Monday, February 27, 2017

The first Baloch film - About another Baloch occupation

The first Baloch film that was made 41 years ago, and was not allowed to be released for political reasons, is all set for a fresh screening on Feb 28.

Ziaur RehmanIn 1976, Anwar Iqbal, a prominent tv actor, made the first ever Balochi feature film, titled Hammal o Mahganj, in Pakistan. But he could not release it at that time because of strong opposition by Baloch ethnic parties and individuals. Now, after some 40 years, Iqbal has decided to take out the film from the boxes and screen it on February 28 — as part of the 7th Baloch Culture Day celebration — at the Karachi Arts Council.
“It was very unfortunate we could not release the movie then because its screening became so politicised. We had even received proper approval from censor board after its completion. But a section of political activists from Lyari opposed its screening,” says Iqbal.
Hammal o Mahganj was based on a Baloch folktale of resistance and love, eulogising the ruler of Makran, Mir Hammal Jeayand, the hero of an armed resistance led against the Portuguese occupation.
Iqbal was the main actor while Anita Gul, Nadir Shah Adil (now a senior journalist in Karachi), Bobi, Mehmood Laasi, A.R. Baloch, Muhammad Sididque Baloch, Shakeel Laasi and Noor Muhammad Lashari were other actors. The screenplay was by prominent poet Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi, while Lala Fateh Muhammad Nazar was its music producer.
Hailing from an affluent family (that now owns Balochi-language Vsh TV), Iqbal spent all the money from his own pocket to make the film. “I had spent a half million rupees at the time when one US dollar was equivalent to only five rupees,” Iqbal tells TNS. “We had faced a number of challenges during the film making process”.
He was inspired from epic Indian movie Mughal-e-Azam, and used similar set designs for the movie.
Ramazan Baloch, an activist, writes in his book, titled Lyari ki Adhoori Kahani, that when the movie was ready to be presented before the audiences — with Karachi’s Bambino cinema finalised for the premiere — protests against the screening erupted. A group called ‘Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Saqafat-e-Balochan’ (movement to safeguard Baloch culture) was formed to resist the movie’s release, and over two dozens of Baloch community groups, including Anjuman Baidari Balochan, Anjuman Ustakaran Nawalane and Anjuman Lasharyan Jahanabad became part of the movement.
Hammal o Mahganj was based on a Baloch folktale of resistance and love eulogising the ruler of Makran, Mir Hammal Jeayand, the hero of an armed resistance led against the Portuguese occupation.
Lala Faqir Muhammad, a prominent Baloch political figure of Karachi who led the agitation, says the Baloch youth and other like-minded people felt the movie was aimed at maligning Baloch traditions and culture, and its exhibition would have paved the way for more vulgar movies.
“Baloch are proud of their culture. And we saw the screening of the movie as a threat to it,” Muhammad, who is now in his 80s, tells TNS. “What are Pashto and Punjabi movies today? Had we allowed the film to be screened this is exactly what Balochi films would have been like.”
The movement’s main slogan was ‘Balochi film chalay ga tou cinema jalay ga’ (If Balochi films are screened, cinemas will be torched). Besides, in Baloch neighbourhoods of Karachi, the agitation also gained momentum among the various Baloch tribes in Balochistan, rural Sindh and South Punjab.
Political analysts believe the matter of the movie’s screening was politicised, especially in Lyari, where the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Baloch nationalist groups were active competitors in local politics.
“The PPP was in favour of having the film screened while the nationalist groups opposed it,” Ramazan Baloch tells TNS. To address the reservations of activists opposing the movie, Iqbal organised a screening specifically for the purpose of reviewing the entire movie at the Eastern Cinema. Then Sindh Labour Minister, Abdullah Baloch, especially participated in the event. Those who were a part of the event agreed that the film did not have anything that went against the Baloch culture; but young emotional Baloch activists were still not satisfied, and resorted to threatening cinema owners, he adds.
The threats resulted in cinema owners refusing to screen the movie, making it the first and last Balochi production.
Iqbal says the opposition of the movie at that time was nothing but ignorance of certain people who were afraid that his family would contest election from Lyari. Iqbal’s family was an influential political family of the time. “Now the situation has changed and no one is here to oppose it,” he says.

No comments: