“If it actually gets to the place where you can’t show 35mm film in theatres anymore and everything is digital projection, I won’t even make it to 60.” This was once said by film director Quentin Tarantino at a Hollywood Reporter discussion.
While the brains behind classics such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs may have started to contemplate his final exit, what proponents of film such as him fear the most has already begun in Lahore — the crumbling of the old world.
After 56 years of operation, the film lab at Evernew Studio has been padlocked and, with the lab’s closure, an entire era of Pakistani cinema has come to an end. For years, the studio belted out classics that redefined Pakistani popular culture, such as Maula Jutt, Heer Ranjha and Nagina. With the introduction of digital techniques, the older film processing technology has been rendered useless; forcing the studio administration to call it quits.
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The mushrooming of film labs in the city ran parallel to the setting up of hi-end film studios in Lahore at a time when Lollywood was still a legit term to use. There was a time when film technicians walked in and out of Royal Park near Lakshmi Chowk all day long. The bastion of film development in the city was helped by others at Shah Noor Studio, Bari Studio, Shadab Studio and Evernew itself.
For the last 15 years, this lab was housed in a small room at the studio that was always the first option for any filmmaker, thanks to its advanced machinery. While others in the city succumbed to Lollywood’s crises one after another, the lab at Evernew stood firm against the onslaught of the digital age up until two weeks ago. After much deliberation with the Film Directors Association, its administration wrote to film producers and directors, asking them to collect their inventory from the lab before it shuts down for good.
“The lab’s last film, Razia Phans Gai Gundon Main, was edited on the eve of Eidul Fitr this year,” shares Malik Yousaf, an official at Evernew Studio. Yousaf explains how the studio was finding it difficult to procure film negatives from abroad. “With the advancement in film technology everywhere, it has become impossible to continue with the old,” he adds. Yousaf admits non-availability of negatives is not the only concern. “There is literally no business these days. All our expensive machinery is now useless.”
Ali Jan is a former supervisor at Evernew. Talking to The Express Tribune, he recollects, “I am a witness to the development of super hit films behind these walls.” He says the lab was trusted by renowned filmmakers of their time like Riaz Shahid, Jamshaid Rizvi, Younas Malik, Riaz Gujjar, Azhar Niaz, Hasan Askari, Aslam Dar and many others. Jan said renowned film editor Z A Zulfi used to carry out manual cutting and pasting of film at the very lab. “As time passed by, the lab lost its charm and its people.”
Director Pervaiz Rana feels the import of Indian content sparked the onset of the problem. “If you continue to import foreign content, where will local technicians and other menial film workers go?” He however maintains the crumbling of old film labs does not translate into the crumbling of Pakistani cinema itself. “Now that the situation has changed completely and local filmmakers are also using advanced equipment, there remains no need of film negative developing labs.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2015.
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