Ushah Kazi is a freelance writer based in Canada who has a passion for films, and is creator of ‘The Kollective’, a website dedicated to Pakistani pop culture with a special focus on Pakistani movies. Her latest project is a fun book called ‘The Popculture Junkie’s Guide to Pakistani Cinema’.
This is Ushah’s first book, and gives interesting insights into Pakistani and Indian movies that children of the 80’s and 90’s grew up watching.
We caught up with her for a brief chat on this exciting new venture and her views on Pakistani cinema.
Tell us about your interest in cinema.
My love for film started pretty early. Like most people, I grew up watching films and I would often write about them as well. Simultaneously, I belong to the generation that experienced the so called “revival of Pakistani cinema”, which of course fascinated me as well. Growing up on Bollywood fodder, I was vaguely aware that once upon a time Pakistani movies were a reality, and a celebration. By 2008, this seemed to be making a comeback, and I wanted to know everything I could about it. Hence I started reading and writing about Pakistani movies.
How did you think of writing a book about Pakistani films?
Once Pakistani movies began making a comeback, I wanted to find out everything I could and began looking for books on the subject. But there were very few books about Pakistani films and the ones that were available, were usually academic in nature. I felt that this was an opportunity to write a book that was an easy (ish) read, from the perspective of a cine-lover, rather than something dense that was written for purely academic reasons.
Referring to the title of your book, do you think pop culture is no longer a part of our movies and it’s more about millennials now?
That’s an interesting question. I would say that to an extent, pop culture is much more conversational now. When we talk about popular culture (or pop culture) it is of course referring to the culture consumed by the masses. Because of new technology and media, the creation of this culture has become much more democratic. Audience members, most of whom tend to be millennials, are now more of a part of the actual creation of pop culture itself. But films, and certainly music, television, YouTube videos, are still central to pop culture itself. After all, we may be controlling much more of the conversation, but we still need something to talk about.
What is your take on the content of the new crop of movies coming up to ‘revive’ Pakistani cinema?
I think it is interesting to note that we are seeing a diverse range of movies. Yes, most romantic comedies regurgitate the same tropes. But we are also seeing biographical projects, we’re seeing some horror films, crime dramas, satire and so on. And, there is our vibrant indie film scene, which needs to be remembered for pushing every boundary imaginable. I am an eternal optimist by nature, but the diversity in terms of film genres makes me particularly hopeful.
What has been your favourite Pakistani movie, in recent times?
I love Zibakhana, it is an underappreciated gem. As a self-proclaimed pop culture junkie, I am also a fan of anything that is self-aware or doesn’t take itself too seriously, so I liked Jawani Phir Nahi Ani and Jalaibee. There are also a ton of indie films that I loved. Moor was a heartbreaking experience and Josh was also beautiful and painful.
Do you think the Pakistani film industry is going in the right direction ?
I couldn’t say, because I think that the direction per se hasn’t really made itself clear. There are some promising efforts, but as a collective fraternity and film culture, we’re still finding our footing. But, the fact that we are making movies again is a great first step.
Which movie are you looking forward to watch now?
I still haven’t been able to watch Cake, and I am aching to watch it. I was also pleasantly surprised with Jawani Phir Nahi Ani, so I’d love to watch the sequel soon. Finally the supremely talented Hamza Bangash recently completed a short film titled Dia, and I really want to watch that because it is such a unique take on mental health concerns.
You can get a copy of Ushah’s book here.