Recently held in Alliance Française by the same name, ‘The lost art of dance in Pakistani cinema‘ was an eye opening journey for any cinema-lover/media student/film critic. The low attendance of anyone from the media industry, however, was shocking. You would think that the people so interested in producing films and ‘preserving/reviving cinema’ would have attended an event like this. Sadly, there were barely any people from our mainstream film industry present.
Guddu Khan, moments before breaking into a chorus of ‘Thank yous’ to all the people who came to see his archive
What was this event? It was an exhibition held by Guddu Khan, one of the few people who have created an impressive archive for Pakistani cinema, ranging from original film posters to original films from the 50s and 60s. The exhibition was a journey through the history of cinema, starting from as early as 1947, till the 80s, with special emphasis on dance. Unfortunately, it takes an outsider for us to know that people like Guddu Khan are important for our industry, culture, and personal growth. Unless the French had not discovered him and given him this platform, someone like me would not have even seen original film posters from the time that is called the Golden era of Pakistani cinema.
Being someone who has passionately followed the romance of dance since he was only seven years old, Guddu talks about the form of dance back in the day compared to what it has become now. “Dance had a form and a function. It followed proper methods- if it was classical, then it followed the rules of classical. If the heroine wore an anklet on her foot, even that had a purpose.” He regretfully added that dance nowadays has lost it’s purpose. ‘They just do or wear anything on screen. Our heroines today are unaware of the nuances of the form of dance.” I asked if he felt that dance has become too vulgar nowadays? “It has, but then what hasn’t become vulgar? It’s the times,” he replied.
Also present at the event was the legendary actress and classical dancer, Zareen Panna, who wowed us with her strong command over dance, even today, as she danced away to ‘Aaj Jaanay Ki Zidd Na Karo’, the original composition sung by noted classical singer, Habib Wali Mohammad.
It is a challenge accepting things like Mehwish Hayat dancing to ‘Billi‘ and Ayesha Omar to ‘Tutti Frutti’, after seeing legends such as Zareen Panna and Mussarat Nazeer dancing to classic films like Pakeezah and Gulfam. Songs like ‘Billi‘ and ‘Tutti Frutti‘ are culturally and intellectually poor. Our heritage is so rich and filled with class, elegance and romance, and dance nowadays has robbed us of all of that. Events such as ‘the lost art of dance’ are vital for people to understand our history, and only after learning history is one able to make the present and future better.