Pashto entertainment industry remains resilient despite setbacks
By: Sher Alam Shinwari
PESHAWAR: Despite ongoing threats by militants and the blowing up of CD shops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, resilient Peshawarites will enjoy 200 Pashto tele-films, stage shows and music albums, along with five new films this Eid.
Around six production houses in Nishtarabad, the hub of CD production in Peshawar, have promised to entertain with thrill, comedy and romance at this special time of year.
The Pashto film industry has gained strength over the last few years. Compared to three releases last year, this Eid will bring five new films starring Arbaz Khan, Shahid Khan, Suno Lal and Mahnoor. Arbaz Khan is appearing in two Pashto movies — Qasam and Ghadaar while Shahid Khan is starring in three flicks — Bad Amala, Toofan and Har Dam Khair.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Shahid Khan said: “All three of my films are based on social themes. Romance, music and action are blended and the storyline and music are the strengths of my flicks. I have introduced a new actor, Mahnoor and I hope she will come up to the expectations of cinemagoers.” Arbaz Khan, too, paints a bright picture of new Pollywood releases stating, “Let’s see what hard work and devotion bring to us but I am positive for success.”
A seasoned movie buff, Tariq Ajmal also opines, “I am anxiously waiting for the new runs as last time Pashto movies had disappointed me because most of them seemed to be copies of Indian flicks. Only pornography and violence cannot win over hearts of the public, fresh ideas and social issues should also be introduced along with Pashtun culture.”
While potential CD buyers from Quetta, Karachi, the Gulf States and Afghanistan have flocked to Peshawar to collect new material for the season, no buyers from the tribal regions showed up due to the threat of militancy in the region. Due to military operations, most people in Fata have either quit the entertainment business or turned their shops into computer or mobile phone stores, whereas this region earlier consumed 50 per cent of CD entertainment, according to the Producer’s Association President Farhad Khan.
However, while much is being produced right now, some feel that it may not last long, as problems in the region catch up with the entertainment industry. Khaliqo, a film producer from a pioneer production house Musafar Videos, told The Express Tribune, “The CD business is on the decline because of piracy and law and order issues and this Eid is a ‘do or die’ situation for us.”
He further adds, “My house is releasing about 20 CDs including four stage shows, three sitcoms, two trailers and 11 music albums. One of the music albums, The Afghan Hits, is introducing 10 debut male and female Afghan singers along with new songs of the rising Pashto star Gulpanra who tops the Pashto music charts this year. But as the market has gone into a slump, expectations for business seem bleak.”
Khaliqo also maintains that unless a censorship board is in place to control piracy issues, CD production cannot flourish as producers face losses. Khaliqo states, “We have taken up these issues with the K-P culture department, but to no avail.” “Producers are on the verge of closing down CD businesses if this continues,” Khaliqo warns.
Apart from piracy issues, he further adds that threats from militants are always looming overhead. This very market has been attacked several times, including a bomb blast eight months ago which claimed precious lives and left many injured.
Khaliqo elaborates that people in the region are so fed up with the Kalashnikov culture and continued violence, that they want something that can be a release from all the tension and depression surrounding them. Therefore, producers and directors have focused on sitcoms and music albums for the public.
The efforts of the Pashto entertainment industry are laudable, especially in the face of uncertainty and threats. Government support to tackle piracy would further boost business and morale in the region that promises to remain resilient.