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No joyride for Joyland

Many years ago, a prominent daily newspaper carried a column where For and Against views were sought from two sides. The theme was whether India and Pakistan should get into a joint venture to produce films. Not strangely, as things work in our profession, the side I chose was already committed to the Pakistani representative, a lady filmmaker. I was left to debate against her point of view which was that India should enter into joint ventures to produce films with Pakistan.

Why? My stand was that the Indian film industry was thriving and had no need for a Pakistani co-production. Also, it was not our job to promote or prop up the Pakistani film industry with joint productions. For most of its life, the Pakistani cinema chains have survived on Indian films when they are not banned in Pakistan off and on. So, by promoting the Pakistani film industry, should we compromise our own interests?

My final summation was that if Pakistani filmmakers really wanted to join hands, they had better start with their counterparts in our Punjab. After all, Punjabi is a language spoken on both sides. Also, our Punjabi industry was comatose in those days, and both made loud and crude films.

Pakistan still makes such crude films full of gore and violence and they are lapped up by the audience. Imagine, ‘The Legend Of Maula Jatt’, a remake of the 1979 film, ‘Maula Jatt’, was the biggest Pakistani hit in Pakistan as well as in the overseas market, where it is matching the box-office figures of Indian films such as ‘RRR’! If the original was a huge hit, the 2022 version is even a bigger hit. No wonder, in that country, a contemporary new film, ‘Joyland’, has to struggle even to get a decent release.

The film is about a married man falling in love with a transgender dancer. Pakistan is not ready for such a theme. To think that the film has won awards at various international festivals and is Pakistan’s nomination for the Oscars does not help. The film has fallen prey first to the fear of mullahs and now to politics.

A mutilated version (thanks to the Censors in Pakistan) has been released in all provinces except Punjab, which is controlled by the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) headed by the country’s deposed Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

Whereas India has one censor certification authority with regional offices serving the other language film industries, Pakistan has five, each independent of the other.

Pakistan is no country for creativity, and it had better stick to making ‘Maula Jatt’ kind of films. Because the audience there still loves what it loved in 1979. Malala Yousafzai has lent her name to ‘Joyland’ and while Pakistan is proud to have a Nobel Prize winner of Pakistani origin, her endorsement of the film carries no weight.

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