Posted: 12 June 2005 at 11:30am | IP Logged
One still remembers those lively nights when people would emerge laughing from theatres after watching comedy stage plays. The appeal of local stage productions was not just limited to Pakistan as these slapstick productions entertained international audiences as well through videos.
In the 1980s and early '90s, the popularity of such stage plays was at peak. Recently, however, a lot of negative elements have entered this genre of the performing arts, leading to its deterioration. A script that hits below the belt, declining standards of acting and frivolous themes are some of the reasons which have led to the mass exodus of the public from theatres. In addition, the introduction of cable TV has also turned out to be a major factor in its dwindling popularity. Despite all these things going against it, the industry has nevertheless survived.
Theatre is in the throes of change. Whether this change is good or bad remains to be seen. The new method adopted by stage artists to stay afloat financially and to reach across to a wider audience is to copy Indian films down to the last detail and adapt dialogue to fit the local vernacular. Tere Naam Part II is the latest in a series in which the Indian Bollywood fare Tere Naam has been transformed into a local comedy. Saleem Afridi and Sikandar Sanam are the alleged 'pioneers' of this new movement in stage, followed closely by Shakeel Siddiqui, Rauf Lala and others who are also making similar productions.
Curious to know how the idea of making these TV films came about, Images approached a few of the people involved with these ventures. "We started off by making skits and gradually came up with the idea of making a parody," says Sikandar Sanam.
Since a majority of the people have stopped watching stage productions, the artists have now chosen to bring stage to them by bringing out well-executed productions on CDs. Is this, then, the end of commercial stage as we know it?
"Nothing is going to happen to the stage industry. We are here to save it," defends Sikandar Sanam. Shakeel Siddiqui, who has also tested the waters by making a parody of the Indian film Darr, says, "These parodies are just a new form of stage shows."
In the course of carrying out research for this feature, it was noticed that nearly every artist who is a part of such productions defends them with the argument that the Indians have also been boot-legging Pakistani material but are never caught. Another common grievance is that since the stage industry is experiencing a slowdown, performers are not getting the public appreciation they deserve. Stage actors, according to the performers interviewed, are not paid well and that is why they are going for this new form of entertainment.
Ever since the idea of making these parodies took off, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. There is little in the way of quality, as script and story are the least of all considerations. Khal Nayak, Sholay and Devdas are just three of the Indian cinema blockbusters which are currently under the process of being copied.
The script of these productions has also lately come under fire because a lot of people think it is just as vulgar as stage productions, where dicey dialogue and obscene innuendoes are commonplace. "I accept there were some errors in the script of Tere Naam Part II and I have apologized. But in my latest release, Munna Bhai MBBS Part II, I have tried to maintain script quality," claims Sikandar Sanam. Saleem Afridi, responsible for Munna Bhai W-11, had a similar tale to tell. Both films are plagiarized versions of the popular Bollywood fare featuring Sanjay Dutt, Munna Bhai MBBS.
Quite surprisingly, the picture quality and editing of these films is at par with TV serials shown on private channels. According to the performers, the latest digital technology has been used in shooting and editing, which explains the picture quality. The cost of these productions is not very high - approximately Rs200,000 to Rs300,000 are spent on each film. It takes almost a month to do the shooting.
So isn't it illegal to copy an entire movie, including the songs? "I think we shouldn't copy something entirely. There should be some input that relays a positive message to the public," suggests Shakeel Siddiqui. Saleem Afridi says: "I haven't copied the movie completely. I haven't even used the same name."
As far as giving these movies official status is concerned, Sikandar Sanam says: "We are trying to approach the officials concerned and we hope that they will give these films official status."
There can be no doubt that the authorities concerned need to take some sort of action to curb this phenomenon. But things have an uncanny way of getting back at you, and after these movies are released into the market, their pirate copies are marketed, thus slashing profits for those who made them.
Instead of delivering positive messages, these films are churning out senseless ideas, leading to negative social consequences. "As far as giving a positive message is concerned, I have tried to show the hazards of paan and gutka," claims Saleem Afridi.
Argues Shakeel Siddiqui: "The Indians make big-budget movies and their artists are also paid handsomely. How can we compete with them on a shoestring budget?"