Joyland made it to the Oscars 2023 shortlist and it’s important to recognize this is no small feat. Joyland lands the listing after 10 submissions from Pakistan over the past 60 years failed to make the cut! And THAT’S why we celebrate!
Pakistan’s cinematic universe has a long and challenging journey. From blooming in its early days, to going down, more or less, in a silent whimper later on, and now, finding its feet again, movies in Pakistan have done the whole run. As someone once said, 2022 not a revival of Pakistani cinema anymore, we have revived and are on our way to greater glory!
Hence, with that uplifting thought, we take you on a walk in time as we recap the movies that were submitted over the years for the Oscars. Catch up on them this winter because, just because they didn’t receive a nod from the Academy doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a watch. In fact, on the contrary, they might surprise you! So here we go, starting with:
1. The Day Shall Dawn – 1959
An Urdu film that was originally named Jago Hua Savera. It was directed by A.J. Kardar. the project was a co production between what was then known as East (Bangladesh now) and West Pakistan. It told the story of the daily lives of East Pakistani fisherman. It won a major award at the Moscow International Film Festival but was not short listed for the Oscars.
Penned by celebrated writer Faiz Ahmed Faiz, it was based on Bengali author Manik Bandopadhyay’s writing. The film faced a ban in Pakistan by then prime minister Ayub Khan and was later premiered in London. It was restored later and screened at The New York Film festival 2008 and Cannes Film Festival 2016. It has been argued that Jago Hua Savera must be included as a relevant part of Pakistani cinematic history.
The Day Shall Dawn – Jago Hua Sawera holds a viewer rating on average between 4 and 5 stars on LetterBoxd and a 7.2 star rating on IMDb
- Tripti Mitra as Mala
- Zurain Rakshi as Fisherman Mian (as Zuraine)
- Khan Ataur Rahman as Kasim (as Anees Ama)
- Kazi Khaliq as Lal Mian (as Kazi Khaleque)[
- Maina Latif as Ganju (as Meena Latif)
The Day Shall Dawn Is Available On YouTube – Jago Hua Savera
2. The Veil – 1963
The Veil originally named Ghoonghat was scripted in Urdu and directed by Khwaja Khurshid Anwar. It told the story of a veiled bride who disappeared on the day of her marriage.
Ghoonghat has a rating of 7.5 stars on IMDb
The film features Nayyar Sultana and Santosh Kumar as leads. Ensemble cast included Neelo, Laila, Ghulam Mohammad and Bibbo. The Veil won four awards at the 1962 Nigar Awards ceremony held in Pakistan.
3. Zinda Bhaag – 2013
Yes, it took 50 years for the Pakistani Oscar submission, and that’s where we saw a dip in Pakistani cinema – dark days indeed. A nation without cinema is a nation bereft of dreams. Zinda Bhaag is a Punjabi-language comedy drama film directed by Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi. It maps the life of three young-men trying to get rid of a miserable life!
Zinda Bhaag is a film that will send shivers down your spine as it traces the life events of those who are embroiled in seeking illegal migration. The performances are stellar and the cast and execution are on point. It has won several awards including one at The South Asian Film festival in Canada. A version of the film is available on YouTube
Zinda Bhaag is rated 7.5 Stars on IMDb
- Zain Afzal as Khoota
- Naseeruddin Shah as Puhlwan
- Amna Ilyas as Rubina
- Khurram Patras as Khaldi
- Salman Ahmad Khan as Chitta
- Zohaib Asghar as Taambi
- Ibrahim Rauf Khawaja as Himself
- Samiya Mumtaz (Cameo)
- Rahat Fateh Ali Khan as Himself
- Naeema Butt
Watch the trailer here:
4. Dukhtar – 2014
Dukhtar is an Urdu/Pashto language film directed by Afia Nathaniel. It is a drama-thriller film about a mother and her ten-year-old daughter who abandon their home to save the girl from an arranged marriage to a tribal leader.
This power packed plot charts a 15 year old young girl, Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz’s) journey, her marriage to an older man and subsequent attempts to escape. The screenplay takes on a crime thriller like feel as we root for the escape and subsequent freedom of our heroine. Watch for the equally power packed cast!
Dukhtar is rated 6.9 stars on IMDb
- Samiya Mumtaz as Allah Rakhi
- Mohib Mirza as Sohail
- Saleha Aref as Zainab
- Asif Khan as Daulat Khan
- Ajab Gul as Shehbaz Khan
- Samina Ahmad as Rukhsana
- Adnan Shah as Ghorzang Khan
- Abdullah Jaan as Tor Gul / Hikmatullah
- Omair Rana as Zarak Khan
Watch the trailer here with notable performances from the cast
5. Moor – 2015
Moor is an Urdu/Pashto language film directed by film maker Jami. The story maps the dynamics of the railway system in Balochistan and specifically, the closure of the Zhob valley railway line, other than highlighting the significance of strong matriarchal culture in the region. Moor means mother in Urdu. The film traversed a challenging making with the cast spending days in a train that had no windows, no bathrooms and barely any lights. The film has won critical acclaim from several quarters including selected for The Busan Film Festival in South Korea. It was released by Geo Films ion August 14th 2015.
Moor is rated 7.3 stars on IMdb
The cast includes:
- Hameed Sheikh as Wahid
- Shaz Khan as Ehsaanullah Khan
- Samiya Mumtaz as Palwasha
- Abdul Qadir as Baggoo Baba
- Shabbir Rana as Zahir
- Sultan Hussain as Lalu
- Ayaz Samoo as Imtisal
- Nayyar Ejaz as Talat
- Aliee Shaikh as FIA Officer
- Soniya Hussain as Amber
- Eshita Mehboob Syed as Arzo
- Joshinder Chaggar as Sarah
- Omar as Asghar
- Zainullah as Dilawar
With lyrics by Anwar Maqsood and music from Strings, watch the gripping trailer Moor here:
6. Mah e Mir – 2016
Mah e Mir is a semi-biographical drama film in Urdu directed by Anjum Shehzad. It follows the life of a troubled poet who obsessed himself with 18-century legendary poet Mir Taqi Mir.
The film charts the struggles of a modern poet Jamal, played by Fahad Mustafa as he imagines himself to be Mir Taqi Mir in Lucknow. Watch this one for the poet in you!
Mah e Mir is rated 6.9 stars on IMdb
- Fahad Mustafa as Ahmad Jamal/Mir Taqi Mir
- Iman Ali as Mysterious girl/Mahtab Bai
- Sanam Saeed as Naina Kanwal
- Manzar Sehbai as Dr. Kaleem
- Huma Nawab as Kaleem’s ex-wife
- Alyy Khan as Nawab Sahab
- Paras Masroor as Siraj
- Syed Fazal Hussain as Karam Elahi
- Rashid Farooqui as Nawaz
Watch ann intensely gripping trailer here:
7. Saawan – 2017
Saawan was an Urdu language film directed by Farhan Alam. It is based on a true story of a disabled 9 year old boy, abandoned by his near and dear ones, who faces difficulties and met with challenges in society. Watch this one for some ground breaking sensitive screenplay and a gripping plot that will tear at your sensitivities.
Saawan is rated 7.4 stars on IMdb
- Saleem Mairaj
- Syed Karam Abbas
- Arif Bahalim
- Najiba Faiz
- Imran Aslam
- Tipu Sharif
- Hafeez Ali
- Sehrish Qadri
- Sohail Malik
- Shahid Niazmi]]
- Muhammad Abbas
- Danial Yunus
- Mehek Zulfiqar
- Syed Muhammad Ali
- Lt. Gen. S. A. A. Najmi (R)
- Liam (dog)
Cath the trailer here:
8. Cake – 2018
Cake is an Urdu language film directed by Asim Abbasi. cake maps the journey of a woman who tends to her aging parents and their land. She is joined by her sister when their parents’ health worsens. The film was the first Pakistani project to have a world premiere at the Leicester Square in London.
Cake is rated 7.6 Stars on IMdb
- Aamina Sheikh as Zareen
- Sanam Saeed as Zara
- Adnan Malik as Romeo
- Mikaal Zulfiqar as Shehryar
- Syed Mohammad Ahmed as Zareen’s father
- Beo Zafar as Habiba
- Faris Khalid as Zain
- Hira Hussain as Sana
- Gianbruno Spena as Adnan (Webisodes)
Watch the intensely gripping trailer here:
9. Laal Kabootar – 2019
Laal Kabootar is an Urdu language film directed by Kamal Khan. The film is a crime thriller shot in Karachi with spectacular shots of the city. So much so, that is has been lauded as the most authentic representation of the city so far. Performances are riveting, characters well developed and satisfyingly grey, which leaves lots of room for believability.
Hence we can’t but not give this one a thumbs up as your holiday watch, but not with the kids.
Rated 7.8 stars on IMdb
- Ahmed Ali Akbar as Adeel Alam
- Ali Kazmi as Noman Malik
- Mansha Pasha as Aaliyah Malik
- Syed Mohammad Ahmed
- Rashid Farooqui as Inspector Ibrahim
- Mojiz Hasan
- Saleem Meraj
- Syed Arsalan
- Hammad Sidiq
- Ishtiaq Omar
- Kaleem Ghour
- Faiza Gillani
Catch the trailer for Laal Kabootar here:
10. Circus Of Life – 2020
Circus of Life, originally called Zindagi Tamasha Hai is an Urdu/Punjabi film directed by Sarmad Khoosat. The film addresses challenging issues faced by a man in Lahore who led a respected life, tending to his ailing wife. He is known to be a devout Muslim in his community, a poet, and even sings hymns in praise of the prophet. But one day, all that changes. The film maps out his struggles and subsequent ‘fall from grace’
Zindagi Tamasha Hai has been plagued by controversy and banned in its home country.
Zindagi Tamasha Hai is rated 7.6 stars on IMdb
- Arif Hassan as Rahat Khawaja
- Samiya Mumtaz
- Eman Suleman as Sadaf
- Ali Kureshi as Danish
Watch the trailer for Zindagi Tamasha Hai here:
11. Joyland – 2022
Joyland is an Urdu language film directed by Saim Sadiq. This is the 11th Oscar submission in over 60 years from Pakistan and it has now been short-listed for the Oscars 2023. Joyland is a film about family relationships, and women, and being more aware of our sexuality. The film focuses on Transgender lives as well. It won an award at the Cannes Film Festival 2022 in Uncertain Regards Category.
Joyland is rated 7.6 stars on IMdb
- Ali Junejo as Haider
- Rasti Farooq as Mumtaz
- Alina Khan as Biba
- Sarwat Gilani as Nucchi
- Salmaan Peerzada as Rana Amanullah
- Sohail Sameer as Saleem
- Sania Saeed as Fayyaz
Watch Joyland trailer here:
And that’s a wrap! Interesting to note that most of the films hold an IMDb rating of 7 plus and none below a 6.9 stars. The films submitted for Oscars cast Samiya Mumtaz, (her talent speaks volumes), and many faced an impending ban or were banned in the home country, i.e. Pakistan. Story telling is an arduous task and the lines between Art, Society and Socially, Culturally, Religiously Acceptable content is very, very fine. Let’s celebrate the Art of Film making and the Artists who make it happen for us. It is indeed, testament to our creativity that we have traversed the 50 odd years when Cinema was not showing much in Pakistan and yes, 2022 no longer heralds the revival of Pakistani cinema, this is the moment when stories will be made, unravelled, narrated and ultimately triumph on the big screen!
Bring it on 2023, you just gave us HOPE!
5 Pakistanis Who Made It To The Cannes Film Festival
Catch FUCHSIA Magazine’s Interview with The Cast Here:
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