Things heat up at the Mah e Mir curtain raiser in Karachi.
It all started when Iman Ali showed up late to the press conference of the upcoming film, Mah-e-Mir, which had already started one and a half hour late anyway. Wearing a pretty summer dress, Iman proceeded to the stage where everyone else was already seated, and apologized for not being on time, citing no specific reason for her lack of punctuality.
Afterwards, Iman, and her fellow co-actor, Fahad Mustafa, who walked in with his big body guards, continued to be glued to their phone screens, setting them down occasionally. The room was crowded with journalists, who had perhaps reached their last nerves having to wait so long for the actors to arrive, with no apology given by the management, and no respect given by both the main stars either.
Therefore, once the question answer session began, both sides of the seemingly cold war went for the attack. One over enthusiastic journalist opened the session, asking Iman why she looked so pretty but lacked flexibility in her dance. Stupid question, but it was further aggravated when an infuriated Iman snubbed the man back, adding sarcastically that ‘you journalists know everything, right?’ She went on to say that dance is not a part of our culture and it’s her acting everyone should be focusing on. Another journalist quickly pointed out that if dance is not part of our culture, why is it being featured in this film, to which Iman explained that dance was part of the culture of the character that she is portraying which is why its in this film. One wonders why Iman Ali was dancing so enthusiastically in the Tarang commercial if that statement is true.
Other goofs including journalists asking what genre this film would fit in, to which the filmmakers replied that ‘why are you worrying what genre it is, just enjoy the film.’ The director also earlier mentioned that he didn’t know what kind of cinema this would be called, and that everyone should just ‘enjoy and watch the film.’ Most questions thrown towards the panel were negative and perhaps not that well thought out, and one could sense the growing irritation displayed by Iman, who wasn’t dealing with her anger all that well. At some point, us stupid journalists were even criticized for not learning to ask proper questions.
This cat and mouse game continued till the end, when I eventually decided to ask a question, which went something like this: Speaking from the point of view of a film student, who studies film theories which stress upon the power of film and it’s messages and how they can manipulate or influence the audience, how much power did the filmmakers think their films have?
This was a question that needed to be asked, specially since any question that was being asked about the specifics of the film were being answered by a nonchalant ‘it’s just a film for fun, just enjoy it.’ Fahad then answered that he couldn’t speak on behalf of others, but the films he does usually have strong messages and even Mah e Mir will leave the audience with a question or a thought in their mind.
Partially satisfied with this answer, I was about to leave home a less angry person till Alyy Khan, who plays a supporting role in the film, decided to ‘burst my bubble’, (his own words, I swear) where he said it’s the naivety of film students who like to study films like Citizen Kane, because at the end of the day all that matters is whether the audience ‘enjoyed the film or not’.
I guess I should perhaps throw my film degree aside as Alyy very articulately ended his answer by saying, ‘It’s not rocket science yaar, it’s just a film. Enjoy it.’ I shudder for the future of the film industry where filmmakers think that they have no impact the society. I wonder why ISPR invests in a media unit to make films about the Pakistani army, since films are just for ‘fun’. Sure, there are films like Jawani Phir Nahi Aani that are meant to be enjoyed over popcorn and coke but then there are films like Bol, Khuda Kay Liye, Moor and even Manto that fulfil a higher – social or literary purpose – and they are the ones that do leave a lasting impact. All these guys needed to do was answer the question without being so defensive.