December was a big month for Pakistani cinema. With the release of three films, Rangreza, Shaan’s Arth – The Destination, and Chupan Chupai (which has yet to be released), exhibitors relied on the first two to bring in some solid revenue. Unfortunately, Arth and Rangrezareleased on December 21 to a low audience, and were even panned by critics.
While the distributors of both films, HKC Entertainment and Distribution Club were unavailable to share the box office figures, sources reported low numbers. The exhibitors confirmed that each of the films had between 18-40% occupancy at best.
Meanwhile, Shaan Shahid (justifiably) paints a different picture of Arth, retweeting several positive comments from his fans who liked the film. Not just that, he also suffered a meltdown defending the film and even sharing what are, according to him, the words of a journalist he “just posted”.
The original post which is allegedly from Shaan’s official Facebook page has now been deleted but screenshots have been circulating across social media. The post triggers a Karachi vs Lahore mentality, pitting “Karachiwalas” against Arth just because it was “released from Lahore”. The letter, shared by Shaan, even calls it a conspiracy to discourage Pakistani cinema.
Interestingly, comedian Ali Gul Pir’s tweet, which wasn’t even tweeted directly at Shaan, further irked him. “Our so-called artists need to grow up. Ever heard of Meryl Streep or Christian Bale bitching about critics on their social media. No because they believe in their art and don’t care about others. Unlike our celebs who haven’t even done half as good work but act like they invented film form,” tweeted Pir.
Shaan popped up and said, “And with all due respect, I will not compare you to any artists anywhere because I can’t find a suitable comparison anywhere. I hope you understand.” He continued, “We are grown-ups but not for lies. And the choice of words is loathed with arsenic, hate and disrespect. It’s time we strike back at not criticism but lack of knowledge.”
He even pointed that ‘critics’ were misinforming the audience that the film is three hours in duration when it’s actually two hours and 13 minutes.
Twitter aside, on his personal Facebook account, Shaan even shared a public post appreciating those who supported him in making the film. “Thank you to all the loved ones for their support in making Arth a success, the people of Pakistan I’m always humbled by their love,” he wrote.
However, Arth has received a mixed public response at best. Sure enough, it can’t be called a success with attendance barely crossly 50% on average.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Atrium Cinemas managing director Nadeem Mandviwalla said, “Both Rangreza and Arth haven’t gained over 50% occupancy in any show. Jumanji is leading the pack, with the highest attendance, with Fukrey Returns in the second position.” It’s to be noted Fukrey Returns, in its third week in the theatres, is attracting more audience than the two new local releases.
Nueplex director of media and marketing Kamran Yar Khan noted that Arth has had about 40% occupancy (with Rangreza at 41%). “We have dedicated entire screens to these two films but of course, the response has been disappointing. They got great release dates but didn’t attract enough people to theatres.”
In fact, Arth has received disappointing response in Lahore as well, which is possibly surprising considering Shaan was once the superstar ruling Lollywood. Super Cinemas general manager Khorem Gultasab said both Arth and Rangreza have about 18-25% occupancy at average. “We thought the combination of Arth, Rangreza and Jumanji would give audiences enough variety to attract them to the theatres, but it has been disappointing to say the least.”
Therefore, all reports point to Arth being neither a box office or a critical success. In his Facebook post, the star called his “haters” out too. “To all the haters who are trying so hard to write and spread negativity, if you guys understood the film techniques, you would be making films and I would be writing columns in the newspapers,” he wrote. “A film has its own flight, a flight of belief on the hard work, prayers, and the love of the people who don’t have access to write but to see and enjoy the film.”
He concluded the post, saying, “Croak as much as you can with your hate words and analysis. It helps us rise above. But seriously I wish you had a better job. Losers.”
Shaan’s tirade isn’t surprising as it has become a growing trend among Pakistani celebrities whose films fail to make a mark. Earlier this year, Sahir Lodhi did the same, in an attempt to salvage Raasta. Syed Noor also lashed on to the audience and journalists alike after Chain Aye Na bombed.
This growing frustration and lashing out of film-makers signals a bigger problem. A film-maker, and one such as a veteran like Shaan, makes a mediocre film and expects people to admire it. If they don’t, he bursts out defending it rather than accepting his failings and promising to bounce with a better result the next time. It clearly shows such film-makers’ incompetence, self-obsession and lack of vision for the overall film industry.
Instead, their mindset is that of a spoiled brat, who feels entitled to success and appreciation no matter what product he puts out in the market. This hurts the industry more than it benefits it.
Shaan’s outburst in the failure of Arth proves it yet again. And if his efforts and dedication in making the film were even close to how much efforts he has made in defending it, he would be reaping the rewards now.