The fall and rise of Pakistani film

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THE 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of Pakistani cinema. Hundreds of popular films were produced yearly by Lollywood, the Lahore-based entertainment industry. The era’s stars included Waheed Murad, a heartthrob, and Sabiha Khanoum, known as the first lady of Pakistani screens. Both continue to be revered today. Murad’s 1966 film “Armaan” (“Desire”) introduced audiences to the first South Asian pop song, creating a new genre of Pakistani music.

But for all its former glory, production in Lollywood collapsed by the end of the 1990s. By 2005, barely 20 local films were released annually. Political turmoil triggered the decline. General Zia-ul-Haq seized power in 1977 in a military coup. The new president proceeded to enforce an Islamisation agenda, under which film-makers were forced to comply with strict censorship. Projects could be banned if deemed prejudicial to all manner of interests, including decency, morality and the public good. With little to screen and unable to compete with home entertainment, hundreds of cinemas were…Continue reading

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