable TV's instead of the silver screens. To counter this filmmakers have to turn their attention to the world of digital camera and video production which became such an effective stimulant in other countries with similar problems. In the film festival circuit these low budget productions (mostly named independent film) can trigger new interest and therefore funding. If the Pakistani film industry keeps comparing itself with Big Brother India the cinematic future might turn black and white once more.

Cinema links from PAKISTAN

Entertainment World Film Reviews, Polls, Gossip etc....
Karachi international film festival The goal is to promote an appreciation of the art and craft of filmmaking among a wide population
Lollywood Official Website of Lollywood - Pakistan's Film Industry
Mazhar Site featuring lots of information on pakistani cinema
Pakistani Celebrities The name says it all.
Punjabi net Another portal in English to the Punjabi people, offering some cinema information
Punjabilok English portal to the country of Pakistan offers cinematic information

© Copyright 2001-2009 Filmbirth.com All Rights Reserved.