“Understanding Baloch culture is like looking through a periscope. Every dimension is rich and colourful. There are the arts and crafts, music, literature, cuisine, dresses and what not. The atmosphere at the Baloch Culture Day (Feb 28) will bring you closer to the Baloch people and their way of life,” said well-known actor Anwar Iqbal Baloch.
He was speaking at a press conference held to announce the seventh annual Baloch Culture Day at the Karachi Press Club here on Monday. This year’s festival would include the screening of Pakistan’s first Balochi film Hammal O Mahganj and a theatre play in Urdu based on the historic tale of Hani Shahmureed from Balochistan penned by famous writer Manzar Imam and directed by Anwar Iqbal’s daughter Zabad Anwar.
Made some 40 years ago, Hammal O Mahganj could not be released. “Despite its getting an okay from the censor board after completion, the film could not be released due to political pressures and ignorance of certain people about the Baloch,” Anwar Iqbal said. “At the time, I was even approached by Nawab Akbar Bugti to at least lend him a cassette of the film so that he could watch it but I refused politely because I wanted it to be shown in cinemas, not as a home video,” he said, adding that the film would now be screened as part of the Baloch Culture Day festival.
The Balochi film, about how this man — the son of a Baloch chieftain — stood up against the Portuguese for the love of his motherland, carries Urdu and English subtitles. Its script, dialogues and songs have been penned by Zahoor Shah Hashmi and Anwar Iqbal, who also plays the hero. The rest of the cast includes Nadir Shah Adil, Saqi, Noor Mohammad Lashari, Shakeel Laasi, etc. There are two shows of the film planned for Feb 28 at the Arts Council of Karachi — 12 noon to 2pm and 3pm to 5pm. In case there is a big crowd to view it, the organisers said that they may also arrange a third show.
“Despite its getting an okay from the censor board after completion, the film could not be released due to political pressures and ignorance of certain people about the Baloch. At the time, I was even approached by Nawab Akbar Bugti to at least lend him a cassette of the film so that he could watch it but I refused politely because I wanted it to be shown in cinemas, not as a home video."
About the Urdu theatre play Hani Shahmureed that would also be a part of the festival, its writer Manzar Imam said that he was so impressed by Baloch culture that it prompted him to pen the play. “Chakar-i-Azam is a legendary character from history who gave refuge to Humayun after his ouster from India. In fact Chakar’s sister helped Humayun retake his lost throne later. Among the many characters in Chakar’s court, there were Hani and Shahmureed. The play highlights their romance and the big-hearted people of Balochistan,” he said. The play of about two hours’ duration will be put up at 8pm on Feb 28.
Director of the play Zabad Anwar said the festival, held every year and organised by her father and uncles, was a way to showcase Baloch talent. “The festival provides a platform to Baloch artists and those who are not that familiar with Baloch culture can learn more about us to be able to connect. The Baloch race has a rich history. We are a very passionate, loving people,” she said.
Owais Iqbal Baloch and Ahmed Iqbal also spoke. They said that apart from the film and play, there would be an arts and crafts exhibition and seminar at the Arts Council’s Manzar Akbar Hall. And as a continuation to the day-long festival, planned to start at 10am and to go on till midnight at the Arts Council on Feb 28, there will also be a mega event including a musical concert by Baloch artist Akhtar Chanal and the Braadri Broadcast Boys at Seaview on March 2.
Originally published in Dawn February 7th, 2017