Friday, December 30, 2011

Four Poems in Four Languages

ایک دوپہر

قدم قدم تنہائی میں
صحرا کی پہنائی میں
پیلا زرد سکوت سماں
دشت کا آْئینہ ہے

 एक दोपहर
 कदम कदम तनहाई में
 सहरा की पहनाई में
 पीला ज़र्द स्कूत समां
 दश्त का आईना है


Step by step
in solitude
of the desert's profound depth
the pale-yellow
Silent spectacle around
Is a true mirror
of terror!

Ekti Dupur

Ek pa ek pa koray
E morubhoomir gobhir ekakitye doobay jaoa
Norom Holuder Nishtobdho Drissho
Atonker Ashol Protifolon



چھاؤں کا چھلاوا بھی
دھوپ کی خباثت ہے
لہر کا بلاوا بھی
ریت کی سیاست ہے
خشک ریگزاروں میں
تیری کیا فراست ہے

का छलावा भी
धूप की खबासत है
लहर का बलावा भी
रेत की सिआसत है
शुष्क रीगज़ारों में
तेरी किया फ़्रासत है


The shadowy Elfin
is also a villainy
of sunshine
The call of a tidalwave
is another clever strategy of sand
What do you fathom
is the vast dy desert?


Chhayapori roudreri ek chholona
Jowar bha(n)tar daak, baalir ek chotur niti
Morubhoomir atawl gobhirey, tawl ki melay?



جاگا سپنا جیون کا
برسا بادل ساون کا
پیاس کی ماری دھرتی پر
سُدھ بُدھ ہاری دھرتی پر
تن من کے اسرار کھلے
اپنے بھید ہزار کھُلے


जागा सपना जीवन का
बरसा बादल सावन का
प्यास की मारी धरती पर
सुध बुध हारी धरती पर
तन मन के इसरार खुले
अपने भेद हजार खुले


The dream of life
came to an end
to its fill
The thirsty Earth
confounded and baffled
by the long drought,
had lost its wit.
the mystries of Body
and Soul
and a thousand other secrets
of its own
were revealed to it.


Shawpner sheshey borshar jawlbhora megh
Moosholdharay jamon bhashay deergho khawray trishnarto, bibhranto prithibikay,
Theek temoni ekhon shorir o moner rohossho aar prithibir nijer hajar gopon kawtha,
Tar shamney ujarrh korey day nijeder



سرسبز شاخوں میں
پھر جو کُوک اُٹھتی ہے
اک برہ جلی کوئل
کون ہوگیا بے کُل
کس کی ہوک اٹھی ہے آہنی


सरसबज़ शाखाओं में
फिर जो कूक उठती है
बिरह जली कोइल
कौन हो गया बे कुल
किसकी हूक उठी है आहनी


Smouldering in a separation,
a Koel has coo-cooed
behind lush green
leafy branches
of some tree.
a ground rises in agony
who is so restless
behind the iron bars?


Biccheder agoonay jwoley, jhawlmawley shoboojer patabhawra daaley boshey kuhu shawrawb hoy baarbaar,
Tawkhoni ek tibro jawntronar gongani,
Temoni ghawnoghawno,
Garoder arrhalay lookono, adhoirjo karoor nisshashey


Thanks to Namita Gupta for Bangla Translation

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tribute to Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi

It was winters in Lahore; December was as cool as it used to be. But politically it was election’s season. Election campaigns and Lawyers movement were at their peaks. Media was under threat; political statements and other election related news were popping up from all sides.

No doubt year 2007 was one of the worst years for the newborn media in Pakistan. Media houses were under threats, Journalists were beaten up. They were protesting against the ban on different News Channels implemented by General Pervez Musharraf. On other side, struggle for restoration of democracy had started. Exiled leaders had come back to the country.

December 2007, I could never forget that time. It was early career of my journalism. Being a young journalist and learner I was following every bit of news. Covering elections and writing about it was never been an easy task for anyone.

During that time Benazir Bhutto also came to Lahore Press Club to show her solidarity with journalists. I was there when she reached at Lahore Press Club. She was welcomed by an enormous enthusiasm. I was one of several dozen journalists. Standing and watching her so closely. It was like a dream. Though I had seen her before once during my childhood in 90s in a Jalsa at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi.

But this moment was unforgettable. A foreign journalist asked me “Are you as supporter or reporter” I said “Reporter, but a supporter”.

We saw her, We welcomed her. She Smiled, She talked, She showed her love and solidarity with us.
December 27, I remember that very day very well. I was in the Magazine Section of Daily Waqt, Lahore. It was Thursday, and we had to finalize the copy of Sunday Magazine. But the highlight of the day of Jalsa of Benazir Bhutto at the historical place, Liaqat Bagh ( The park where Pakistan’s First Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan shot dead) Rawalpindi, my hometown.

“BB is looking prettier than ever today”
“This lady has a charisma m just like her father Bhutto sahib”
“BB will clean sweep”
“No one can stop PPP from winning next elections”
“She is the only hope”

These were comments I heard in Newsroom and Magazine section while Benazir Bhutto came up at the stage in her blue dress and white scarf. I perfect persona! A confident lady, there was no sign of fear on her face. Thousands of crowd chanting slogan “Bibi Tere Janisaar, Beshumaar Beshumaar” and Benazair Bhutto came up to the microphone, waving her hand in response to crowd’s slogans. No body knows that I was a silent spectator. Physically in the newsroom, but mentally I was at Liaqat Bagh.

She started her speech with:

“These are the slogans I have come to Rawalpindi today, I understand this is the city of brave and sacrificing people; I consider Rawalpindi as my second home. When Bhutto Sahib was a minister, I used to live here; I used to go to a school at Rawalpindi. I have seen moments of joy and gloomy times in Rawalpindi. I must say that the brave people of Rawalpindi have been with me in moments of happiness; brave sisters and brethren of this city stood by me in hours of our sadness; they have never let me alone.

She further said;

“This is the same city which saw that when Yahya Khan was not leaving, they thronged to the Liaquat Bagh to hold a huge and powerful rally and that forced dictator Yahya step down; it was after that the government of the Pakistan People’s Party was established. Rawalpindi is the same city from where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started his struggle against the dictatorship of General Ayub Khan and young Abdul Hameed sacrificed his life for democracy. This is the city which has defeated all dictators and Inshallah its people will once again inflict a crushing defeat on another dictator and usher in an era of democracy; the sun of democracy will again rise on the horizon of Rawalpindi”

She came, She spoke, She smiled and She won the hearts of haters too.

She was also aware of the fact that her life is in danger as she said in her speech
“I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the country out of this crisis.”

Everyone in the Newsroom and other sections of the newspaper were excited. Admiring Her courage, Her stance against Taliban, Her criticism on Military establishment, Her ambition to restore democracy!


Everything was going in right direction. Then we saw the breaking news of attack on Benazir Bhutto and later her death confirmation.

This was big shock to everyone. Every person I saw at that moment was weeping, whether he was a supporter of Benazir Bhutto or not. Everyone’s eyes were wet. Weeping and crying.
A hope had lost.

Later, I went to the Lahore Press Club, which was nearby my office. Scenes there were also horrifying. Most of the journalists were crying out loud. Police forces surround the Press Club as there was threat of violence in reaction. Two police vans were burnt down in front of Lahore Press Club.

Heavy police was deployed on roads and other important places. It seems like that whole city is mourning. Lahore was not Lahore that evening. Terror was in the air. Sorrow was in the blood.

Going back to my place from office, riding my bike on those gloomy roads my heart was echoing these last words of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto

“Go and spread my message that I have returned to serve masses and the country. What is Pindi’s symbol; what is workers symbol; what is laborer’s symbol; what is masses symbol; it is only and only arrow. Thank you very much. Victory will soon bow before you.

Jiye Bhutto, Pakistan Zindabad”.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rise and Fall of Pakistani Cinema

Originally Published at WeSpeakNews

In the words of legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman “Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” This citation substantiates the belief that film is the most powerful form of all communication techniques and leaves a profound impact on the psyche of an individual and in turn affects the society. This influential tool is used for portraying the culture, problems and dreams of a society. As the world has turned into a global village, cinema and film-making plays an important role not only in promoting cultural values and bonding different nations but also in providing an alternate way of expression.

Film Poster "Teri Yaad"

Pakistan, has a rich history of filmmaking. The historic city of Lahore was the hub of filmmaking, prior to the partition of India. It is also said, that the film industry in India was born in Lahore. After the partition, most of the industry migrated to the Mumbai. But still, Lahore was home to a significant number of actors, directors and film producers. The 50s and 60s were the peaks of Pakistani film Industry. They were in competition and at par with the Indian films of that time.

After the partition, reconstruction of the film industry in Pakistan was an uphill task but luckily we had a good number of artists here and they played a very crucial role in laying a solid foundation of the film industry in the country. The first Pakistani film Teri Yaad was released in 1948, which was indeed the first joint effort of Pakistani artists, which was successful. The first blockbuster film in the early days of the Pakistani cinema was Do Ansoo, which released in 1950. Do Ansoo became the first film in Pakistan to enjoy a 25-week run at the box office, eventually achieving a silver jubilee status.

The early days of Pakistani cinema also witnessed the directorial debut of its first woman film director in the legendary singer and actress Noor Jahan. Released in 1951, the Punjabi film Chanwey, was directed by her.
As film viewership increased exponentially in the country during this time, Sassi,(1954) went on to become the first Pakistani film to reach golden jubilee status by playing 50-weeks on theaters.

Around the same time, the first ever Sindhi language film Umar Marvi was released in 1956.

Film Poster "Aaina"
The Pakistani film industry is also known for producing many remarkable and renowned actors, directors, producers, writers and playback singers. Era between 1956-66 is known to be the golden era of Pakistani film industry. During this period, many classical films were made and produced in Pakistan. As of today, Aaina is considered to be the most successful and popular Pakistani film that was ever made. Released on 18 March 1977, it remains a distinct symbol which stands on the threshold between the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto years and the increasingly conservative and revolutionary Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq regime. The film stayed in the cinemas for over 400 weeks.

Armaan, Bandish, Shaheed, Baji, Koel, Amrao Jaan Ada and Baharo Phool Barsao are considered to be the most successful films made during this golden age of the Pakistani cinema. It was during this time that legends like Mehdi Hasan, Salim Raza, Ahmad Rushdi , Noor Jahan, Santoosh Kumar, Darpan, Munawar Zareef, Aslam Pervez, Syed Kamal, Nayyar Sultana, Neelo, Waheed Murad, Mohammad Ali, Nadeem, Sabiha Khanum, Shamim Ara and many others became household names.

Not many in Pakistan know the fact that since the birth of cinema in Pakistan, only two Pakistani films had been submitted for the Oscar Awards, Foreign Language Film Awards category. Both submissions were musical-dramas in Urdu. Pakistan's first Oscar submission was Jago Hua Swera (The Day Shall Dawn, 1959). The movie was filmed in Dhaka, East Pakistan (contemporary Bangladesh) by the East Pakistan Film Development Corporation. Based on a novel by Bengali novelist Manik Bandopadhaya, the film’s screenplay was written by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and it was directed by A.J.Kardar. Scripted in the Urdu language. the film’s storyline was about the daily lives of the fishermen of East Pakistan and won a major award at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Pakistan's second and final Oscar submission, Ghoonghat (The Veil, 1963) was about the disappearance of a veiled young bride on the day she is scheduled to be married off to a rich young man. Since 1963, no Pakistani film has been submitted for Oscars.

The quality of films, scripts, music, lyrics, acting and direction were at its best during the golden era of the 50s and 60s. In the major cities of Pakistan, almost every film attracted a large audience to the movie theaters. Sadly, we couldn’t manage to continue with the legacy of the rich culture, and hence began the downfall.
There were several reasons behind the eroding away of the Pakistani film industry. One of the major reasons was the Fall of Dhaka. It came as a rude and destructive jolt to the Pakistani film industry. At the same time, the mid-70s saw the introduction of video cassette recorders in Pakistan and instantly films from all over the world were copied(pirated) onto tapes, and attendance at cinemas dwindled as people preferred to watch Indian films in the comfort of their homes. This ushered in video piracy in Pakistan. Films began to be copied on tapes on the day they hit the cinemas.

Pakistan’s first venture into English filmmaking was “Beyond the Last Mountain”(1976), initiative of Javed Jabbar . However, the film's Urdu version Musafir did not do well at the box-office.

Under the Martial Law of Zia ul Haq, just like the other genres of arts, cinema also fell prey to its numerous dictats. During this period, classic love stories and Urdu films totally vanished from the scene. The new genre of films that were being made were commonly known as “Gandasa Culture”. “Mola Jutt” , which was a huge success fell into this category of films. Sultan Rahi became famous and hundreds of Punjabi films were produced, proudly showcasing violence, bloodshed and a low degree of sensuality. This trend continued well into the 90s , which resulted in disappearance of audiences from the theatres and the Pakistani film industry almost collapsed. Till 1999, the industry went through a lot of ups and downs.

The present and future of the Pakistani film industry appears to be rather gloomy. It seems to be almost non-existent these days with innumerable screenings of Bollywood films across cinema halls in urban Pakistan, especially where families like to go for a movie.

Here’s what Sara Faruqi writes about the Pakistani film Industry

In the ‘golden days’ of Pakistani cinema, the film industry churned out more than 200 films annually, today it’s one-fifth of what it used to be. The Federal Bureau of Statistics shows that once the country boasted of having at least 700 cinemas operating in the country, this number has dwindled down to less than 170 by 2005.
Nowadays, be it in within the green walls of a dhabba, the garish pink paint of a beauty salon or a soft cream-coloured living room in suburbia, the film being played is most likely a Bollywood or Hollywood blockbuster.

Reportedly, the number of movie theaters in the country has declined from 1,100 in 1985 to just 120 today, and the number of films produced locally has shrunk to fewer than a dozen movies per year. The big studios, which defined the history of the Pakistani film industry, have been closing down, one after the other. Property dealers grabbed the vast acres of land where stood once these iconic studios and turned them into housing properties and shopping malls
Film Poster "Mola Jutt"

The cine goers and enthusiasts of Pakistan puts the blame on a variety of reasons for the steady decline of the film industry in the country. They are namely the VCR, cable television, the Islamization of the Pakistani society by ex-President Zia ul-Haq, and finally DVD piracy. While film industries have weathered changes in viewing habits, it appears that government edicts played a big role in the collapse of the industry. The theater owner wants the government to clamp down on DVD piracy while filmmakers insist that government support is needed to provide sophisticated and up-to-date equipments for film-making. Movies from the neighboring India also get the share of its blame as most Bollywood films have much larger budgets for films and its marketing campaigns.

However, in the last decade, Gen.Pervez Musharaf not only opened the market for independent media houses but also helped in revitalization of the Pakistani film industry by nurturing new talent and encouraging film making. The efforts for the revival of Urdu film industry in Pakistan was also brought into limelight.

In recent years, Shoaib Mansoor played a key role in the reincarnation of Pakistani cinema. His two major hits “Khuda ke Liye” (In the name of God, 2007) and “Bol” (Speak up, 2011) were not only acclaimed in Pakistan but also welcomed across the border. Mehreen Jabbar’s first venture in the form of feature film “Ramchand Pakistani” was also a positive and encouraging step.

Parallely we have also witnessed a substantial progress in the field of independent filmmaking in the country. A new generation of film-makers from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad is taking a keen interest in film direction. Film and Television as a subject is being taught in several universities these days, which, needless to say, is playing a vital role in producing high quality movies and documentaries. The alumni of these educational institutions have produced films, which have been screened in various International film festivals, including India and Europe.

Sharmeen Ubaidullah Chinoy and Samar Minallah are two brilliant film-directors who have made their mark in the field of Documentary film-making.

A young film-maker Nisar Gojali’s film “Burning Paradise” was awarded special mention jury award at South Asia Film festival in held in Ahmadabad, India in January 2011. The film shows the current situation of the Swat valley and people’s opinion on extremism. Gojali’s opinion on the decline of commercial cinema is that most of the investors are not interested in films because they do not see it as a profitable venture. However, the Pakistani civil society and foreign NGOs are funding different organizations and filmmakers for documenatries and short films, especially the ones that are filmed on various contemporary issues. This is why most of the young filmmakers are focusing on independent films and private productions. Full blown feature films require a huge budget, which they cannot invest on their own. Gojali added that he is optimistic about the revival of Pakistani cinema and despite the financial and economic crises, there are bright chances of a flourishing film industry in Pakistan

But the recent statistics of films released in Pakistan does not make a very heartening graph. We witnessed the year 2010 as being the worst ever year in the history of Pakistan film industry where only seven films managed to release, out of which only one Punjabi movie Wohti Le Key Jani Aay by veteran director Syed Noor was declared successful. It did a business of almost Rs 8 million in just two days.
Film Poster "Bol"

After a disastrous 2010, fans of Pakistani cinema got its first Urdu language film Khamosh Raho, starring Juggan Kazim and Shaan, directed by Altaf Hussain, in 2011. Unfortunately it was a disaster on big screen and bombed at the box-office. Later in June this year, Shoaib Mansoor released his second film Bol as a director. The film, starring Atif Aslam, Humaima Abbasi, Mahira Khan and Iman Ali in lead roles, broke all previous records and became the highest grossing movie of Pakistan. While Bol was receiving an outstanding appreciation and tasting success, two more Urdu language movies Love Mein Ghum and Bhai Log released. Both films were Eid gifts to the whole nation and were welcomed warmly by the Pakistani audience.

This year we also witnessed the release of the controversial film Slackistan. However, the film didn’t hit the theaters in Pakistan as the director refused to make any cuts to the film as requested by the country's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC). According to The Guardian, the CBFC objected to the movie because it had swear words in English and Urdu, and "contains the words 'Taliban' and 'lesbian'”.

Pakistan film industry is passing through a period of transition, where a whole new generation is replacing the previous one. New faces are emerging in the movie industry, which is a healthy sign. Unique and tabooed issues are being brought into the limelight via the storytelling on silver screen. No doubt it is a positive change and we can hope that within few years young Pakistani filmmakers will totally change the old concepts of filmmaking. It is too early to claim any success but at least it is safe to predict that our film industry is moving in the right direction. Upcoming films like “Gidh”,“Waar”, “The Dusk”, “Freedom Sound” and “Kolachi” can bring in remarkable change to the film industry of Pakistan.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Walk Inside Lohari Gate of Lahore

Lohari Gate

Photo Credits: Shiraz Hassan 

The Lohari Gate is one of the 13 gates of the walled city of Lahore. Being one of the oldest gates of the old city, Lohari Gate is also known as Lahori gate.

According to some historians, the original (old) city of Lahore was originally located near Ichhra, and this gate opened towards that side. Hence the name, Lahori gate.

The name also traces back its roots to the language of Urdu, in which, “Lohar” means Blacksmith. This could also be another reason behind naming it this way. However, there are no concrete evidences available that blacksmiths used to live or work here.

The bazar inside Lohari gate is known as Lohari Mandi (Lohari Market) which is one of the oldest markets of South Asia. In the distant past, caravans and travelers coming from Multan used to enter the city from this gate. According to historians, behind Lohari Gate once stood a brick fort called Kacha Kot which was probably the first fortified city of Lahore founded by Malik Ayaz.

During the Mughal rule, the two famous divisions of the Walled City, namely Guzar Bahar Khan and Guzar Machhi Hatta, were connected by this Gate. Unfortunately, during the anarchic rule of the 18th century, all the city gates, except Lohari Gate along with two other gates were walled up. The current building of Lohari gate was rebuilt in 1864 by Sir Robert Montgomery, the then Governor of Punjab.

Leaving aside its historical significance, the Lohari gate tells many tales and you always enjoy your visit to this place. Upon entering the gate, you find lines of shops selling grocery and dry edibles. On the other side, there are quite a few shops which sell Kebabs, Cutlets and cooked food. The bazaar has some really good eateries, with the Shaikh Chatkhara House being an outstanding one - where almost all the menu items, are cooked in authentic Lahori style.

In the same area you will find sweetmeat shops which also sell hot breads right out of the oven and Nan Kulchas.

The Lohari Bazaar, after reaching the Bukhari Chowk crossing, turns left, to ‘Lohari Mandi’ - which on its right, has the famous ‘Haji Nehari House’ and on the left, a few shops selling meat and grocery.

The bazaar and its streets present the inimitable, true-blue Lahori life and culture.

Moving further inside Lohari Mandi, the path branches into two at Bukhari chowk. One of them leads to ‘Pani Wala and I wandered into it somewhat aimlessly.

Enjoying the sight of old men idling away in front of the shops and children running around, I found myself crossing the Pani Wala Talab and landing right in front of the Taxali Gate.

This part of the town is well known for its association with music and dance. Here, on both sides of the street that runs through this bazaar, are residential quarters which house singers and dancers. The shops are mostly small hotels or sell musical instruments like Dholak, Harmonium and Tabla. Somewhere in the middle of this bazaar you find the Roshanai Gate on your left.

Crossing this gate, I eventually passed through Hazoori Bagh and finally reached the landmark destinations of The Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque.

Pathuray Wala, Outside Lohari

Chaat-Wala, Muslim Mosque in Background

Newspaper Wala

The Gate

Passing through

Inside view, dome of gate

Baqar Khani wala

Jalebi Wala

Lohari Mandi

Hookah Shop

Old Architecture 

Naan wala

Masaalay Wala

Hustle Bustle

Bukhari Chowk

Old ruins

Shahi Mohallah

Coco's Den

Shahi Mohallah

Roshanai Gate