Are we so intolerant of artists who express themselves in ways that aren’t sanctioned by the industry’s gatekeepers?
Sahir Lodhi’s film Raasta was released last week to much chatter, most of it online.
As reviews poured in, the general consensus among critics was Raasta was mediocre (at best) in terms of artistic merit.
Some also noted that it was so earnest in its pursuit of blockbuster-ness that it ought to be viewed anyway.
However, some went a step further and termed the film “cheap” and and so, ‘low-class’.
Sahir Lodhi wasn’t amused by this at all and hit back aggressively in a video message. “I’m tired of this bridge. Pakistanis have been called ‘cheap,’ they have been told that they are sub-grade humans [if they watch my film]. So all my fans from Karachi to Peshawar are cheap? If you live on this side of the bridge? How dare you call Pakistanis cheap?” he lashed out.
Lodhi added: “Who gives you that right to differentiate? Who are you to decide that the people who go to Nueplex or the people who go to Bambino are any different?”
And you know what? Once you get past the hyperbole… well, he has a point.
Raasta may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but labelling people who went to watch the Sahir Lodhi starrer ‘low-class’ or ‘cheap’ doesn’t do us any favours.
This attitude only reveals how classist Pakistani society is, and how intolerant we’ve become of any aspiring artist who chooses to express themself in ways that are not sanctioned by the elite or by the entertainment industry’s gatekeepers.
This kind of intellectual snobbery — which often arises out of insecurity, but that’s a whole other conversation — is divisive. It’s also harmful to people who would like to experiment with different art forms and yet may not have access to the best, most experienced mentors and advisers.
Otherising people who may attend cinemas in locales that are not frequented by the elite is neither correct nor productive. Consuming art — whether you choose to deem that art bad, good, weird or awkward — should not be policed on the basis of class. In fact there are very few instances when it should be policed at all.