Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making Sacrifices: Enter, Movies. Exit, MVs

In recent times Pakistani music videos have become a shadow of their former selves. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that Pakistan's cinema is finally coming out of dormancy. Celebrated music video directors like Jami, Saqib Malik and Bilal Lashari seem to have given up on music videos and taken up directorial jobs for feature films. This is both good and bad. Good in the sense that Pakistan's struggling cinema needed them as much as lungs need air and bad in the way that they leave behind an expansive void in Pakistan's music scene which shows no signs of filling up.

Gone are the days when audiences used to relish exquisite music videos like Chal Bulleya, Na Re Na, Sajini, Ankhon ko Ankhon ne, Mehbooba, Piyareya and Garaj Baras. These videos were a viewing pleasure with well-crafted stories that relate with the lyrics impeccably. Now we are treated to unpolished and crass crap featuring a make-up laden, Prada-clad girl swaying about and an over-styled singer trying his best at lip-syncing.

In fact, Ali Azmat's Garaj Baras, was the video that sent me down this spiral of reflection. I was just browsing through some old Coke Studio videos on YouTube (CS withdrawal syndrome, I didn't get my expected summer fix this time) when all of a sudden this video popped-up in the suggestions list. I clicked on it and despite the potato-quality of the upload, was thrown down the memory lane. I miss videos like these which engross you and make you think.

For instance, my interpretation of Garaj Baras goes like this: the video basically deals with the magical effect of rain - how it brings about our dormant selves. Monks for instance are very tranquil normally but as heavens pour they seem to let go of the wild beast chained inside of them and become polar opposites of what they were before. They go about swinging chained kettle-balls and splashing water at each other. Ali Azmat, dressed as a monk, screams the lyrics with a rosary strapped to his hand. The rock, belligerent feel of the track goes in perfect sync with this notion. Also, you see Ali Azmat sink back to his former monk-state of oblivious stupor as the rain recedes.

How many Pakistani music videos have you seen of late that ask for your interpretations and inferences? Not many, I suppose. Simply put, Pakistan's golden age of music videos is behind us. However, this heralds the revival of Pakistan's cinema. As Pakistan's acclaimed cadre of music directors step into the big boots and take up the mammoth task of breathing nueva vida into what remains of the once iconic Pakistan motion picture scene. With releases like Waar, Morqaye, Downward Dog, Dastaan and Operation 021 (all directed by former music video directors) lined up, I am sure as hell expecting a lot. On the other hand I am also hoping for a fresh crop of MV directors that can hold aloft the passed flame that is flickering somewhere down on the ground.

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