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Identity crisis of Lollywood; Why Bin Roye is far better than JPNA

Although some might say it is not fair to compare the two; Bin Roye being a serious ‘drama-type’ film whereas Jawani Phir Nahi Aani is a purely commercial rom-com, I make this comparison because Pakistan is going through a metamorphasizing stage in the film industry and during this stage an identity will be established and it is important to choose wisely what ‘watermark-image’ will work best for us and these two films serve as an excellent litmus test.

 The streak of good Lollywood films which began in the past decade with Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda k Liye caught speed in the recent couple of years and soon talented directors, actors and producers dived in the whirlpool of talent to come up with spectacular conceptualizations and productions. Not to mention the enchanting music from our ever green music industry which established a global repute long before the film sector started to compete on that level in recent years. Soon after Khuda ke Liye, Shoaib Mansoor came up with another spectacular hit; Bol and developed a reputation of respect for the ability to encapsulate meaningful stories in a way which touched hearts and left an impact. The young film maker Bilal Lashari is to be credited for the next big hit; Waar- which was a film bigger than a film- it became a source of pride for Pakistanis.

These films are what turned the attention of international critics and film industry towards the previously rotting and much ridiculed (rightly so) Lollywood.

The previous identity of Lollywood started changing from Meera of the ‘shaart bathroom break’ to the graceful and talented Mahira Khan, from the Gujjar Shaan to the heartthrob Shaan (The difference good producers can make) and from heroes with mustaches and guns to Hamza Ali Abbasi and Fawad Khan who redefined hero- taking the word to the next classy level.

When JPNA was released, it created uproar and was enjoyed by a vast majority of viewers who absolutely loved the comedy and fast-paced story. Fan followings of some of the leading stars; coupled with twists and turns, items songs and good comedy sky rocketed JPNA’s box office ratings and soon it was Pakistan’s highest grossing film. Considering the fact that it did more business than movies like Mission Impossible, Fast & Furious etc. this is sure to be awed at. So where did it go wrong?

JPNA presented a mixture of non original ideas and suffered from a severe identity crisis. Ironically, it even left one of the leading actors, Hamza Abbasi confused, criticized and controversial.

Known for his heart breaking good looks and charm, out class acting skills, his strong political views and his facebook statuses, even he seems to regret filming one of the songs in the film.  Since by that time the filming was done and the contract was signed, there was nothing much he could do about it. Although he is much criticized for having ‘double standards’ I think he is the only one who doesn’t. He did not justify his actions as right and those of all others as wrong as is the norm of our society, he judged himself honestly too. A lot of people do things they would have criticized had others done it- he had the guts to admit it. The touch of desperation in JPNA was highlighted by the fact that neither of the two item songs was any good and worse than the unbearable music was the choreography. Same goes for the ‘tutti frutti’ of the otherwise good ‘Karachi se Lahore’. This can serve as a trial indicator of what we are good at and what we are not; what is our thing and what is not.

Pakistan film industry needs to understand that it cannot excel at its identity if it plays by borrowing from across here and over there. We need to be known for something that is exclusively our style, our water mark. That is definitely not houseful-type films coupled with brides dancing about their jalwas in ‘choli’s.

Yes, it is a certified quick money making tactic but at this stage of blooming, the industry should focus upon building an identity rather than stocking accounts. The main reason for this is that it is senseless trying to compete with Bollywood with something they are decades of experience ahead and have established themselves as the ultimate trade mark. In economics while studying markets this is known as analyzing the learning curve. They are far ahead of us in the learning curve which means that even if we do start now at lower costs (budgets in this case) with far greater quality, they have an established ‘brand loyalty’, making it an unwise choice of decision for competition.

JPNA did well ‘with in’ Pakistan because of the dedicated cast and the curiosity of seeing the new big ‘Pakistani’ film. With time this curiosity will die and audience will once again shift to Indian films which offer the ‘better and bigger’ in this direction.

What makes Pakistani drama industry so much more successful than the Indian drama industry is the fact that our heroines are not dolled up all the time. Our scenes are not overly dramatic. We do not have insane back-to-life character revivals. We do not have a million episodes. Had we started borrowing the identity of Indian dramas, imagine the nightmare television would have been. We did our own thing, highlighted strong stories, strong original characters, serious issues and hence within a decade our drama industry value sky rocketed.

The start of the revival of film in Pakistan began with original movies with strong conceptualizations and out class music. JPNA does not have any songs worthy of being listened to even twice whereas Bin Roye has exceptional music. Bin Roye has dances too, beautiful ones with if not extraordinary, fairly good choreography and they are filmed in a way to maintain originality, identity and class.

I conducted a mini survey to analyze the views of people on JPNA vs. Bin Roye. On the question that which of the two films would they select to represent Lollywood film Industry on an international forum, surprisingly 30/30 people said Bin Roye!

Aimen, an undergrad student commented, “Look, JPNA is comedy and people love comedy but the dressing and the concept, how it is filmed, it is not good. Looked like an Indian movie to me.”

Madiha thought JPNA was much more fun but when asked to choose one she choose Bin Roye saying, “JPNA is a mixture of Indian movies no entry, masti and one other film which’s name I can’t remember.”

When the special ingredients from the recipe of success are taken out what is left behind? Just a recipe. No success. Pakistani film makers should build their own repute through originality rather than ripping off trends from across the border. This originality is needed to maintain a legacy in the long term. These are the defining years of the industry and it is poisonous to lose its identity even before fully establishing one.