The good old days of the film industry –

ONCE there used to be camel carts carrying posters of movies to be screened at 20 different cinemas in Hyderabad. Along with the cart could be seen Badamani, a tall, giant of a man pretending to be and attired as the genie from film Saqi (1952).
Cigarette kiosks, hair salons and teashops would have posters of their favourite films, actors and actresses. My father once told me that on the day when his friend Noor was about to be born, Noor’s father was waiting in a queue to buy a ticket to watch Dilip Kumar’s Aan (1952) at the New Majestic Cinema in Hyderabad.
There were more than 20 cinemas in Hyderabad alone, including New Majestic, Nishat, Capitol, Qaiser, Noor Mehal, Elite, Firdous, Shalamar, Odeon, Shams, Rahat, Venus, Bambino, Shahab, Chandni, Capri, Hill Top, Koh-i-Noor, Chiragh Mehal, Shaheen, Sangeet and others. Seth Koki was the main person who used to manage the movement of movies from Karachi to Hyderabad.
The titles of Hollywood movies were often changed to entice those who could not make head or tail of the English language. The change in titles was a way of giving them an idea of what a particular movie was about. For example, The Professionals (1966) became Kiraye Kay Gorilay, Mackenna’s Gold (1969) became Sonay Ki Talash, Where Eagles Dare (1968) became Uqabon Ka Nasheman, and The Great Escape (1963) was called Janam Kay Qaaidi.
Back then, the script, theme, cast and storyline of movies used to be available in the form of booklets for sale inside the theatres, probably costing one ‘anna’.
Things started to change for the worse in the 1980s. Censorship made heavy inroads and the film industry at large took a nosedive. Filmmakers and cinema-owners suffered alike during that extended phase. Losing hope for a revival, cinemas soon started to get replaced by huge commercial and residential plazas. The loss of the cinema-owners was the gain of the builders.
About 10 years ago, Hyderabad had four cinemas — New Majestic, Qaiser, Bambino and Shahab. Today, there are only two; Bambino and Shahab. Needless to say, they are in a dilapidated condition awaiting their own demise.
The national film industry till the 1970s was a vibrant entity, producing films, such as Street 77 (1960), Daal Mai Kala (1962), Raat Kay Rahi (1960), Shatranj (1964), Khamosh Raho (1964), and Insaaf Aur Qanoon (1971), giving us a message of social reforms.
Now it has been two years since the so-called ‘Lollywood’ released any film at all. Why is that so? Why are artists not working on new projects? Are they afraid of bankruptcy?
While the world has moved on, we are producing low-grade content both in terms of serials and movies. From Money Heist to Ertugrul, the approach to concepts and storytelling have changed and Pakistani audiences enjoy the choices they have.
In essence, the problem is not with the audience, but with those producing and sponsoring substandard serials and movies.
In the name of social drama, we are producing nothing but trash, with storylines revolving around romance, divorce, polygamy and such other stuff. Our filmmakers and artists should work on fresh ideas.
Saqlain Soomro

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2022 Pvt. Ltd. ( for Dawn.
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