Back in 1975, the movie Dulhan Ek Raat Ki proved to be a diamond jubilee hit film, released simultaneously in Urdu and Pashto. It was a mega hit. The Pashto version was released under the title Naaway da yao shpay (Bride for a single night) with Badar Munir and Musarrat Shaheen playing the lead roles. The film was written by Munir.[TOP]
Some 40 years later, Pashto films have become synonymous with violence and indecency. They are far from anything denoting entertainment or depicting culture of the land or people for whom these films are being produced.
The downfall of Pashto films in turn translated into a crisis for cinema halls in Peshawar, which haven`t been doing much business. The owners of more than half a dozen cinemas tore down their halls to erect commercial plazas instead that fetch a good rent.
The owners of a few surviving cinemas resorted to extreme measures: they tried to produce films on their own, not for the love of films but for the sake of keeping their cinema business running. This in turn meant low-quality, low-budget films that were to be completed within days and put on screen.
One such interesting case is that of Pashto film actor Shahid Khan, whose family owns a cinema.
They produce and even cast the rough and tough Khan as the protagonist in many of their productions. Khan often wears a wig and puts on a fake moustache to play the action hero in these movies.
But films made in this genre are about violence, bloodshed, drugs and gangsters all stereotypical and stale depictions of society. In comparison, poetry written by a younger crop of writers in Peshawar depicts the pain and resilience of Peshawar with far greater nuance and sensitivity.
Meanwhile, dramas on CDs whose popularity had contributed to the decline of cinema in Peshawar have also been struggling due to their poor production quality. `Nishtarabad, once a thriving market of such CD drama productions, is not doing much business either,` explains critic Ehtisham Turo.Given the near suspension of cinema-going culture, especially among families, some cinema owners are trying to revive it by exploring options to set up a Cineplex in the city. Till now, they have run into some hurdles, and the government`s support and clear-cut policy in this regard might help resuscitate cinema in Peshawar.
On its part, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa culture department has been working on the first-ever cultural policy of the province. This could also pave the way for a provincial law for the censorship of films, CDs, tele-films, videos, dramas andother shows made in the province.
There are discussions too around a proposed audio-visual studio that will provide a platform for patronage and technical support for future artists, film-makers, celebrities and other cultural ambassadors from KP. Not only will this facility become a viable Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa asset and generate income, plans are afoot to evolve it as a full-fledged training institution or academy of performing arts, drama, musicology, film-making, entertainment and the media industry.