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‘About suffering they were never wrong’

Miniaturist Saira Waseem is the latest exponent in a long list of Pakistani artists resisting the country’s political, cultural and social erosion.

Saira waseem4Passion Cycle, 2005

Pakistani art going global is a remarkable story, for it typifies the ineffable contradictions of the country. In part it is a testament to the country’s creative expression, an explosion of sorts; and partly a mode of resistance to the anti-art ideology that is permeating the social fabric. It’s not just painting or the booming art galleries, there is a revival underway of the moribund television drama, the resuscitation of cinema and continuous experimentation with music.

Salima Hashmi, a leading arts academician and practitioner noted in a recent essay that the “proverbial worst of times are certainly the best of times for contemporary Pakistani art.” Our foremost historian, Ayesha Jalal in her latest book “The Struggle for Pakistan” views the creative expression as a resistance to Pakistan’s forced Islamisation. Jalal writes:

saira waseem5 Ethereal I, 2014

“The globalization of Pakistani music has been accompanied by a remarkable leap in the transnational reach of the creative arts…a younger generation of painters are making creative uses of new ideas and technologies to both access and influence a diverse and dynamic transnational artistic scene. The dazzling array of new directions in the contemporary art, literature, and music of Pakistan displays an ongoing tussle between an officially constructed ideology of nationalism and relatively autonomous social and cultural processes in the construction of a “national culture.”

Jalal as a contemporary historian reminds us that the domestic battle of ideas and ideologies is not over and is assuming newer shapes. At the same time, the issue of a crumbling Pakistani state haunts the future trajectory. Is the arts and literature renaissance of sorts an antidote to a state unable to fulfill its basic functions such as securing the lives of its citizens? There are some immediate examples from the subcontinent that come to mind: The reigns of Wajid Ali Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar in nineteenth century India were also remarkable for their artistic endeavours before the final takeover of the British. Not entirely relevant, these are important phases of our recent history to be remembered.


The Real Meena Kumari

The soulfulness of India’s greatest tragedienne was born of an abiding love for reading and writing. 

Raza Rumi reviews a biography of the alluring star

The real Meena Kumari

Barri Bechari Hai
Meena Kumari
Jisko Lagi Hai

Dil ki Bimari Meena Kumari ruled the world of Indian cinema until her death in 1972 due to liver cirrhosis. Since her death her popular image has been that of a suffering tragic heroine who died of loneliness and excessive drinking. However, the story of Mahjabeen (Meena Kumari’s real name) is neither as simple nor stereotypical as painted by her panegyrists and detractors alike. I recall the days in my childhood when Meena Kumari’s last film Pakeeezah was scheduled to be shown on Doordarshan. The excitement was incredible and everyone I knew anticipated watching it via (illegal) TV signals from across the border. Such was her magic and appeal. And needless to state, sheer beauty.

Harper Collins have republished well known Indian editor, Vinod Mehta’s biography of Meena Kumari authored in the 1970s (Meena Kumari: The Classic Biography). This is a fine introduction to a larger-than-life person and performer. By no means authoritative it does give a fairly detailed account of her life, achievements and travails. As Mehta mentions at the start of the book, in 1972 he was a struggling ad copywriter “going nowhere. With false bravado which comes easily to a person who has achieved little, I accepted the commission and duly delivered the finished manuscript” in a few months. Mehta was “embarrassed at the effort” because the subject of his biography was not available for interviews, and Dharmendra — “the man who had callously used and discarded her” never gave him the time to hold detailed interviews. Having said that, the biography is fairly well-researched and brings forth lesser known facets of this exceptionally talented woman who remains a bit of an enigma to date. […]

Indo-Pak ‘film wars’

—by Khaled Ahmed (Daily Times)

Filming the Line of Control: the Indo-Pak Relationship through the Cinematic Lens; Edited by Meenakshi Bharat & Nirmal Kumar;
Routledge 2008; Pp239;
Price Rs 650 Indian; Available in bookstores in Pakistan

If you have been put off by Indian films featuring Indian commandos defeating Pakistan Army and carrying away Muslim beauties helplessly in love with their derring-do from across the border, read this book to see how the Indian intellectual too has been put off by Bollywood’s anti-Pakistan blockbusters.

One hopes that not too many Indians have watched old PTV war dramas showing nubile Kashmiri Hindu girls smitten with the mujahideen-type Pakistani warriors whose honesty and sexual constraint contrast starkly with the base cunning of their ugly bodi-sporting Brahman fathers. Pakistani films too did this but one can’t recall too many of them, except one in which veteran actor Yusuf Khan meaninglessly slaughters hundreds of Hindus and covers the screen with gore. […]

April 23rd, 2009|Personal|2 Comments

Three Pakistani film songs

Jab Koi Piyar se Bulaye ga


October 1st, 2008|Cinema, Music, Pakistan, Personal, Urdu, video|7 Comments

A Wild Lover Of God – Rumi

A Wild Lover Of God

Bureau Report, “‘Rumi’s a bridge between east & west'” – The Times Of India – India
The maker of the all-time classic Umrao Jaan is all set to end his over-a-decade-long hiatus from filmmaking.
August 5th, 2008|Cinema, Rumi, Sufism|5 Comments

Three Melodies – the evergreen voice of Noor Jehan

I wish to apologise for those who may not be able to understand the lyrics – but I was most excited to find these videos on the internet.

Abhi Dhoond Rahi Thi Tumhe Yeh Nazar Hamari


August 2nd, 2008|Cinema, Music, Personal, video|1 Comment

Galli mein Aaj Chand Nikla (The moon has re-appeared in my lane)

This is a great song from a brilliant, but less known film Zakhm (wound). The film dealt with the thorny issue of communalism during the Bombay riots of 1990s; and how the protagonists’ concurrently bear Hindu and Muslim identities making it difficult for them to side with one particular group. In the final analysis, the film turns the whole […]

July 7th, 2008|Cinema, Music, Personal, video|6 Comments