Will Pakistani filmmakers ever produce movies on social issues?

The tagline of Heeramandi is 'Where courtesans were queens'. It has been the centre of the city's tawaif culture since the 15th and 16th centuries.

Indian filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced his digital debut with a web series. The director’s next will stream on Netflix but this time it won’t be a film but a web series based on the stories of the courtesans of Heeramandi.

Interestingly, Heeramandi is a part of Pakistan, also known as Shahi Mohallah in Lahore. It is often called the infamous Red Light District. With the news of the web series being produced in India, there were outrage and disappointment why Pakistani directors never thought of making a movie or documentary on such a crucial historical place. 

The criticism seemed valid as Pakistan should make movies on such topics. Will the country ever be able to produce such movies without getting banned? We have only focused on romantic films and slapstick comedies but films on sensitive topics have never been picked by filmmakers.

What is Heera Mandi?

Know as the red light area of Lahore, the tagline of Heera Mandi is ‘Where courtesans were queens’. It has been the centre of the city’s tawaif culture since the 15th and 16th centuries.

Many are unaware but the ‘mandi’ got its name from Heera Singh, the son of a minister of Ranjit Singh’s royal court. Heera was also a minister of Sher Singh’s court during the Sikh period.

However, when the British Raj came to power in the subcontinent, Heera Mandi has moved away as it was thought the activities there were ‘sinful’. Now after independent Pakistan, the Heera Mandi went on as before.

Even though prostitution is supposed to be illegal in Pakistan, the Mandi still exists at night and in the day it becomes an ordinary Shahi Mohalla, famous for its very good food shops.

India’s move in making ‘Heermandi’

Sanjay Leela Bhansali recently announced that under Netflix’s production he will produce a web series ”Heeramandi’ which will be his digital debut as well. 

The series ‘Heeramandi’ will show stories of courtesans and the hidden cultural reality of Heera Mandi. The web series will be about love, betrayal, succession, and politics. 

Pakistan’s movie industry and social issues

It is necessary to make movies on social issues and human rights as they help to open up people’s minds but unfortunately in Pakistan, makers produce everything except for social issues as the country is not ready for it.

‘Umrao Jaan Ada’ was a movie made in Pakistan in 1972. It followed the life of a young girl with the soul of a poet who is forced into the cruel world of prostitution. The movie exposed the harsh realities of sexual exploitation.

Moving forward, there will always be a group behind every other movie in Pakistan that has a social issue’ context that will be somehow irked by it, and perhaps that can’t be helped.

Will our filmmakers ever produce movies based on social issues?

Almost all the movies with a bitter reality check, or based on true stories are almost likely to be banned in Pakistan. Take it from Zindagi Tamasha, Maalik, and Durj; these are the few latest movies that were banned in the past ten years; why? because the context of the movie was based on true events or social issues.

Whatever Pakistan’s soft-power intentions might be, censor board restrictions have done the burgeoning film business no favours. Interestingly. movie ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ was approved by the censored board but faced problems by religious party TLP.

So making movies on the subject like Heera Mandi might not be the problem in Pakistan but running the movie will be. Because Pakistan has a history of banning movies and dramas like ‘Udaari’, ‘Durj’ but can easily give a nod to movies based on non-fiction.

Download MM News mobile application and keep yourself updated.