View Full Version : The teen appeal - ASHA’AR REHMAN - 29th May 2015

29th May 2015, 12:31 PM
THE frontiers are being pushed. Things are moving beyond simple statements and beyond the usual heat of speeches on television screens. There are hints — broad ones — that the push for change and tabdeeli is finding subtler, deeper expressions away from hardcore, pure displays of politics.

Let’s skip the mountain and get to the molehill fast. There is this film in the picture house about animated people — the first of its kind according to the advertisements. Its primary targets may be the youth, the change-makers. It is called Teen Bahadur, bringing out the refrain of ‘three’ in life and films bringing back fond memories of the first, exhilarating viewing of the most brilliant Teesri Qasam and the first exciting secret reading of the universally true and forever relevant Teen Aurtain Teen Kahaniyan.

On the last voluntary visit to the cinema, the show happened to be titled Three Idiots. Well it seems that, nurtured by the agents wanting fast change, half a decade later the venue has come out of the campus that smugly promoted ‘standard’ education. The three idiots have grown up, they turned a few years more youthful and are brave enough — or are needed desperately enough — to be pressed into saving Andher Nagri, formerly Roshan Basti, which is a thin cover for you know where.

It would be a pity if Imran in ‘Teen Bahadur’ is there unintentionally for it would leave the feature rather incomplete.
Their support has also grown in stature. It is no more the mildly rebellious daughter of the eccentric principal helping out students with customised course needs with a late-night break-in into her father’s office.

The trio in Teen Bahadur — not to forget the taboo, the unsung and loyal pet dog that one of them moves around with — have the ultimate support of the man in charge of the security of the area, which is something without which the Pakistanis cannot really hope to achieve too much, and which of course is not the subtle part that was being referred to at the beginning of this piece.

The protector is there in full prominence, gifting the bahadurs magical powers, at the same time advising them to always rely on their brains, lest anyone had false ideas in their heads.

That’s pretty much formulaic — saying which is not intended to in any way discredit the effort whose main emphasis is on message and technology, on patriotism and animation. What has escaped notice as yet is the presence of a character who shares his name with the main opposition and the main change-seeking politician in Pakistan of today.

Apparently much care has been taken by the team led by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy while naming the characters for the film. The three bahadurs are called Kamil, Amna and Saadi and the adults in the film are either addressed by what appears to be their nicknames — in case of the bad guys — or by the honorifics used for the elders.

There is a single exception to the rule. The father of Amna is named Imran. He has a bit of a protagonist in himself and is shown to be a shopkeeper. (He is the only one it seems who is open for business. The others prefer to be closed, offering the makers of the film fully drawn shutters to freely plaster the sponsors’ messages on).

Much as in real life at a PTI jalsa and in large parts of the country generally, it is this Imran who convinces the grownups around him to allow the youth to initiate a push to free the occupied tower of power and rescue the town from the hands of evil. He is the vital link to the future.

Is this a coincidence? It would be a pity actually if Imran in Teen Bahadur is there unintentionally for it would leave the feature rather incomplete — the problem identified and the audience conveyed the sad message that they must resign themselves to fate or wait for some super magical powers to get rid of their systematic subjugation. Without Imran’s intervention the feature would be incomplete. He provides an option.

When creative minds say it, it gives greater depth to the message. In recent times, the more visible trend has been where the artists have sided with Gen Pervez Musharraf, who is the darling of so many in the showbiz world in his role as the founder of the new media in Pakistan. From among the current lot of politicians, he is rivalled only by Imran Khan, who is widely regarded as the sole hope for viewers fed up with formula and remakes with old casts.

This is of course a continuation of the tradition where the creative minds have volunteered support for politicians of their choice or they have been co-opted by the powers in aid of campaign and propaganda.

Examples abound, but one that readily comes to mind is from a Punjabi film in the mid-1980s. The sequence showed a young determined woman wearing glasses driving into the village to reclaim her father’s land from grabbers. The audience didn’t took long to realise that she was the Benazir Bhutto of the filmmaker’s imagination, an all too recognisable model of BB who had only recently returned from exile to Pakistan.

There was some excitement among the audience to confirm that the message had been received. Maybe that kind emotion is not on show now inside the cinema house. Maybe the expressions are not as yet as loud and as sentimental as they had been back then. But the message is being sent out.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2015