Why Recycle Bollywood?

Why Recycle Bollywood?

Prime Minister Imran Khan gave prudent advice to young filmmakers at the first National Amateur Short Film Festival (NASFF) Awards ceremony, held in Islamabad on June 26. He said that they should do original work rather than copy Indian cinema or that of any other country.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan challenges film makers to produce original content at the National Amateur Short Film Festival (NASFF) Awards Ceremony in Islamabad, on June 26, 2021.

However, even this earnest advice has not gone down well with the Prime Minister’s habitual detractors, who went after him, all guns blazing, both on the social and the traditional media. Some even argued that Pakistani and Indian cultures were the same, contradicting history which shows that Muslims and Hindus — despite living together for centuries — have their own distinct cultures, values, beliefs and way of life. And it was these fundamental differences that eventually became the basis of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Those Muslims, who are living in India now, are either being forced to dilute their religious identity in order to survive in Hindu-majority India or face continuing discrimination, victimisation and harassment at the hands of extremist Hindu zealots, who are victimising other religious minorities as well.

Then, there were those detractors, who gave examples of the good work that was done by Pakistani film makers in the past, and challenged Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assertion that they were only remaking Bollywood hits. These detractors are not entirely wrong as a lot of original and pathbreaking work has and is being done by Pakistani artists. However, the dominant trend of copying and plagiarising foreign content has persisted, which is one of the main factors behind the decline of the Pakistani film industry.

Unfortunately, all these critics seem to be missing the crux of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s message to young filmmakers, which is that the “world values the original,” and that they should not ape Bollywood or Hollywood but rather create their own original content.

In any creative endeavour, originality remains at the heart of success. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s message to the new breed of filmmakers, that they should not follow the beaten track, makes sense and carries weight. So is his warning that the fear of failure remains the biggest impediment in the path of victory. Therefore, one should never be averse to taking risks.   

The mega-success of the Turkish drama series, Ertugrul, in Pakistan is proof of the fact that a massive market for alternate content exists in the country. It is not necessarily vulgar, shallow and nonsensical content that sells.

Another important message, which the Prime Minister gave at the NASFF Awards ceremony was the need to showcase and promote the diversity and uniqueness of Pakistan and its culture, which the world has not seen yet, through cinema. This means exploring new concepts and stories, showcasing fresh landscapes, and breaking new ground.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also rightly challenged the notion of building the country’s soft-image — a phrase which became a buzzword when the so-called US-led War on Terror was at its peak. Pakistan does not need to create or invent any image just to please the West or to get a condescending nod of approval from the United States or the European Union.

In this diverse world, the Eurocentric or the American way of life is not the only path to progress and development. Every country, every nation has the right to carve out its own niche and destiny. Pakistan need not develop a so-called soft image just to please the West. It has to stick to its own identity and promote what the Prime Minister described as “Pakistaniat.”

It is heartening that the clichéd, meaningless notions of the West are finally being questioned and challenged in Pakistan at the highest official level. This battle of ideas needs to be intensified so that Pakistan, especially its ruling elite, shed its slavish colonial mentality and rid itself of all Western dogmas that are being thrust upon us. The first step for reasserting Pakistan and Pakistaniat is a strong belief in one’s self. This mission should be close to the heart of every Pakistani.

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