The Enduring Film Industry of Pakistan
By Zamir Ahmed Awan
The 1950s to 1970s was a golden era for Pakistan’s film industry. During the time period, it had produced approximately 26,000 films; amongst these were some globally popular ones. The entire Middle-east, Africa and Asia were traditional markets for Pakistan’s film industry. Lahore stood as its center of gravity as the industry polished many talented individuals and transformed them into stars. It prevailed as an industry with great potential and a very profitable future outlook. In the 1980s, 9 Pakistani films and TV dramas were dubbed with Chinese and played in Chinese cinemas. The current elder population of China still remembers the 1980s’ Pakistani films. These were a source of entertainment and stress relief for a large proportion of the population across multiple countries.
Pakistani cinema-goers look at photos displayed at a local cinema in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.[Photo: AP/Fareed Khan]
However, the 1980s unveiled certain events that hindered not only Pakistan’s economy but Pakistan’s culture as well. The Afghan War and the War on Terror caused the entire nation to suffer from a war-like situation; there was a trickle-down effect on the film industry and it faced a rough patch resultantly. Furthermore, niche markets were ignored and many industries suffered heavy losses. Afghani influence caused a violent culture to become popular in certain yet majorly affected parts of Pakistan. At the time Pakistan possessed limited resources and was trying its utmost to grow and develop whilst dealing with issues concerning its neighbor Afghanistan nevertheless, the youth suffered very unfairly under the influence of such a harmful cultures.
Although the impact lasted, the preceding decade holds a few films of a dear quality. The concentration of film production firms shifted to Karachi and remains there as of today. The Pakistani population still retains many talented actors, producers and managers while the industry has regained a large share of the market in the Middle-East and South Asia. This positive trend suggests: further improvements in the filming quality and methods in the future and an overall hopeful situation.
These positive trends are highly complemented by certain factors Pakistan offers such as: its natural beauty that attracts film produces from all over the world, a diverse climate- from the hot summers in deserts to the cold snow covered peaks of northern areas, varied cultures and the economical production of films relative to production in the western counties. Pakistan has a history of filmmaking and thus enjoys a positive reputation. It is a huge opportunity for talented individuals around the world to invest in, work for and reap the benefits of an already established, deep-rooted film industry.
Moreover, the industry’s modest culture enables quality production which is not only exceptionally entertaining but also moral oriented and this is its unique selling proposition. It mirrors the various faults of the current society and culture enabling viewers to reflect upon and improve themselves; since this can only be done by someone with an outside-view, according to sociological studies, to do this while standing in the center is purely innovative. This innovative edge makes Pakistan’s film industry extremely profitable. It further has very diversified products along with a diversified audience which makes producers hold key interest and work beyond their imagination to create successful films; the process is very productive due to the talented Pakistani actors and actresses which are demanded by India’s and America’s film industry as well. It is also complemented pleasantly by the music industry and together the two promote entertainment in ground-breaking ways.
It is evidently expected that Pakistan’s welcoming and friendly culture towards the Chinese citizens will promote the already existing collaborations between the two nations. Under the countless partnerships between the iron-sisters there exist a large number of citizens (both Chinese and Pakistani) that are working on the current and potential projects; the film industry will enhance the productivity of these citizens. Thus, the film industry is another attractive aspect of Pakistan and is mutually beneficial to the parties that work and invest in it.
(Prof. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan )