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A new spate of professionals is trying to change the perception of Pakistan’s archaic film industry but it’ll take a bit more to reload this barrel.

The way popular music videos are shot in Pakistan have come a long way from the days when music video directors stuck to two basic formulas: the khandar mein kharra band video and the Pir Suhawa mein cruising band video. These two formulas pretty much summed up most of the videos from the nineties, give or take the few shot on Karachi’s seashore. With directors as accomplished as Bilal Lashari, Jami, Saqib Malik, Sohail Javed and Zeeshan Parwez (amongst others) the formulas have changed. Music videos are pushing boundaries: Sajni, Gallan and Chal Bulleya are exemplary of this creative wealth.

These avant garde directors with a spate of adventurous producers, actors etc are now using new formulas to redefine the way Pakistani cinema is cinematographed. A greater volume of songs featured in Pakistani films is still choreographed circa last century, the heaving bosoms and thrusting pelvic movements being their lifeline. What we see in Pakistani films is still not refined enough to be easily digested, let alone desirable but one does notice an effort being made for change. Songs like Reema’s ‘Love Mein Ghum’, for example, may be a bucket in an ocean but is surely a start.

Change, however is never easy to absorb and those pushing it are more vulnerable to criticism. Here are three examples of recent songs that attempted to redefine stereotypes but also made headlines for all the wrong reasons…

Song: ‘Challa’ 

Film: Altaf Hussain’s Khamosh Raho

Choreographer: Nigah Hussain

Claim to fame: Juggan Kazim’s grand entry into Lollywood

Charge sheet: “We didn’t expect this level of cheapness from Juggan Kazim!”

Many of Juggan Kazim’s fans got the shocker when they saw ‘Challa’ doing the rounds on YouTube. It was a shocker because after elevating her image through morning shows and as brand ambassador of Garnier, no one expected Juggan to succumb to the chunky ways of Pakistani film choreography. While her fans were looking forward to her debut on the big screen, no one had imagined it would come with a number as generic and gyrating as ‘Challa’.

“I chose to do a typical Lollywood film,” Juggan spoke to Dawn Images in her defense. “The song was the last shot I gave in the movie and while I didn’t like it, I couldn’t back out. I knew it was a bad decision but I bit the bullet.”

“I will continue to do Pakistani films and will gradually make a difference,” she continued. “This is my way of supporting Pakistani cinema. There are so many problems within the film industry but they are not in our control. A film is a director’s medium but look at the choices we have. This was the choice I had; it’s not like Shoaib Mansoor had approached me. Our choices are very limited. When I saw the video I said to myself ‘Oh f&*K, how did this happen?’”

Juggan is adamant that the only way to change the system is to first become part of it. She said that she wanted to show support to the industry and not just criticize it. She realized that she made the wrong choice by agreeing to do ‘Challa’ but she did not regret anything as she has now been offered the finances to produce her own film, which she is talking to Sarmad Khoosat regarding.

Song: ‘Love Mein Ghum’

Film: Reema Khan’s Love Mein Ghum

Video Director: Saqib Malik

Claim to fame: Bringing together Pakistan’s galaxy of glamorous stars from TV and fashion

Charge sheet: “We didn’t expect a director of Saqib Malik’s caliber to rip-off a popular Bollywood song!”

To its credit, ‘Love Mein Ghum’ is one of the most admirable, most hummable songs coming from contemporary Pakistani cinema. It is fun, addictive and altogether a lovable number, which easily joins the ranks of ‘Kaho’ and ‘Hona Tha Pyar’ from Bol.

The video is just as enjoyable to watch, with Pakistan’s hottest stars from fashion and television coming together to endorse it. It features models, designers, actors, stylists and many of the faces we recognize from one popular medium or another.

While the video may be eye candy to watch, people have been complaining against its lack of originality and the fact that it appears a conceptual imitation of ‘Deewangee Deewangee’ from Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om. His fans expected more from Saqib Malik, the man who gave Pakistan Na Re Na, Behti Nar and Garaj Baras amongst other ground breaking concepts.

“Reema asked me to do a title song for her film Love Mein Ghum and I wanted to do something that showcased a positive and glamorous side of Pakistan,” Saqib Malik responded to the offensive. “I agree that it wasn’t a very original idea but whenever you put a bunch of celebrities in one frame, people will find similarities. This idea was conceptualized in Sajjad Gul’s ‘Haseeno Ki Baaraat’, Anjuman’s big comeback film back in the nineties. We rehashed that and not Bollywood. If our public is more exposed to Bollywood then it is ignorance on their part!”

“The presentation of this video is very different,” he added. “We brought television and fashion celebrities together for the first time and they are shown having a good time, rooting for and supporting a Pakistani film. If it looks like OSO then even OSO wasn’t original to begin with.”

 Song: ‘Saiyyan Bolein’

Film: Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol

Claim to fame: Iman Ali

Charge sheet: “The cinematography of this song was plain and Shoaib Mansoor should have invested more time and money into making it more impressive.”

There’s no denying that fact that Shoaib Mansoor’s issue-based films are changing the perception of a hit film in Pakistan. Khuda Kay Liye, just as hard core as Bol, offered a very hard dose of reality and while people suspected it would sink at the Box Office, the peoples’ response was the exact opposite. Bol has been just as successful.

That said, Shoaib Mansoor is getting a quiet dose of criticism (quiet because like so many other things in Pakistan it has become sacrilegious to criticize his work) for cutting corners on the production value of the film. ‘Saiyyan Bolein’ is just one example of a song that should have seen a little more investment. While Iman Ali looks just as regal as she did in the Supreme Ishq video (also directed by ShoMan), the cinematography of this song is weak and forgettable.

“I totally disagree,” Yousuf Salahuddin speaks on behalf of the elusive Shoaib Mansoor. ‘Saiyyan Bolein’ was shot at Salahuddin’s mansion in Lahore’s Red Light Area. “This is not a Devdas, where you are showing the rich culture of Calcutta. It is a realistic film and the mujra shown is shot in a realistic light. I think Shoaib Mansoor did not have the kind of budget Reema did.”

“I live here,” he continues, “and I know what the peoples’ lives are like here in the Heera Mandi. Bol is realistic and the video does complete justice to the reality of Heera Mandi. This is the story of a Lahori tawaif not a rosy-eyed rich girl in love. Supreme Ishq portrayed a princess. This girl is nothing like that. The film did well and that’s what matters. I think we should leave it at that.”

Conclusion: These three songs/videos are by no means flawless but eventually it will be actors like Juggan Kazim, film directors like Shoaib Mansoor and music video directors like Saqib Malik who will stand the slightest chance of redefining Pakistani cinema.

They are already redefining Lollywood’s image in high-budget ad campaigns featuring Pakistani film stars. Reema, Meera, Resham, Moamar Rana, Nur, Sahiba and many more have been cast in a modern, glamorous yet filmy light in Warid’s Bol Anmor or Engros’s Tarang campaigns, for example. Both these ads were choreographed by Nigah Hussain (the man who did ‘Challa’) which just goes on to prove what difference a good director (like Asim Raza) can make if given a free hand.

These small movements may not qualify as a revival just as yet but they have the makings of a new era. If only feature film investors were as easy to land as corporations pumping money into commercial campaigns.

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