Pakistan’s film industry so far has been a successful venture with films and dramas becoming an international success. But what I am most intrigued by is the effort gone into creating conscious pieces bringing attention to the social issues the Pakistani community faces. There was once a time where South Asian films or dramas only seem to focus on tedious and dull “Saas-bahu” (Mother/daughter-in-law) clashes. However, now there is a breakout of more aware showcases representing real life problematic issues such abuse, women rights and a risky lime light has been given given to the numerous cases surrounding Paedophilia in Pakistan. I personally find this new wave of socially aware showcases to be an indication that Pakistan is trying it’s best to support the Freedom of Speech movement which many Western countries support.
There is a huge significance for this new genre, Socio-Political Pakistani film. It is a form of education the films may be fictional, however the truth is not far behind. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s military coup between 1979–1987 caused the the showbiz industry to take a massive fall, the country was ‘Islamicised’ which meant putting a stop to the film industry. However, there is a been huge film revolution since then as brave independent film-makers took it own their own hands to produce quality socially aware content. I have listed below my personal 5 Socio-Political Pakistani film every woke person must see.
Udaari (To Fly, 2016):
The first example, of this new Socio-Political genre is the latest Pakistani drama premiered on 10 April 2016 called ‘Udaari’ (“To fly”). The soap created by Momina Duraid focuses less on the typical Saas-bahu disputes and takes a bold turn by portraying the raw poverty stricken village lifestyle.
The drama keeps it shit real by focusing on implementing matters such as child abuse and marginalisation of working class society. The shows main premise is exploring domestic issues within a marriage along with child abuse, something which was either glorified in previous dramas or completely kept hidden. Here’s a few of the reasons why I find Udaari to be a revolutionary showcase. Once you strip away the endearing element of romance, we are left with a drama which revolves around the marginalisation of working class citizens, one where the characters are both socially and economically disregarded due to their societal position. This is paralleled with the empowering of women through the introduction of female characters who earn their own living and actually value an education. The new feminist revolution portrayed in Udaari shows us how the working class female characters are constantly encouraged to excel in education. Usually we would find the female characters to be pushed towards marriage and endless meetings aiming to find a “suitor”, but here, the portrayal of women has moved in a more liberal direction. However, Udaari makes it clear this is not your typical Pakistani corny drama. The showcase is an important contributor of helping the Pakistani community have a visual understanding of the disadvantages the underprivileged face.
Bol (speak, 2011)
Another successful Pakistani social film with huge importance is ‘Bol’ (“Speak”), directed by Shoaib Mansoor. Bol was a critical and commercial success, and became one of the highest-grossing Pakistani films of all time. The film explores multiple issues such as patriarchy, genocide, rape and transgender issues within the Pakistani community. It focuses on a religious family facing financial issues caused by having too many daughters and only one son. There are a few scenes in the film which are deserving of the revolutionary film title. For example, the Bol reaches its climax where we see the father suffocating his son in his sleep, after discovering he was gang raped and his daughter takes revenge by murdering her father. The film has a heavy ending, focusing on the daughter who is found guilty of murder. She ends the film by asking;
“why is only killing a sin? Why isn’t giving birth, without any family planning, a sin?”
Then she is hanged.
This film is important – it depicts a very real portrayal of a poor, under privileged and uneducated family. It is an outlandish film within the Pakistani film industry, as is it refuses to glorify politicians and mullahs. The audience witnesses a pervert Mullah and lazy politicians all contributing to further destruction. No doubt another haunting tale of Pakistan’s hidden taboo. Nonetheless, the film does its best to disclose every shameful truth and brings some substance to Pakistani showbiz.
Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God , (2007)
Khuda Ki Liye directed once again by Shoaib Mansoor is another profound film worth watching. This time we get to see Western racism as well as hidden stigmas of misinterpreted teachings of Islam within the Pakistani community. ￼the targets of hate crime. It can be argued that Western media has created endless films of mainly White American victims but has failed to show us the ethnic victims that suffered from hate crime and discrimination in result of 9/11. For example, films such as American Sniper, where the complete focus is only on American citizens. There is no recognition given to any ethnic minorities and the recognition which is given, the film portrays any ethnic character to be a raging lunatic. Hence why Khuda Ki Liye is so significant, the film successfully manages to represent the suffering that many ethnic minorities had to also endure.
What also makes the film revolutionary is that, despite Mansoor focusing so much on post 9/11 racism, not only does the director explore racial tensions in the US post 9/11, he also explores the Mullahs radicalising Islam, teaching Jihad in a distorted manner and publishing the problems which Pakistanis and Muslims in a whole must take some sort of responsibility for. A courageous stand to take. This is something that many politicians themselves are afraid to speak out against. However, Khuda Ki Liye does not sugar coat the guilty party, nor does the film pass the blame of radiclisaton to the West by using “anti-West propaganda” where the Pakistani media has been found guilty of in the past. Instead, we see countless scenes of characters holding religious Pakistani figures as responsible for radicalisation. I personally find the film to be bold and refreshing and also an important lesson to be seen by society.
Janaan (beloved) 2016:
A recent mainstream Pakistani film directed by Azfar Jafri was an international success. Whilst the film’s main has the typical focus om romance and marriage within a middle class wealthy family which the mainstream Pakistani audience adores, Jafri also gives us an insight to a darker reality lurking within poor communities. For instance, Janaan explores child exploitation within orphanages and schools. A issue Pakistan has been scrutinized for hugely. According to the ‘International Centre for Research on Women’ (ICRW) found that Pakistan has 43% levels of violence in schools . The violence was recorded as forms of physical and sexual abuse, emotional violence, and threat of violence. With little media attention given to the issue, more and more cases of child abuse within schools are being reported. However, Janaan integrates this hushed topic within its storyline and represents the disadvantaged poorer communities face opposed to sweeping the issue the under the rug.
Although, the film does not fit typically in the Socio-Political genre, that does not mean the film is not deserving of recognition. In fact by the Janaan being a mainstream film but still managing to include a socio-political message emphasises the revolution of Pakistani media. The film sends a strong political message and manages to successfully incorporate your typical Pakistani romance with the stigma of child sexual abuse.Janaan being an international success with high ratings, implies that the audience is not sensitive nor is highly annoyed by the romantic film being “ruined” by darker child sexual abuse tales. A huge achievement suggesting the Pakistani film industry is now more confident to educate its audience about real life problems, instead pretending they do not exist.
Chup Raho (Be quiet) 2014:
Chup Raho was commercial success during its run in terms of ratings, both nationally and internationally, directed by Yasir Nawaz. Chup Raho focuses on controversial issues which make it deserving of it being a revolutionary soap. The story line is focused on rape once again within a family intuition and female empowerment. Chup Raho, successfully educates the audience of the consequences that the ideology remaining quiet about rape or about ‘Payback rape’, for the sake of ‘izzat’ (honour) can have. The drama exposes payback rape which is common in South Asian culture. It is seen as a form of revenge. The Pakistani government have once again failed to speak out against such a practice. Perhaps in fear of it being a touchy and no doubt sensitive subject many may find offensive. Especially, within the Pakistani community as there is so much emphasis on respect and maintaining family Izzat in the eyes of others. Most of the rape cases in Pakistan results as marriage between the culprit and the victim to keep the honor of victim’s family or as suicide of the culprit. According to a study carried out by Human Rights Watch there is a rape once every two hours. A disturbing fact which takes place on Pakistani soil.
However, the drama clearly disagrees with the silence and does it best to tackle the issue through the portrayal of it’s characters. Nawaz delivers a bold plot which is unpopular within the community, once again implying that Pakistani filmmakers no longer fear their audience as much as before, where once the Pakistani film industry was hugely censored. We can now see a promising growth of more showcases produced highlighting key issues which were in the past hidden and unspoken about.
So there you have my 5 personal favorite Socially- Politically aware showcases in a nutshell. These films/series are not just a source of entertainment. I believe the directors and writers involved are conveying a deeper message to society. Perhaps, they want us to to see how much of a mess we have became. Almost, as these showcases are a reflection of a corrupt Pakistani community. The victims in this mess ultimately being the underprivileged seen as collateral damage, by their own country. However, we can remain optimistic as the showbiz industry is gradually moving in a different direction. More film productions which are successes are exposing the hidden truth to a wider both national and international audience. The power of social media is also making it easier for us to be more woke than ever. Hashtags have been created and shared by thousands for productions like Bol or Udaari, all assisting to raise a bigger awareness. They may cause controversy within the community, the so called “Mullahs” may get pissed off and the government may feel humiliated. However, this new wave of social showcases are contributing to changing ideologies and helping Pakistan and its public realise something must be done, someone must speak up and we as a whole must fight harder to protect our children, irrespective of what social class we come from.