Sarmad Khoosat: Earning recognition in Pakistan

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Pakistani cinema is flourishing after seeing the dark era for more than a decade. With the release of films like Jawani Phir Nahi Aani franchise, Parey Hut Love and Teefa in Trouble, we can surely say that the cinema is on the rise once again. All of these films were made keeping the commercial aspect in mind and how to attract the audience and increase footfall. However, in this race of ‘who gets the most audience’, filmmakers have put behind the idea of artistic cinema. Unlike the rest of the world, stereotypical topics have been ignored. We do not see films raising the questions about atrocities prevalent in our societies and how marginalized communities have been suppressed for decades. And it is understandable from their point of view because even if someone dares to portray such stories through films, they are faced with the sanctions and end up getting banned from showcasing films in the cinema. Films like Javed Iqbal, Maalik, Verna, Durj and the list goes on, have faced a similar fate.

One of the filmmakers who has always made films on such topics despite the scrutiny from censor boards, law and regulatory bodies and the public is Samrad Khoosat. He is a big name in the industry not only carrying a great legacy of his surname but also making his own on the way. He has made some outstanding films like Manto, Kamli (set to release on 3rd June) and the recent talk of the town: Joyland. He is known for creating magic on screen and delivering the most controversial topics in the most eloquent way. But has he gotten the appreciation he deserves? We don’t think so. He has come under scrutiny multiple times. His film Zindagi Tamasha which was set to release in 2019 got banned from screening in Pakistan. It premiered at the 24th Busan International Film Festival and won awards at Busan and at the 2021 Asian World Film Festival in Los Angeles. However, it was banned from its own homeland. Similarly, Joyland has stirred quite some controversy in the country on the choice of topic. While it wins hearts at Cannes and gets the much-deserved appreciation, it is still to be decided if it will be showcased in Pakistani cinema. In his interview with Anupama Chopra, the director of Joyland, Saim Sadiq mentioned how he has yet to plan the release of the film in Pakistan. “We might have to add or remove some scenes according to the requirements of the censor board for it to be released in Pakistan’ he added.

The film is being praised all over the world and in Pakistan. But learning from history, why is it that Pakistan is the last one to give due credit to the art after it is acclaimed all over the world. And this raises the question of whether we would have welcomed the film with the same enthusiasm if it had not won in Cannes?

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Musa Qaiser
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