Khayaal Fest — a worthwhile initiative
LAHORE: Sunday evening saw the end of the two-day Festival of Arts and Literature organised by Khayaal Creative Network at the Alhamra Arts Center.
The event was generally appreciated though some visitors said it was not publicised well enough.
Nusrat Jamil, who had been part of the organising committee of the Lahore Literature Festival in early 2013, said the Khayaal Fest was “fabulous”, and while there is always room for improvement, she never scrutinised it to that extent because all the sessions were enjoyable.
“The festival left me with the feeling that many other people and institutions are also working towards promoting art, and so I felt strength about the fact that I have not been working in isolation,” said Ajoka’s Madeeha Gauhar.
“The level of discussion and discourse was engaging, with a wide range of topics, but I do feel that if the event was publicised better, it would have had more people coming in especially since it was a weekend,” she said.
In a way the festivals like the Children’s Literature Festival, the Khudi Festival and now the Khayaal Festival point to a revival of Lahore’s arts and culture scene which seemed to have gone into hibernation.
“Today, it is important to have such events to relieve people of their despondency,” said Gauhar.
“The festival brought a critically needed awareness of the importance of performing arts as vital to Pakistan’s culture,” said Mekaal Hasan who performed on Day One. “It proves crucial as a means to interact with audiences of all age groups and backgrounds. It proves beyond all doubt that arts need the power of festival performances to sustain creative thought and artistic freedom.”
Two important sessions were held with regard to the visual media on Sunday. Speaking about TV dramas was a panel including Haseena Moin, Asghar Nadeem Syed and Sarmad Sehbai.
Sehbai said: “With the advent of Turkish dramas in Pakistan, the channels do not wish to buy from locals. They prefer Turkish dramas because they happen to be less expensive.”
Asghar Nadeem Syed however countered saying that in a manner the Turkish dramas could be benchmarks for the local dramas to improve.
Haseena Moin complained that the themes of TV dramas today were repetitive. “We can write on so many issues but that is not being done,” she said.
“The depiction of women is despicable. In my drama serials I used to show young women to be happy-go-lucky, light-hearted but strong females. Today, the females shown are weak, miserable and dependant. Even the males shown are stereotypical of being harsh, cruel and unfair.”
Sehbai said writers in Pakistan were not paid well and so it’s unfair to expect anything of great stature from them. “How are writers supposed to create outstanding work when they have to write what the ‘Seth culture’ demands of them? Back then sensationalism came with a kind of responsibility. Today, the sensationalism is vulgar and cheap, based on how many slaps a female character received, and similar occurrences in stories.”
In the session on Pakistani Cinema Today, the team from Zinda Bhaag – a film which has already received an award in Canada, and is heard to have been sent for the Academy Awards — came to speak about their experience in making a film in Pakistan.
Moderated by Abdur Rauf, the panel comprised Meenu Gaur, an Indian filmmaker with a PhD in Film Studies, Pakistani documentary filmmaker Farjad Nabi, and Mazhar Zaidi, the producer.
Zaidi said the film was a passion project more than anything else, and the team had felt that the time was ripe to release a film in Pakistan, since cinema was being revived. “An enterprise like this cannot work without passion, so even though money was a factor, it was not the end-all,” he said.
Meenu said if the economic industry was suffering because of cinema, then the quality of cinema would also be affected. “It is a cyclical phenomenon,” she said.
Farjad Nabi said except for Naseeruddin Shah, the filmmakers did not aspire to include big names in the project because the story was about the average person.
Set in Lahore, it was based on the theme of illegal immigrants, something that could hit close to home. With stars this would never have connected with the audience.
Gaur said they did not want to work on the themes of terrorism or show Lahore as exotic because it was overdone. Screening the film in Delhi, in fact, Indian viewers were surprised to know that Lahore did not appear to be as that shown in mainstream films such as Veer Zara, where as Farjad said “everyone wore Kurta Pajama and said Adaab”.Meenu said they wanted to pay homage to the cinema of the 60s and 70s, where the song was part of the story.
Mazhar said back in the 70s, there were about 600 screens nationwide. Today, there are only 66, even counting the screens in small towns. “However with two or three new screens being added each year, I think the count may rise to 120 screens very soon,” he said.
“We will also release the film in India because it makes sense since our cultures and language is similar. It makes sense financially too.”