Journey through Pakistani cinema

As Pakistani cinema has made the ‘much touted’ comeback there was a gap for a light-hearted book, which looked at certain interesting aspects of the local cinema

“….Cinema has been a part of my life since before I can remember. It has been an active catalyst; when I watched Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue aged thirteen, and immediately accepted that reality is just a state of mind. It has been a passive specter; when the name Maula Jatt became part of my vocabulary before I actually saw the man…” These are the opening words of Ushah Kazi’s book, The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema, published by Beyond Sanity Publishing, Islamabad.

While the book’s title is distinctive and glamorous, it reveals Ushah’s innate thoughts while she reflects over Pakistani cinema and its evolution over the years.

According to Ushah Kazi, her book is a light-handed take on understanding Pakistan’s cinematic tradition and industry. “I love to read, and as Pakistan’s cinema has made the ‘much touted’ comeback…I was interested in reading about what was happening. Most books about Pakistani cinema, either date back to the 1990s, or are academic, and I felt that there was a gap for a light-hearted book, which looked at certain interesting aspects of the local cinema.”

As Pakistani cinema has made the ‘much touted’ comeback there was a gap for a light-hearted book, which looked at certain interesting aspects of the local cinema

The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema explores all major eras of Pakistani cinema. It is divided into five chapters with each researching a specific aspect of the local cinema. While Ushah has penned a history of the Pakistani cinema, she has also touched upon significance of box-office results.

Ushah’s simple yet appealing writing style examines Pakistani cinema’s dynamics, history, and progress. Therefore, this book is more of a discourse of the author who aims to send readers into a cinematic and social introspection as they go on a journey through time, while experiencing its many facets. Moreover, Ushah Kazi also touches on horror, a genre often ignored and seldom produced for the big screen in the country.

Ushah, who has been writing since she was fifteen and the founder of the website, , seems to have put her soul in The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema.

The first two chapters, titled, ‘Talking numbers: profit margins, box office and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani’ and ‘Art, entertainment, social change and Jalaibee,’ set the book’s tone.

The third chapter, tilted, ‘Women and Pakistani Cinema; feminism, film and Josh,’ ponders the idea of women’s role in cinema and gives particular examples of Pakistani cinema female icons that have stood the test of time and presented a “larger-than-life” aura, including Madam Noor Jehan, Rani, Babra Sharif and Reema. Ushah, in this chapter, talks about the relationship Pakistani women have the country’s cinema and how it affected them.

The fifth chapter, ‘Hello Darkness My Old Friend; Pakistan’s history with Horror’ while referring movies as ‘Zinda Lash,’ ‘Sar Katta Insaan,’ and ‘Adam Khor,’ provides readers with a brief history of horror movies produced in Pakistan. Ushah also compares Pakistani horror movies to their Hollywood counterparts and mentions reasons why the latter are more interesting.

“Pakistani cinema has a modest but longstanding relationship with horror. It goes back all the way to the 1960s at least, and has maintained throughout local cinema’s most turbulent decades. With the post 2007 resurgence, a number of Pakistani horror films have been made, but the critical and commercial response (even from the industry itself) has been mild at best,”

“Despite the pitfalls, they continue to be produced and deserve to be discussed,” Ushah writes in her book.

The fifth and final chapter of the book tantalisingly titled ‘Is it okay to hate a Pakistani film? Critics, national interests and Karachi vs Lahore’, brings out the film critic inside the author.

For movie buffs and a through history and understanding of the Pakistani cinema, The Pop-Culture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema is a must-read, and Ushah Kazi’s casual tone will keep the readers hooked.

Published in Daily Times, July 5th 2018.