Feature | High-Concept Stories, Adaptions and Branding: The Industry’s New State of Depression


Kamran Jawaid  |  This is the unedited original copy of the feature published in DAWN’s ICON with the title “Cinema Without Ideas” on the 21st of May 2017. The Dawn copy can be read here and its print copy is attached at the end of the post.

Pakistani cinema is in a state of rut. We push, we pull, we skid-forward a centimeter, if not an inch. We have cinema screens and motion pictures, and we have a working model where films “perceived” to be high-concept – that is, films that give you the best bang for your buck – vie for the most financially lucrative release dates: the two Eids. And yet despite the formula, good motion pictures are as rare as a big-foot sighting.

Like wrongly spotting the abominable beast (often just a bear, or an unshaved hobo living in the forest), the realization of a fake-hurrah at a films premiere gets embarrassing – fast. One sighs, and moves on.

Pakistani Filmmakers share that same awkwardness. They humbly apologize for their blunders, admitting their amateurism and lack of insight right after their film’s first show. Their initial rush of enthusiasm, instantly gunned-down by bad reviews and the audience’s indifference. Forget a five-star rating – at that day, three-stars would do.

Or would it?

The only recurring theme in Pakistani Cinema– other than the superfluity of brands and mediocre plots – is a producer’s state of depression. Today, even blockbusters lose money – and with rare exception, barely breakeven.

Talking to Icon, four filmmakers – Jamshed Mehmood (Jami), Asim Raza, Hassan Waqas Rana, and Hassan Azhar. Each representing an idiosyncratic mindset, discuss cinema’s “new lacks”: the lack of good writers, source materials, big ideas – all while holding on to one’s own identity in the current state of the industry.

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Feature: India Vs Pakistan – Friendly (Media) Fire

The post is the unedited copy of the feature published in MAG the Weekly, on the 15th of October, 2016. Published copy below.


India Vs Pakistan: Friendly Fire – Why Bollywood Will Always Sell, and Why We Can Never Be ‘Reel’ (and Real) Friends

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

Flashback: 1997. I was young, and incurably enamored by Bollywood (after Hollywood, of course); the Pakistani film industry was near comatose – done in by its own hands. Across the border, there was mesmerizing music, lush cinematography (that is, frames of high-contrast and brighter colors), and star-power. Cable television and unauthorized Indian television channels assisted in the familiarization process, and, personally speaking, as a consequence, I knew more about Indian political shenanigans than meeker upheavals at home.

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Tere Bin Laden – Review By Kamran Jawaid

The following is the unedited, feature-length review and press coverage published in iMAGES on the 1st of August 2010

Tere Bin Laden - Ali Zafar

Tere Bin without “Laden”

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

In the middle of the press conference hosted at Pearl Continental Karachi, Ali Zafar, in sublime drama mode, takes out an easily available bootleg DVD of the banned "Tere Bin Laden", an unoffending farce about a keen-eyed (and opportunist) journalist, an Osama Bin Laden-lookalike and a fake video tape that "might have" fueled the war on terror just a wee bit. Fueling the war or not, the video tape did get the re-titled "Tere Bin" in a flummoxing quandary and got it banned in Pakistan.

As they write in the letter issued to the film’s distributors, the Central Board of Film Censors is "pleased to refuse" a certificate on these grounds: The film is based on a controversial subject and depicts "Usama Bin Laden in a comic way". It also contains "vulgar/objectionable dialogues, abuses and derogatory remarks". And above all, showcases "bad and negative" image of our law enforcing agencies. They didn’t mention the security risk factor.

So tell me this: Has no one in the censor board ever seen a black-comedy in Pakistan. Oops. I take that back. Of course they didn’t.

Has the censor board ever passed a film that contained "vulgar/objectionable" material? No. Of course not. We have a new Bollywood movie out every week.

Ali Zafar didn’t have to take out any DVD’s for dramatic impact (there was none, by the way), because almost everyone has already seen "Tere Bin".

"It’s doing excellent business, despite its run on cable", says my DVD retailer, who was out of stock when a perspiring youth in a motorcycle, big bags hanging from both sides of the steering, skits to a halt and asked for a DVD. The retailer sold out hours ago.

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