Editor’s Desk

Slogan - - CONTENTS - By Faizan Us­mani

Pa­tri­o­tism seems to a work­able cur­rency in all weathers. Par­tic­u­larly in those days when the coun­try is in a great de­pres­sion – eco­nom­i­cally, po­lit­i­cally and so­cially, its peo­ple need some des­per­ate morale boost­ers to rest as­sured and to not lose hope in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the good days that never come.

When it comes to film­mak­ers and film fi­nanciers, this op­por­tunist breed bet­ter knows how to ex­ploit the na­tion’s pa­tri­otic sen­ti­ments by feed­ing it with pub­lic-spir­ited con­tent and by chant­ing na­tion­al­is­tic mantras to raise the na­tion’s fad­ing morale. In neigh­bour­ing coun­try, for in­stance, its junta has had enough of lis­ten­ing to ‘hum hon­gay kamyab aik din’ (we shall over­come one day) since ages for no rea­son other than keep­ing the na­tion’s pride in­tact.

In a sim­i­lar con­trast, Pak­istan cin­ema has many ex­am­ples of films that pro­voke pa­tri­o­tism and reignite na­tion­al­ism from time to time. Though the fre­quency of such films is less than those of In­dian cin­ema, there has been a sud­den rise of films based on pa­tri­o­tism. As the trend sug­gests, every sec­ond film is now sup­posed to be a pa­tri­otic, ac­tion thriller and is pur­pose­fully pro­duced to cash in on one’s pa­tri­otic fer­vour. Strik­ing while the iron is hot, the strat­egy does won­der, at least for the peo­ple be­hind these films, help­ing the ail­ing cin­ema stay afloat to avoid its to­tal ex­tinc­tion.

Pro­duced in the cur­rent decade, some lead­ing ex­am­ples of pa­tri­otic films are: Project Ghazi (2017), Par­waaz Hay Junoon (2017), Geo Sar Utha Kay (2017), Zar­rar (2017), Yal­ghar (2017), Waar 2 (2017), Azaadi (2017), Saya e Khuda e Zul­jalal

(2016), Ma­lik (2016), Re­venge of the Worth­less (2016), Salute (2016), Na­tion Awakes (2016), Shah (2015), Op­er­a­tion 021 (2014), Waar (2013), Cham­baili - The Fra­grance of Free­dom (2013), Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (2013), Josh: In­de­pen­dence Through Unity (2012) and Son of Pak­istan (2011). Apart from such biopics as Salute, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, and Shah, some films are in­spired or based on true events such as Geo Sar Utha Kay and Yal­ghar.

The tim­ing of these films matches with the tur­bu­lent era the coun­try has been go­ing through. Pro­duc­ing pa­tri­otic films is it­self seen as an act of pa­tri­o­tism and also proves the fact that our film­mak­ers and artistes are part of the same so­ci­ety and they equally feel the pain and suf­fer­ing of the na­tion. Pro­duced out of ad­ven­tur­ous, but over­stated pa­tri­o­tism, how­ever, such films end up be­ing mo­not­o­nous ow­ing to a num­ber of rea­sons. The ob­jec­tive is not to take a dim view of film­mak­ing ef­forts, but here we aim to high­light the ar­eas the ma­jor­ity of pro­duc­ers, film di­rec­tors and even the scriptwrit­ers tend to ig­nore.

Mak­ing the most of one’s pa­tri­otic sen­ti­ments with the coun­try, here film­mak­ers do not risk com­ing up with a new sto­ry­line and rely on a proven for­mula to avoid any fi­nan­cial mishap. De­spite the flurry of films based on pa­tri­o­tism and de­vo­tion to the moth­er­land, the sto­ry­line of these films is mostly based on a tried and tested for­mula one has al­ready seen many a times be­fore. For ex­am­ple, ac­tor and pro­ducer Ashir Azeem, who is an­other flag-bearer of ac­tion packed pa­tri­o­tism, is fol­low­ing the same sto­ry­line fea­tured in PTV block­buster drama Dhuwan in 1994.

As the for­mula goes here, a pa­tri­otic film should re­volve around a young, tall, hand­some, jin­go­is­tic hero, as a man with av­er­age looks and small physique can­not con­form to the ver­sion of pa­tri­o­tism in this part of the world. Be­sides a pow­er­ful, mus­cu­lar hero, the film needs to por­tray a mother fig­ure, which is al­ways seen pray­ing in every scene of the film. In ad­di­tion to that, one can­not be pa­tri­otic enough if he is not ac­com­pa­nied by a ravishing and al­lur­ing damsel or a gor­geous life part­ner whose love (and mar­riage) is al­ways ready to be sac­ri­ficed at the al­tar of war.

The chief prob­lem lies in a seem­ingly pa­tri­otic film is pa­tri­o­tism it­self, which is of­ten ex­hib­ited in a vi­o­lent form. In fact, one needs to de­fine the true mean­ing of a pa­tri­otic act as the con­tem­po­rary form of pa­tri­o­tism be­ing prop­a­gated in Pak­istani films is pretty con­fined to its ap­pli­ca­bil­ity. As it is com­monly shown, one needs to be in the armed forces to demon­strate one’s love for the coun­try or one is left with no op­tion but to take arms in one’s hands to elim­i­nate the evil el­e­ments harm­ing the coun­try.

In ad­di­tion to that, the en­emy of the coun­try is al­ways shown in a nasty, phys­i­cal form, while one’s fight to beat such so­cial evils as il­lit­er­acy, un­em­ploy­ment, poverty, child labour, etc. never falls into the def­i­ni­tion of pa­tri­o­tism. In­ter­est­ingly, the more pa­tri­otic one is, the more hasty he is in wip­ing off the en­emy, as the con­tem­po­rary doc­trine of pa­tri­o­tism is all about mak­ing things hap­pen in a flash, in­stead of opt­ing for a slow, decade-long strug­gle against the evil forces.

Mov­ing from one dis­ap­point­ment to an­other, the lead ac­tors in these films are al­ways the same. Take, for in­stance, Shaan Shahid, the lead­ing film ac­tor in Pak­istan cin­ema at the mo­ment with more than 275 films to his credit. In­her­it­ing act­ing in his genes and with a mas­sive star­dom he has achieved, how­ever, he has re­duced him­self into the mo­not­o­nous ac­tor of rather nar­row range. Con­sid­er­ing the de­plorable state of Pak­istan cin­ema plagued by the dearth of real tal­ent, Shaan can be re­ferred to as a fig­ure among ci­phers, as his act­ing skills are be­low par and he has not been able to show any va­ri­ety in his roles de­spite an over three-decade-long ca­reer in show­biz.

From di­a­logue de­liv­ery to body ex­pres­sions, he hap­pens to be an av­er­age per­former from head to toe, giv­ing a wooden per­for­mance all the time. His abil­ity to use his voice and main­tain an ap­pro­pri­ate body lan­guage to serve his roles is doubted. He is al­ways pre­dictable in his per­for­mance and he tends to play al­most the same role in dif­fer­ent films to make things worse.

For ex­am­ple, he plays the role of Ma­jor Mu­jtaba Rizvi in Waar 1 (2013) and Waar 2 (2017). Then he be­comes Colonel Asad in Yal­ghar (2017), a soldier in Soldier (2004), and plays the role of a com­mando both in Ghar Kab Aao Gay (2000) and Com­mando (2003). In his up­com­ing film ‘Zar­rar,’ he will be again seen as a mil­i­tary com­man­der, or bet­ter to say a one-man army that is able to an­ni­hi­late the other coun­try’s en­tire forces sin­gle-hand­edly. Even years be­fore the film’s re­lease, one al­ready knows Shaan will emerge as a spy, a de­tec­tive, a ter­ror­ist, a war­rior or a mem­ber of the elite forces.

No doubt he holds a cer­tain amount of charisma and is quite pop­u­lar in ad­ver­tis­ing cir­cles, but his poor track record as a film ac­tor sug­gests a dif­fer­ent story. If judged on merit, he can be a good stunt­man for ac­tion thrillers, but in terms of act­ing, he does not de­serve to be hired in films even as an ex­tra, let alone play a lead role.

Other than Shaan, Hu­mayun Saeed is an­other most pre­dictable ac­tor who is un­will­ing to per­form be­yond the per­sona he has made for him­self in tele­vi­sion. The per­for­mance of Hamza Ali Ab­basi, a new en­try into the pa­tri­otic club, is as pre­dictable as Shafqat Cheema’s sky-split­ting cry and is as av­er­age as Sul­tan Rahi’s gan­dasa-bound hero­ics. The same goes for the rest of the lead­ing cast of pa­tri­otic films pro­duced at a higher fre­quency with much fan­fare, but with lit­tle sub­stance.

Suf­fice it to say, a medi­ocre per­for­mance can only thrive in medi­ocre cin­ema and it is proven by the re­peated ar­rival of high-bud­get, for­mu­laic films these days.

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