The conversation below was incorporated, in part, within the review of “Son of Pakistan”, now up at Dawn.com
“Good Pakistani Movies” on the Back-Burner
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
It was sheer dumb luck I stumbled on to Karachi’s press-screening of “Son of Pakistan” at Nishat Cinema, on the 16th of December. There was no spectacle. No flashy lights. No traffic jams. No prior press invitations or media kits. And although only the balcony was hired for the press by the film’s producers that day (a fact I learned much later), the actual number of audience turnout was distressing.
“Son of Pakistan” is an overexcited flag-waving action spectacle staring a number of actors including Babar Ali, Meera, each with their own under-explored story-threads. Its marketing campaign must have been in whispers.
My first glimpse of Jarrar Rizvi, the director, was a few minutes before the movie started. He was talking to a television crew with the fervor of a man wronged. His dilemma is a shared grief of all Pakistani-filmmakers. There’s way too much Indian content on Pakistani screens. The next time I saw Rizvi was behind bars, on the big-screen. He had written-in himself as an embodiment of Pakistan’s soul (an overtly philosophical one at that), who spends time chalking up morals on prison walls.
I called Rizvi the next day, and that was when I heard his grief start all over again. “It’s the Indian films”, he said. “I am not saying they shouldn’t be imported; it’s just that their frequency should be brought down to just one movie a month”. “Bollywood movies are hurting our industry”, he emphasized later – several times. “There are just no screens for our movies”.
Rizvi’s argument is well founded on some extent. I have asked the same question to distributors several times in the past. And the reply was always: “the film has to have a big budget (typically 30-40 million)”, there should be “well-known stars” in the movie – and above all the movie “should be a commercial enterprise”.
“Son of Pakistan” is a snug fit to the industry’s stringent requirements. The film is over 35 million in budget (Mr. Rizvi provided an approximate budget rather than an accurate one); it has loud action sequences, louder dialogue delivery, meretricious song-and-dance numbers and more leading stars than fireworks on the fourth of July (I am, of course, exaggerating). The film is also – shockingly – family friendly; give or take a song choreography or three.
“Son of Pakistan is in release all over”, he said, “in over 17 screens across Pakistan”. Even digital cinemas I asked. “Absolutely”, he replied. A quick look at Cinepax, Universe Cineplex and Atrium’s website revealed no such commitment; although there was one, one-line update at Atrium’s website confirming that “Son of Pakistan (is) – Releasing Friday, 16th December 2011”.
“If there was one thing you should write”, Mr. Rizvi stressed on the phone, “write that crappy Indian movies are always a priority, while good, family friendly, Pakistani movies suffer”.
The review is linked at: http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/23/movie-review-son-of-pakistan.html