What can our film industry do to be its best self? We have a few suggestions.
Dear Pakistani film industry,
Hi there. Long time, no see. How’ve you been? We heard you were going through a bit of a rough patch lately, what with things going all upside-downy over the last few years. We feel ya. Things haven’t been too swell for us either, but life goes on. Or it doesn’t. You know how it is. But we digress.
Our point is: we know you’re not doing too well, and we are concerned. You see Lollywood – can we call you Lollywood? We’ve never been sure – we care about you. Over the decades, you’ve made us laugh; you’ve made us cry; you’ve made us feel all warm and tingly on the inside (or at least we hope that was you; otherwise we’ve totally going to have to get that checked out.)
We feel a connection to you. We want you to do well, and it pains us to see you struggle. You have all the potential in the world; all you need to do is harness it.
So we thought we’d put together some suggestions in the hopes that they might help you
suck less be as amazing as we know you can be!
Build better teams
Teamwork makes the dream work … is kind of a grating saying, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Build strong teams, paying attention to every facet of the production, from costuming to editing to cinematography. Recognize and nurture talent. And for the love of all that is holy, find better writers. Please. Pretty please. Find. Better. Writers. Scour the country for someone who can put together a decent script and we will forever be grateful.
Also, as much as we appreciate a director who also writes and produces and bakes awesome pies (because why not), you don’t have to do everything yourself. They say two heads are better than one. Although they also say great minds think alike, so if you put two great minds together, that would kind of defeat the pur… never mind. What we are trying to say is: another pair of eyes can help you see things from a different perspective. Surround yourself with the best of the best, and hopefully you can create projects that not only your local audience can cherish but that you can export to the rest of the world as well. If Japan can make Drive My Car and South Korea can create Parasite, then there’s no reason you can’t captivate the international audience too.
Think outside the box + chuck stereotypes out the proverbial window
Every time you want to follow conventions, don’t. Build inventive storylines. Take things in directions we can’t see coming. And create unique characters. The heroine doesn’t have to be a goody two-shoes and the villain doesn’t have to represent the ultimate evil. It is so rewarding when you play with intriguing shades of grey.
Experiment with low budgets
We may not be business gurus but we did get an A in economics that one time which we’re still very proud of. So we totally know what we are talking about when we say: give low budgets a chance.
It’s only logical – the lower the budget, the less you need in revenue to turn a profit. The snag, however, is that you have to couple this low budget with either a very inventive idea or a super sharp script, both of which seem to be in scant supply at the moment. But we have faith in you. Give it a go. Let your imagination run wild. And in no time you’ll be making your own Blair Witch Projects and Napoleon Dynamites!
Make lots of deliciously offbeat indie flicks, and then use your learnings to fuel bigger, shinier projects.
Produce film stars
Yes, streaming is busy blurring the distinction between the big and the small screen, but that doesn’t mean our country shouldn’t have any proper, bona fide movie stars at all. When we go to the cinema, it really would be nice if we get to hang out with faces we don’t have to see on television about fifteen million times a week already. We are paying a ridiculous amount of money to see your cinematic endeavours. At least make the experience feel special.
Make ‘em shorter
Lollywood, your movies are often quite long. And yes, we know you want to give us our money’s worth. We appreciate it.
If you’re telling an epic tale, then sure, three hours is cool. But, like, we do have lives, and don’t always want to spend that long in a movie theatre. Plus every cinematic adventure doesn’t have to be super long; brevity really can have its advantages. Sometimes one and a half hour is just plenty. So give us shorter movies with better quality every once in a while and we will thank you.
Do more biopics
What we’ve realized after covering Hollywood for the last two decades is that i) boy we’re getting old, and ii) you can’t go wrong with a biopic. Ok, you actually can – you will forever have our sympathies Nina Simone! – but biopics are more likely to deliver a home run than a strike out, especially in the hands of talented auteurs.
Real life figures make fascinating characters, and there is no shortage of intriguing people from all walks of life that can inspire your big screen tales while you potentially project their achievements on a global scale. You’ve done so well with biopics – from Manto to Motorcycle Girl – in the past and we really want you to do more of this please.
Television does not have a monopoly on Hashim Nadeem novels. You, too, can adapt literature! Do it, do it, DO IT! The author has already done much of the thinking for you. Take their work and bring it to riveting big screen life.
Banish item numbers to the ninth circle of hell where they rightly belong
It’s been well-near a decade since we saw (the otherwise thoroughly entertaining) Na Maloom Afraad, but the very mention of Mehwish Hayat’s ‘Billi’ still makes us cringe to this very day.
Trust us, we love music and musicals of all sorts. But it pains us to see suggestive dance routines randomly inserted into films just to cater to the male gaze while adding nothing to the story. Item numbers should be nothing more than a distant memory at this point. Please make them go away.
Find better ways to attract an audience. Find better ways to celebrate women. Our feminist hearts are proud when women are empowered, not objectified. And we want to leave the cinema with a smile on our face or a tear in our eye, not burdened with the weight of second-hand embarrassment.
Get your actors
Ok, not all of them. The trick is knowing your Hugh Jackmans from your Russell Crowes.
Musicals can be so much more fun when you have a cast that’s actually doing the singing.
We get that playback singers are part of South Asian cinema’s aesthetic, and we do love ourselves some Atif and Aima. But it can be so rewarding to have Andrew Garfield channel Jonathan Larson or Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling belt out a tune or two instead of actors poorly miming to someone else’s vocals.
See us more often
Or rather, let us see you more often. This Eid ke Eid milna thingy is getting a bit tedious. How about you invite us over every few weeks instead of just twice a year? Be a more constant part of our lives.
Don’t be a stranger now, you hear?
With best wishes and lukewarm regards,
P.S. Please tell Saba Qamar she is fabulous and we have no objections if she wants to be our best friend. Thanks a bunch!