Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cinema of politics

Nahin Abhi Nahin (1980), directed by the progressive filmmaker Nazrul Islam and released during the period of strict Islamic laws of General Ziaul Haque was not perceived as anything more than a coming of age romance, but was it just that?

Beginning as an Aligarh desire of a peasant couple wanting their son to receive high education, the story follows the son, Armaan (literally meaning aspiration) to a hostel in the city.

1. Kuchh bhi karo yeh rokien: Armaan, the innocent boy from village is advised by his street-smart roommate Bobby to pluck flowers if he likes (prohibited by authorities in the public park). "These excessive prohibitions are conspiracy hatched against us by a few fanatics," says Bobby. An old gentleman interrupts compassionately, "No, my son. This is how we, who are your elders, are offering you guidance." When Armaan takes sides with the oldman, Bobby responds by singing this song - symbolic criticism of General Zia's version of "Islamization"?

2. Samaan woh khwab sa: Adolescent Armaan is searching for the older woman Shabnam on whom he has a crush - or is it about a teenager in the days of General Zia regretting to have missed the more liberal 1970s because he was too young at that time ('samaan woh "khwab sa" samaan')?

3. Uss nay dekha: Armaan meets his older crush, Shabnam, who kisses him on the forehead just as he had seen in a Hollywood film earlier - is he misinterpreting her gesture because his head is filled with imported fantasies? He narrates the incident to his buddy Bobby, imagining a romantic future: "We'll have a little courtyard, and a life like flowers; she'll live for me and I'll live for her". In those days, students were getting carried away with political activism, aspiring to bring back the liberal democratic setup of the bygone days (just a little later they were going to hijack a PIA plane and demand release of political prisoners).

4. Ban jao tum filmstar: in the days of the Hudood Ordinance, a schoolgirl could do such things on a beach only in her fantasy. In this dream sequence, Aarzoo (whose name is almost synonymous to Armaan) advises the boy of her dreams to become a filmstar and imagines his later years filled with showbiz fame along with related problems: alcohol, women and loss of true love. Similar to what occured soon after the end of Zia period, with mushroom growth of private channels and liberal policies of the rulers?

5. Climax: Shabnam gets upset when Armaan proposes to her: she had been seeing in him a reflection of her young brother who died in an accident. Armaan attempts suicide, is rescued, and gets reformed: when offered an apple by Arzoo, who had been loving him without getting any response so far, he replies, "Our elders are right. Flowers which bloom before their time also die premature. I shall eat this fruit but no, not now (nahin abhi nahin)." Students should concentrate on studies because they cannot bring back the older democracy of the past through agitation, but will find a new one of their own in due time?


  1. Wow, yet again you have hit a six, yet again an ordinary that we thought is a profound one. So many years we were under impression that this is an amalgamation of THE SUMMER OF 42 and THE GRADUATE. But the inter-woven element that we lost in the warp and weft are making so much sense once we see this under your explanation, which are not very far fetched but some how we lacked the insight to see that. Very well done and thank you.

  2. Even without my language ability - the descriptions and interpretations you offer work perfectly here. (On both the personal and your national understanding - even with some universal applications.)

    This method of breaking down each part of the film with their analogies is seamless, compelling and quite easy to grasp on the various levels. Then by the end the whole feels like a perfect fit with your thesis.

  3. well to tell you the truth it was pleasently nostalgic to go down memory lane. but truley why has the most improtant mirror of any country and nation,cinema, not been studied for its resorvior of knowledge and insite into the phyche of its makers and viewers. iv always contented that all over the world films are written and produced to have a look at ones self as peoples. its really like looking into a mirror and deciding if you are looking happy, sad, pritty, ugly, suicidle or just bored.

  4. Akhtar, Connie and Faisal, thanks.

    "Faisal" who has posted his comment here is Faisal Rehman, the renowned actor whom you see in his debut role as "Armaan" in these clips. Actually these thoughts emerged during a discussion with him this Thursday when I was in Lahore.

  5. Though I saw Film "Nahin Abhi Nahin" back in 1980, but still my most favorite movie becuase of so many reason. I have just wrote an article about it. Please click this link for it.