The year 2013 will go down in the history of Pakistani cinema as one of its most successful ones. Not only did the industry thrive with the opening of new multiplex cinemas in the country, the success of Pakistani films became a regular feature for a change. And yes, the gandasa had no role in the revival of local films; in fact, its absence was a big help!
Bilal Lashari’s Waar ended the year as the most successful Pakistani film ever screened and its business of Rs. 23 crore is a proof of that. The flick had Urdu as its second language; even then it outscored Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (Rs. 5 crore) and Chambaili (Rs. 2.5 crore) by a huge margin. Although Waar had its moments (both good and ‘evil’), it should be indebted to Ismail Jilani’s Chambaili which made people realize that even a Pakistani film could give its Indian counterparts a hard time.
Chambaili was pitted against Aashiqui 2 (which crossed the Rs. 100 crore mark all over the world) and came out with flying colours. It had the perfect dialogues (like a feature film should have), amazing cinematography (the locales never looked this good!) and above all, music by Najam Sheraz that was liked by many, if not all. The film was singlehandedly responsible in making people realize the importance of vote and the Chambaili effect will surely take place the next time the country goes to poll.
As for Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, I liked the film because it had a perfect blend of Pakistaniyat in it. It was a story about a village boy who plays like Shahid Afridi, dreams big and achieves the impossible with the help of his coach and friends. Unlike Humayun Saeed’s three previous film efforts (in Pakistan that is, he did work in a Bollywood movie Jashnn as well), this film has something that they all lacked – Humayun Saeed the actor.
People called the movie a Chak De India rip off but the Bollywood blockbuster was itself a mixture of Miracle and Mystery Alaska; they termed MHSA a below-average attempt but it managed to go houseful for a considerable time because of the way it was made; and it gave margin to all the actors unlike Waar where the movie was based on just one character. Veteran actors Nadeem sahab, Jawed Sheikh, Shafqat Cheema and Ismail Tara were lauded for their brilliant acting, plus the movie gave the cinema industry newcomers like Hamza Ali Abbasi, Gohar Rasheed and Noman Habib, who played the title role.
And then there was Zinda Bhaag, Pakistan’s official nomination for the Oscars despite featuring talents from across the border. Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi directed this Mazhar Zaidi film that was liked by all since it had a pacy screenplay, featured the acting talents of the legendary Naseeruddin Shah and tackled a subject that was related to the people, not to the masses. Model Amna Ilyas’s acting was lauded even by the critics of the film, since she wasn’t the typical ‘Haye Allah’ type of heroine we are used to.
That’s not all for the local movies; Shehzad Rafique’s Ishq Khuda, Iram Parveen Bilal’s Josh, Mansoor Mujahid’s Lamha (aka Seedlings) and Azfar Jafri’s Siyaah also graced the screens. While the Punjabi-language Ishq Khuda (featuring Shaan, Ahsan Khan and Meera) did well in the Punjab region, the rest left without making a mark. Josh and Lamha won many international awards due to their tackling of serious issues, but such artsy movies don’t create magic at the box office. Siyaah could have done that since it was based on black magic but people don’t go for that anymore, not when life itself is a horror story in the country.
If you talk about the movies from across the border, this year has seen many surprise hits; many surprise flops and quite a large number of surprise films that shouldn’t have been made at all! Surprise hits include the high-grossing Aashiqui 2, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani and Chennai Express that didn’t have any substance yet managed to cross the 100-crore barrier. The success of Akshay Kumar’s Special 26 was also surprising but it had all the ingredients required from a hit – it was fast, based on a true incident and you never knew what would happen next! Comedies like Chashme Baddoor (featuring Ali Zafar) and Fukrey were commercially successful since they provided people a chance to forget their daily routine and smile for a change. Lawyer flicks Jolly LLB and Shahid didn’t disappoint due to their story telling whereas the classy Lootera and the politically-correct Satyagraha managed to draw crowds to the theatre as well.
The last quarter of the year brought Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela and Rajkumar Santoshi’s Phata Poster Nikla Hero. While the former was grand in scale and was inspired by Romeo and Juliet, the latter was one of the many incarnations of Andaaz Apna Apna, and fans weren’t disappointed from what they were offered.
The year belonged to sequels though since Race 2, Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3 dominated the scene. In fact, by the time you read this, Dhoom 3 would have become the highest grossing Bollywood film, surpassing Krrish 3 (Rs. 220 crore) and Chennai Express (Rs. 208 crore)! The Aamir Khan-starrer collected Rs. 200 crore in just three days, something that hasn’t been done before! Another sequel – Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai Dobaara – had the potential but didn’t do well just like Vishal Bharadwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, John Abraham’s I, Me Aur Main, Mickey Virus, Ek Thi Dayan and Aurangzeb. Karan Johar’s Gori Tere Pyaar Mein got a successful run partly due to the temporary ban on import of Bollywood movies and partly because of the presence of Kareena Kapoor-Khan!
As for the movies that shouldn’t have passed the ‘commonsense’ Board, we had Ajay Devgn’s Himmatwala which was mediocre by all standards. The movie had a tiger (for crying out loud!), a heroine with thunder thighs (who dons eastern clothes as soon as she reforms from being a bitch) and Ajay Devgn at his worst! The movies that tried to match its stupidity included Sunny Deol’s Singh Sahab The Great, Akshay Kumar’s Boss, Ranbir Kapoor’s Besharam and the remake of Zanjeer. All these flicks were exceedingly stupid, especially Besharam since it featured the Kapoors (parents Rishi and Neetu alongside son Ranbir) for the first time. How the director managed to do that, still remains a mystery!
Let’s move towards Hollywood … Fast and Furious 6 topped the list of Hollywood movies with a business of (approx) Rs. 7.5 crore. The movie was also especially screened at Nueplex Cinema in Karachi after the death of its star Paul Walker later in the year. Man of Steel, Wolverine, Iron Man 3 and Thor – The Dark World also did well at the box office in Pakistan. I don’t have anything against the other flicks but when you have a superhero in the movie, people turn up in super numbers!
Movies like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, RIPD, Ben Affleck-starrer Runner, Runner and Steve Jobs biopic Jobs flopped while Ron Howard’s Rush did business every time it was screened on public demand. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger made it to the screen for the first time (not including The Expendables!) with Escape Plan and created the magic that eluded them for the past decade. The Lone Ranger, The Hangover III and World War Z were moderately successful but the biggest surprise hit of the year was Now You See Me, which dazzled all those who watched it.
There were Maula Jutt kind of Hollywood flicks – A Good Day to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down, Elysium and Oblivion; science fiction with stellar graphics – Pacific Rim, Gravity, Riddick, and Ender’s Game; as well as dramas – Captain Phillips, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Prisoners, Diana and The Great Gatsby.
Sequels like Star Trek Into Darkness, Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire also did good business, while The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is running successfully in theatres, thanks to the increasing number of multiplexes throughout the country. There were a number of animated flicks that also got screened with The Croods, Epic, Despicable Me 2, Jack The Giant Slayer, Free Birds, Frozen, Monsters University to name a few.
Entertainment was at its best with theatre in Pakistan, especially in Karachi where Anwar Maqsood gave as many as three successful plays that were loved by all. His first play Aangan Terrha went on stage on 8th February in Karachi and completed 101 consecutive shows in one city – a record – after which the cast performed in Lahore and Islamabad. His next theatre play Sawa 14 August went public on 14 August and kept on going till early November with performances in the three major cities of the country. Anwar Maqsood’s latest Haaf Playt is currently being performed in Karachi (it began on 10th December) and judging by the public’s response, it seems it will do as well as its predecessors. Kudos to director Dawar Mehmood and his team at KopyKats Productions!
Veteran actor Salman Shahid returned to theatre through Abdullah Farhatullah’s Sultana Daku which managed to enthrall audiences in the three cities in the latter half of the year. Musical comedies Dhaani and Andhera Ujala also tried to go the ‘Anwar Maqsood way’ but couldn’t capture the same level of success, despite having Mrs. Anwar Maqsood as one of the writers for Dhaani (title pays tribute to the Strings song, which is a poem by Zehra Nigah).
On the whole, 2013 was a year that we should list as a benchmark. Karachi got two new multiplexes – Cinepax at Ocean’s Mall and Nueplex at The Place – while City Auditorium at Ayesha Manzil was converted into a ‘Cinepax’ to facilitate those on the other side of the bridge. Islamabad-ies got their first own multiplex in Centaurus Cineplex whereas Cinegold Plex in Rawalpindi ensured that the capital city gets its dose of films regularly. The scene is finally ON!
Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]