Pashto film industry needs radical change

Asif Khan Turk

The question “who do watch Pashto movies?” often arises at different functions and is discussed among the educated Pashto speakers. However, silence is better than answering this question as the role of a professor, doctor, engineer, journalist, advocate and other key professionals is very rare in almost all Pashto films.  

It shows that Pashto film-makers are uneducated and they don’t know about the stories related to education, health, sports, judiciary, media, commerce, arts, literature, religion and other fields of life. And they are limited to crime and love stories only.  

Majority of Pashto movies are structured on similar ideas. Hero, heroine and villain have the main roles and all the story rotates around them. Similarly, they focus on gun culture and vulgarity in the name of love. Due to this state of affairs, these movies are watched by a specific class as one cannot watch these movies in the company of family members and friends.

These so-called Pashto movies also display the narrow mindset of their directors and producers who have no idea about the stories of the works of Pashtuns in education, science and technology, arts and other areas. They are limited to guns, explosives and vulgarity, etc. These films reveal that Pashtuns only commit crimes and are extremely interested in vulgarity and have nothing to do with any positive aspect of life, while they also don’t have any relation with building peace, social responsibilities, and cultural values. By this type of attitude, only a dark picture of Pashtun society is promoted which is not true.  

Hasan Ali Shah, a senior journalist, playwright, actor and producer at a leading Pashto TV channel, is of the view: “Fighting, murders, gun culture, revenge and vulgar scenes and dances were introduced in almost all Pashto movies to meet the needs of commercialism. While the sensor board has adopted silence and permitted this practice. When the decline of Pashto films started, Pashto tele-films and CD dramas were introduced who crossed all the limits of immorality and introduced Pashtuns as a cruel people, murderers and terrorist nation in Pakistan and abroad.”  

He further says: “Due to the unavailability of relevant legislation, anyone who has money can make a film without any proper check. In the film industry, 90% producers invest only for their commercial purpose that is the basic reason of the decline of film industry. Directors, writers, choreographers and even producers are unaware of the culture, civilisation and social and moral values of the Pashtuns. Forty years ago anyone was able to visit cinemas to watch Pashto movies but now majority of the public are unable to do it. By watching and following these movies, youth is adversely being affected. In rural areas, uneducated youngsters try to become gangsters. All these producers, directors and actors are responsible for making the situation worst by destroying the prestige of the Pashtuns.”

In the decline of Pashto cinema, these so-called Pashto movies have played a key role. The closure of several Pashto cinemas across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has affected the number of movie-goers which has added to the problems associated with this sector.

According to Kashif Malik, a young journalist, “Whenever we talk about Pashto language and literature, we can say Pashto is among the rich languages and its literature is one of the esteemed literatures. Because it is somehow close to reality of human life. However, if we look at today’s Pashto films and CD dramas, they are totally opposite to literature. Because, in Pashto literature there is no promotion of gun culture but in these pictures we may see this evil clearly. These films present a view that Pashtuns are conservative and narrow-minded, which is not the reality. Therefore, our film-makers must try to produce constructive and quality movies.”

The role of the provincial government cannot be denied in this regard. Unfortunately, during the last provincial government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, no sustainable and effective cultural policy could be established. The sensor board is functional only in the documents of culture department. There is no programme for the training of the artists in the province. This shows the failure of the provincial government with respect to culture promotion.

Prof Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousufzai, an internationally renowned scientist, educationist and expert of Pashtun culture and literature, opines: “It is must for the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other authorities concerned to rectify flaws in the production of such movies. Today’s Pashto film industry needs radical changes with proper management and extraordinary care to attract the public by making knowledge-based good quality movies addressing the prevalent social and related issues. Educated writers and relevant institutions such as Pashto Academy, and journalism and sociology departments of the University of Peshawar must play their due role to address the poor state-of-affairs in this sector.”

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