State of the arts
The state of the arts in Pakistan is decidedly mixed. On the one hand, there is good news in the form of the Pakistani film Seedlings (Lamha) winning the People’s Choice Award for Best Film and the Best Actress award at the New York City International Film Festival.
Then, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a Hollywood movie made by Indian director Mira Nair but adapted from the novel of the same name by Mohsin Hamid was just released worldwide. These triumphs, however, should not distract us from the fact that the arts in this country continue to face many existential threats. Just a few days ago, a concert in Bhurban was cancelled because of threats from clerics and militants determined to stamp out all culture in the country that does not conform to their interpretation of religion.
Other than the militant threat, there is a serious lack of cultural facilities in the country. Institutions like NAPA, which are serious in their commitment to culture, remain the exception rather than the rule, with the government showing no particular interest in taking up promotion of the arts. Lollywood continues to wheeze on but no longer seems capable of churning out fare for mass audiences the way it used to.
Interestingly, Pakistan is now more recognised for its artistic output in English rather than local vernaculars. Our English-language novelists have even received recognition in the prestigious literary magazine Granta, which dedicated an entire issue to them.
As much pride as we should take in these achievements, it is not enough to rest on the laurels of a few individuals. In order for culture to take prominence in the country, it requires an engaged citizenry and a government that is willing to devote sufficient funds to the arts.
The Mohsin Hamids and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoys of the future have to be nurtured, encouraged and harnessed. A country’s health is measured by its artistic output. On that front, Pakistan still needs to do a lot more to get off the deathbed.