It’s a known fact that our neighbour produces better serials than movies. In a sign of changing times, Pakistan’s fledgling film industry, which goes by the rather uncharitable name of Lollywood, is constantly trying to up the ante. The last few years have seen some really great films come out of Pakistan and interest in past films is gaining traction as well. At a time when relations with Pakistan are at an all-time low, a constructive way of understanding our neighbours is through their films. Instead of banning their artistes, let’s sit down and reflect on the state of Pakistan and their movies with these gems. #ArtCrossesBoundaries
Independent Pakistan’s first movie was Teri Yaad, released on August 7, 1948. The movie was directed by Daud Chand and starred Asha Posley (no, not Bhosle) along with Nasir Khan and premiered at Parbhat Theatre in Lahore. Nasir was Dilip Kumar’s brother and is survived by his son Ayub Khan, best known for playing Preity Zinta’s obsessive boyfriend in Dil Chahta Hai.
We would have put slick action-thrillers beyond the scope of Pakistani filmmakers before Waar released in 2013. Taking ‘inspiration’ from the 2009 Lahore attack on the Police Academy, the film focuses on the war on terrorism that plagues Pakistan as well. The movie, which paints India in a poor light, is not recommended for ultra-nationalists who claim that the Pakistani army funded the film. Fun fact: Ram Gopal Varma is a big fan of Waar.
Karachi Se Lahore
Karachi Se Lahore is the first road trip film from Pakistan starring an ensemble cast of actors. The movie covers the 36-hour journey between the two cities and is also the first film from Pakistan to premiere in Hollywood. This movie is the perfect introduction to the people and some of the beautiful places that lie just across the border.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi
With MSD: The Untold Story recently crossing the Rs 100 crore mark, not mentioning this film from across the border would be a huge miss on our part. And while Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is not a biopic on Pakistan’s Peter Pan cricketer, Afridi himself has a cameo appearance in the film that tells the story of underdogs who dream of playing cricket.
Khuda Kay Liye
Khada Kay Liye is perhaps the most well-known Pakistani film to Indians. Released in India in 2008, this movie that stars Naseeruddin Shah alongside well-known local actors, including Fawad Khan, and tells the story of two Pakistani singers who are caught in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in USA. The movie is also a commentary on the strictures of Islam after one principal character is forcibly married. Notably, the resurgence of Pakistani cinema is attributed to Khuda Kay Liye and its success in Pakistan and abroad.
Another popular film from Pakistan, Bol stars Atif Aslam (yes, the singer) as the main protagonist along with Mahira Khan and a clutch of other actors. Bol managed to achieve the rare distinction of being a critical and commercial success with its storyline of patriarchy and the preference for male children, which is sure to ring familiar bells in India as well.
Based on the life of Pakistan’s famous short-story writer Sadat Hassan Manto, the eponymously-named Mantostars Sarmad Khoosat in the titular role. Released 60 years after Manto’s death on September 11 last year, the movie focusses on his final seven years when he wrote some of the most controversial stories of his life such asThanda Gosht, Toba Tek Singh and Upar, Neechay Aur Darmiyan among others. These stories were so controversial that Manto was slapped with obscenity charges on more than one occasion.
Mahira Khan is currently in the eye of controversy for acting in Raees alongside Shah Rukh Khan, but her claim to fame will always remain Bin Roye. The love story is based on Farhat Ishtiaq’s novel Bin Roye Ansoo and is one of the most critically-acclaimed films of Pakistani cinema. The movie had a limited release in India last year and purportedly landed Mahira her Bollywood role.
This film makes it to this list simply for being the first computer-animated film to come out of Pakistan. Both Indian and Pakistani animation have yet to find their feet among their respective audiences, which is why this film is worth catching up on. The simplistic storyline revolves around three eleven-year-olds from Roshan Basti (aka poor man’s Paris) coming together to fight evil after receiving superpowers.
Jawani Phir Nahi Ani
Released last year, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani is Pakistan’s highest-grossing film (in Pakistan and the world) to date after collecting over Rs 46 crores. It’s also the reason why this film is on our list. Starring an ensemble cast of actors, the comedy film tells the story of three childhood friends who are afraid of their wives, but still take a trip to Bangkok after a fourth friend comes back into their lives. The real adventure begins when the wives learn the plan and crash the boys’ party in Bangkok. PS: If your mind suddenly flashes back to No Entry, we don’t blame you.
Honourable Mention: Jago Hua Savera
This is the film that was supposed to be screened at MAMI this year before protests prompted the organisers to scrap it from the final line-up. Written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the 1959 movie is based on the lives of fishermen who lived in East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh. The classic, which was Pakistan’s entry to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960, was also screened at Cannes this year before being canned in India.
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Cover Image Courtesy: Karachi Se Lahore