An Unglishman in Lollywood


LAHORE: The English-speaking, English-reading, English-watching crowd likes what reinforces its values to itself. The more sensitive amongst the crowd likes what raises critical questions in their system of values. The values of Punjabi films have little to do with the values of an English-speaker. Sitting in a cinema playing a Punjabi movie is to be transported into a different value world.
Sitting in Prince Cinema watching the ‘first day, first show’ of Ilyasa Gujjar, one was transported into another world: the world of the mighty gujjar.
The film saw the promotion of a smaller actor onto a larger role — Rana Haider and a very nervous Haider who saw the success of this movie and his role as essential to the lead roles he was to do in upcoming films. Who were the movies star attractions? Shaan as Ilyasa Gujjar, Nargis loves Ilyasa, Sila Hussain loves Abid Gujjar played by Haider. Before the film started, Haider, sitting in the audience, said, “This is the culture of the rural world.
It represents how they encounter their world. They connect with it because it is their life.” Film partakes of life but it also deviates from regular life.
It should be similar for this film, one thinks. And at this moment the film’s credits began. The music could be described as something of orchestra from a horror movie combined with Mozart. And then the film began. A rural wedding scene. Kalashnikov firing at the backdrop of the wedding dhols.
A baraat progressing slowly. And the baraat immersed in bhangra. The groom-to-be is shown. The scene moves to the bride-to-be. A jeep stops outside her room. A man holding a kalashnikov gets off. He enters her room. It becomes clear he is her lover.
She runs away with him into the jeep. And they drive away to the home of a gujjar friend. It is in this first meeting with the gujjar that the construction of the gujjar identity in the film occurs. The groom-to-be kills the bride’s father and follows the jeep to the gujjar’s compound. The gujjar aids his friend and a gun battle ensues amidst the compound’s buffalos in which the two end up defeating the attacking groom who runs away injured.
The gujjar has upheld the value of friendship.
Once the groom is gone the gujjar admonishes his friend for his illicit relationship with the bride-to-be. He turns his gun upon them when his wife comes and says, “Leave them for they desire to be married”. She promises the marriage, one which they declare their own intent to uphold. And then the gujjar says, “I shall only let you stay one night in my house. After which you two shall never return.” The gujjar upholds the value of morality in the name of respect.
This is how the gujjar is introduced by the film. Then the sons of the gujjar are introduced: Abid Gujjar (Rana Haider) and Ilyaas Gujjar (Shaan). Ilyaas is a tame and docile individual. His only love is his brother. And he spends his time in a shrine where he prays for his brother, Abid, who is in an urban college.
Ilyaas is introduced throwing a steady stream of rose petals onto the shrine. In Ilyaas’ moment at the shrine, perhaps, what is also captured is the connection of the urban working classes with their shrines.
Ilyaas, still in his village, is contrasted with his brother, Abid Gujjar, who is in direct contact with the urban. Moreover he is attempting to transform himself and ascend his caste limitation by standing in the college election.
The entry of Abid Gujjar onto the space is marked by a slowing down of the camera. Each step he takes is made somehow heroic. He stands before the opposing party Khans who are accustomed to dominating the urban scene and from a higher pedestal delivers a monologue invoking the imagery of the gujjar past and asserting that the gujjar has moved onto a new social position.
And yet as he says he puts the Khans into a drum and beats them around (the process to make lassi) it is clear that he has not escaped his past completely rather he is inverting its usage: he is turning it into the symbol of his liberation.
The symbols of the gujjars past identity become the objects with which he threatens the urban other. Remaining in the domain of fantasy there was another hypothesis building in our head.
This specific fantasy was the fantasy of the urban, working class male for unleashed female sexuality and his ability to dominate this unleashed female sexuality.
Theatre offers catharsis, Aristotle would say justifying theatre to the Greeks. Here there was catharsis but also desire generation. The woman, Abid Gujjar had tamed was an urban woman. She wore tight jeans and was skinny — the type of woman the working class rarely gets to encounter. It was perhaps this specific form of dominance that most excited them: the taming of the urban woman.
The song ended and, well, amongst other things that happened in the movie the interval came. Rana, whose character had been gunned down resisting the Khan’s in protecting his honour, an actor only marginally known to the audience for one prior role, was surrounded by the audience.
The most exciting to the crowd remained the song. But his performance otherwise had been memorable. It had struck a cord. The values he had represented had founded resonance.
The crowd had connected with Abid Gujjar’s character. What about Ilyaas? Well, one cannot reveal the entire plot if any of you hopes to venture into the cinema hall.
There are other things hidden in this film’s subconscious. But at this moment, with a 1,300 strong audience on the first show and three full house showings on the first day, Ilyasa Gujjar, and its representation and reaffirmation of the gujjar’s encounter of urban space appears a portrayal that has struck a chord.


  1. oye koi bndy te puttar ban te film bna lavo . dunia chan te apparr gai te tussi dandy soty le k phirdy j.. kuch sharam kro … kaminyo

Comments are closed.