Golden Age Cinema

Slackistan movie posterI love movies. I am a total movie junkie. So Amna Mela’s blog post on Express Tribune really touched a nerve with me. Nothing makes me more frustrated than being the only person who hasn’t seen a movie – and can’t! Amna’s blog post was especially infuriating to me because I read it on the same day that I read about a new pact between Hollywood and Bollywood to increase production and distribution of each other’s films. Everyone else is working together, and we are pushing people away.

Unlike Amna, I admit that I like cheesy Bollywood films sometimes. Kal Ho Naa Ho made me cry. Salaam Namaste made me laugh. I also like American films. I could watch the Bourne Identity movies a hundred times and still not be tired of them.

Part of the reason that I like movies so much is that it’s a window into the hopes and dreams of other people. Certainly not all Indians can sing and dance, and not all Americans are good looking action heroes. But if I like these movies made by other people, I know that we at least have that in common – the desire to escape from the reality for even two hours only. We can laugh and cry at the same stories because, basically, at our core we are the same – we want love, we struggle through hard times, and eventually we make some peace with ourselves.

So it makes me furious that while the rest of the world is opening up the global dialogue through cinema, we are remaining closed. I don’t have any proof of why, but I have my suspicions, so please do permit me one small conspiracy theory here.

When I was younger my brother and I were watching Indiana Jones. We were completely engrossed when my auntie came in and sat down. I didn’t notice at first, but then she started clucking her tongue at everything. It was getting really annoying. Finally, I asked if she was okay.

“What are you two watching?”

“Indiana Jones.”

“India Jones?! What is this India Jones. Why not Pakistan Jones?”

“Auntie, please, it’s INDIANA Jones. It’s an American movie. Very good.”

She clucked her tongue some more.

“I think there is something better to watch…”

After about fifteen minutes, we gave up and went outside. It was clear that she was going to complain through the entire film. The funny thing is, my auntie loves movies too. But to her, movies are only Armaan or Intezaar. She loves these old black and white features that remind her of being a young girl. Maybe I’ll be the same way when I’m her age and only want to watch Indiana Jones. Who knows.

My point is that I think too many people are looking for cinema to escape reality not for two hours, but for every day. It’s like, if we close off access to certain films, what is depicted in them ceases to exist. But life doesn’t work that way. There’s a new British comedy about jihadis called ‘Four Lions’. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can guarantee you that banning this film will not get rid of jihadis. If it would, I would be organizing a march today.

I don’t know why anyone would not want to show Harry Potter. It seems like a pretty harmless, but fun special effects movie. Not showing Slackistan, though, seems like trying to hide from ourselves. It does depict part of reality, though, and refusing to show it will not make that reality go away any more than refusing to show ‘Four Lions’ will make jihadis disappear.

But if we actually show the film and people watch it, maybe then we can start talking about that part of reality that makes aunties across the country uncomfortable.

Yes, Pakistan is Ramchand Pakistani. But it’s also Slackistan. Maybe it’s time we open our eyes to it, at least in the cinema.

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