He says it was cinemas that declined first and then came the decline of films.
He says it was cinemas that declined first and then came the decline of films.

Pakistan’s veteran film-maker and writer Syed Noor believes that although the film industry has seen a revival, it still needs at least three powerful ‘stars’ to give film-making a boost.

He says that artists are performing well, yet they lack star power and there is a dire need for having “cinema for masses”.

In an interview with Dawn on Tuesday after attending the Sindhi film festival currently under way at the Institute of Sindhology in Jamshoro, Noor says: “In our film industry we don’t have a superstar. We need to have at least three powerful stars to give boost to films.

“We have to have stars to keep our films going and only then we will have a star-specific audience. Current audience visit cinemas for entertainment alone. There was an era when fans used to go to cinemas for films of Waheed Murad, Mohammad Ali and Nadeem. It is not the case today,” he said.

He says it was cinemas that declined first and then came the decline of films.

Cinemas had fallen prey to insanitation, untidiness and broken infrastructure and that was enough to keep families away from cinemas. The number of cinema-goers dropped to a great degree, though they were interested in any ordinary and Punjabi movie, he adds.

Then, he says, cinemas’ numbers dropped. Later came the initiative of Nadeem Mandviwalla in Lahore, where he converted an auditorium into a cinema, which attracted students and upper class who would love to have popcorn with a soft drink while watching movies. This marked beginning of cineplex culture followed by multiplexes.

Syed Noor is one of Pakistani cinema’s veteran film-makers and known for making issue-based films. He produced some of Lollywood’s blockbusters like Choorian, Jeeva and Deewane Tere Pyar Ke.

When modern cinema culture was introduced, he recalls, Indian movies flooded cinemas making film enthusiasts return to theatres. “This is how our film industry was revived [without] our movies,” says Noor whose career spans over 47 years.

During this period, he says, cinema witnessed digitalisation. “Some Kara­chi-based people who were busy in drama production with digital technology planned to produce film but they initially transformed their ‘drama serial’ into two-and-a-half-hour film,” adds the film-maker, who has written 300 plus and directed over 50 films.

While critics came down hard on them, he says he took a different line and said they were contributing to film’s revival, which was a positive sign so they shouldn’t be discouraged.

“I had then said these guys will produce better films. And it is happening today,” he says.

He refers to noted artist Humayun Saeed and says that Saeed has been very passionate about film. He discontinued his television career to become a film actor. His films are among the best.

Content vs entertainment

“Right now we don’t need content-wise anything special as people just require entertainment,” Noor says.

He observes that mainstream cinema needs to be just entertaining and if content-based cinema is to be focused on then a parallel cinema be created.

Current films do need improvement in terms of execution, characterisation and songs. “We need songs to force people to watch movies,” he says. Today, he adds, Pakistani films are doing greater business as compared to the past when businesses revolved around Indian movies.

“Indian movies were need of our cinema earlier and that’s why Indian movies were credited with our film’s revival,” he states. He says there is a huge gap between Pakistani and Indian film-making as the latter involves a budget of Rs1bn against Rs30m-Rs80m expenses locally.

However, he adds that modern cinema has excluded grass-root level viewers from watching movies, who couldn’t afford a Rs500 ticket after earning Rs700 a day to eke out his living.

“Cinemas are needed for these people where expenses of cinema are low. If this happens then it will be a huge contribution to whole industry,” claims Noor, a recipient of Sitar-i-Imtiaz.

Star power

He strongly believes Pakistan needs to produce at least three superstars. “Humayun Saeed, Fawad Khan and Ahsan Khan are performing well but they lack star power that was the hallmark of past film stars. They host shows on television and appear in dramas too. We need heroes like Waheed Murad, Mohammad Ali, Nadeem, Shan, Moam­mar Rana, Ghulam Mohi­y­uddin and Shahid to give a boost to films,” he asserts.

He was critical of young film-makers who are obsessed with Indian cinema. “They hate their cinema and tend to follow Indians when it comes to dresses of artists, colours and execution in films. Young film-makers have to pay attention to it and promote their values,” he says. He adds that regional cinema, like Punjab’s, has taken a back seat as Punjabi films are no more produced.

“Film-makers based in Karachi have tried to portray Pakistani Punjab but they couldn’t present it,” he says and adds that production houses and channels are mostly based in Karachi.

He says technological issues hit film-making as film-makers have to get these resolved in India or Bangkok as we lack sound technological hands. He says that Sindhi film has a rich past and he is seriously thinking about producing a Sindhi film without any payment if some serious brains get together in Sindh.

Originally published in Dawn, October 18th, 2018