Is Punjabi cinema problematic or does it just cater to a different audience?

Most of the Lollywood fans are well aware of the two mainstream Pakistani films; Chhalawa and Wrong Number 2 gracing our cinemas these days. Very few know that the Eid festivities didn’t end there. There were a host of local cinema products that saw a limited release at single screen cinemas of various parts of the country. We wrote an entire piece on one such offering; Shareekay Di Ag

While we are on the topic, it seems like Shareekay Di Ag isn’t the only film by Momi that was supposed to see a limited cinematic release across certain pockets of Punjab, this Eid. There was another film titled Peshi Gujjran Di starring Moammar Rana that was supposed to come out. However, the film couldn’t see the light of the day on Eid because the censor board didn’t pass it as it allegedly contained graphic violence and objectionable scenes, according to our sources. The film may, however, see a release as the makers are trying to remove whatever the board objected to.

Is Punjabi cinema problematic or does it just cater to a different audience?

The film may have yet to see its cinematic release, it is pertinent to state that a lot of GL readers and followers of the new age cinema may find such films objectionable and even loathsome as I have seen them widely blame such film and the makers behind them for Lollywood’s ultimate decline. A few examples include such films containing women dancing and flashing themselves in the hero’s face, in rather skimpy clothes, while the male cast is mostly seen in violent scenes; villains lynching heroes and guns being used as ornaments just fortify their assertion.

The argument may be true in parts but there is another fact that can’t be ignored.

The kind of cinema portrayed in films like Shareekay Di AgPeeshi Gujjran Di and many others which don’t get mainstream media coverage still have a considerable audience who adore and relate with a cinema that mainstream celluloid audience and media outlets find loathsome.

The dynamics of the Punjabi cinema

Despite the prevalent multiplex culture where film viewing has become a rather expensive and hence an elite culture, there still resides a cinema in the peripheries of the main industry which caters to a single screen, working-class audience most of which are male adults. This cinema was largely born following the decline of the Urdu cinema in the late 70s and early 80s when families had started distancing themselves from the violent cinema that contained obscene scenes in abundance.

With the revival of Urdu cinema in the 2010s, this particular brand of cinema has taken a back seat and has resultantly become a separate “local” industry, somewhat comparable to our Pashto film industry, that’s supporting a separate set of technicians, artists and catering to a specific niche audience.

Moreover, the cinemas that screen such films have considerably lower ticket rates suiting the income of their clientele which keeps the business going. These “local films” can’t be seen and judged with the same lenses as films like Punjab Nahi Jaungi, Cake, Jawani Phir Nai Ani and other mainstream films which remain commercial and critical success at large.

Hence, expecting the same level of artistic intellect and depth as well as the production quality from such films is unjustified.

Cinema, not just an elitist ‘upper-class multiplex culture’

Keeping the very palpable presence of such industry and the considerable number of jobs it is supporting, it won’t be an overstatement to assert that such cinema and its audience do deserve a certain level of respect and appreciation.

The cinema created in such pockets may not be churning out films of which the majority of Pakistanis would feel proud of, but they do achieve their limited goals for which they are made, that is, entertaining a certain section of our society which otherwise don’t have access to other entertainment options available to the higher income groups of the society. More importantly, such cinema has been sustaining countless artists and technicians attached with it, as stated earlier.

Keeping the above in view, it is expected of the mainstream media and film blogs to respect this “Niche Cinema” at least, if they don’t feel like promoting it. After all, the cinema in our part of the world can’t be limited to an elitist ‘upper-class multiplex culture’. As Shaan once in one of his interviews somewhere and I quote, “Aap lower middle-class ke liye bhi films banayen, multiplex culture ne in logo se inka cinema cheen lia ha.

Needless to say, as a film medium, there should be some bare minimum quality standards that must be followed by these filmmakers or for that matter, any filmmaker but it is important that we acknowledge their presence regardless. 

I am a doctor,a foodie and a traveller. The aroma of Popcorn ,the peculiar sensation of being in a darkened theatre,enjoying a Film, intrigues & gives me a reason to promote Pakistani Cinema.