‘Social Resistance and The Militarized State’

The Pakistani students at the Department of Media and Culture Studies in New York  are organizing an event in the memory of Sabeen Mahmud. Those of you in New York, please do attend.

Post event notes : This is a link to Nosheen Ali’s talk at this event   http://m.himalmag.com/sabeen-mahmud-mourning-memory-resistance-pakistan/



‘Love, War and Other Longings’

The ‘Harvard-Brown Pakistani Film Festival 2015’ to take place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts from Oct 16-18th. The introductory excerpt from the festival literature :

” The recent revival of cinema in Pakistan has generated excitement and captured the imagination.  Film, like the nation-state, stands at a crossroads, and is invested with hope and aspirations towards a future that leaves the seemingly unending violence and militancy of the past decades receding into the distance. The magical qualities of film with its capacity to orchestrate our emotions and sensibilities, to conjure up fictions that become part of our reality, to transform the mundane into the extraordinary symbolizes this collective yearning for a new dawn.  A new generation of filmmakers ranging from the conventional to the experimental are exploring the possibilities of re-imagining family, friendship, love, the nation, and retelling ways of injustice and suffering. Love, War and Other Longings is an invitation to come and participate in these new narrations, to explore their possibilities and examine their implications. What kind of future is envisaged and what representations of the past does it require? What is being celebrated and who is being left out? Continue reading

A Summer of Cinema in Pakistan

This summer the Pakistani cinema ‘arrived’ with great fanfare. Not too long ago it would have been very hard to believe that one would be saying this about Pakistani cinema, but with numerous notable releases all taking place within a span of few months, one was literally left spoilt for choices this summer. There was a very perceptible sense of energy in the air and it clearly had very much to do with the affectation and buzz created by the burgeoning visual media. Pakistan is now being ‘imagined’ in a new way through these visual productions, creating a new frame of reference for Pakistani audiences, who have been used to viewing Western and Indian cinema productions in their movie theaters until recently.  Continue reading

Moor : ‘The Missing Mother and the Missing Baloch’

This review of Moor by S Akbar Zaidi was originally published here

Given Pakistan’s current political situation, for those who thought that a film based in Balochistan would be the Pakistani version of Haider, watching Moor, would have come as a huge disappointment. If nothing else, one hopes that they would have returned home from the movie with a lesson in Balochistan’s geography and demography. At least thirty percent of Balochistan cites Pashto as its mother tongue, possibly more now with the influx of Afghans and other Pashtuns. Perhaps for those who have a sense of history, they may have been reminded of what the great Baloch nationalists of the 1970s and 1980s also said, that they had no ‘objection’ to the province of Balochistan being split into two, with Balochistan’s Pashtun areas becoming part of what was once called the North West Frontier Province.

Moor is about this less-imagined part of Balochistan. By focusing on the Pashtuns of Balochistan, the movie makes an important distinction not only between the larger communities within Balochistan, but also dispels the stereotypes of all Pashtuns making a case that Balochistan’s Pashtuns are different from, but as real as, those from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This in itself, is a hugely important socio-political contribution of Moor. Continue reading

An Impromptu Concert….14 Aug, 2015

Imagine….. randomly having coffee with friends at a mall and hearing, out of the blue, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Ali Azmat‘s. Well, that’s what just happened to us today at the Dolmen Mall in Karachi. One of the perks of being in Karachi around 14th August is, I guess, that you inadvertently gatecrash a live impromptu independence day concert (courtesy HBL Pakistan) by some of the notable musicians in the country! Accompanying Ali Azmat were musicians Gumby (Louis J Pinto) and Omran (Momo) Shafique of the Coke Studio fame,  and many others who I didn’t recognize. Continue reading

Coke Studio: Invoking Historical Memory

Among other unlikely avenues where popular culture and religiosity is reflected in the public sphere are television based music platforms like the Coke Studio [1], a live studio-recorded music performance series, which largely showcases a fusion of diverse musical influences in Pakistan with a modern Western flair. In other words it reflects the  ‘synaesthic world of sound that can be experienced or tasted in different cultural contexts and life worlds in Pakistan’ (Frembgen 2012: 135). Leaving aside the  debate about corporate materialism and such,  criticism that is often attributed towards this production there is no doubt that  Coke Studio’s foremost contribution to the Pakistani society would be the singular way in which its melodies are invoking historical memory in cultural terms.  This program’s widespread popularity  [2]is hardly surprisingly since music is intrinsically associated with religion in South Asia in complex ways. The various expressions of popular South Asian Islamic religiosity, articulated in the forms of devotional poetry, sufi-kalams, kaafis, qawwalis, naats, marsiyas, manqabats clearly point towards the coextensive nature of music and religion in the popular religious culture. The musical recitations of such kalaam and qawwali have been described as ‘a religious practice’ but one in which it is ‘impossible to separate music from religion, religion from music’ (Newell 2007). However inspite of the widespread popularity and resonance of such narratives, they have been until recently relegated as ‘backward’ forms of culture’ and ‘inauthentic Islam’ in the public discourse dominated by orthodox Islam and elite representations. Many times such devotional music is described simply as popular culture not as ‘religion’ given the contentious relationship of the Islamist orthodoxy with music, which is seen as being ‘un-Islamic’.  Continue reading