Pakistani Showbiz

Embracing the dark side of Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: Children who grew up in the 80s and 90s have vivid memories of the enchantingly thrilling Lucky Irani Circus. To document the lives of the people behind this spellbinding circus troupe, Anam Abbas, a budding documentary filmmaker, director, producer and writer, spent several days in Faisalabad.

“It’s about appreciating the talents of people and things you surround yourself with, getting inspiration from your surroundings and seizing the chance to live many lifetimes,” Abbas shares her work philosophy

Born and raised in Islamabad, Abbas moved to Canada to pursue a degree in literature. While skimming through courses, it was  ‘Religion in Film’ in particular that intrigued her. She found the course so exciting that it led her to pursue a degree in cinema. To flex her muscles as a producer, Anam shot three short-films with a handy-cam in Canada after getting done with her degree with majors in documentary, cinematography and screen writing.  “All the time I was there, I was itching to come back to Pakistan since there’s so much inspiration here,” said Anam.

Following her passion, Anam started working on Lucky Irani Circusupon her return. The film opens with crowd rushing to buy tickets and hurrying through security to enter, organisers setting up their stalls and testing sound, and participants gearing up for their performance before the inauguration.  Shot in Faisalabad and Rawalpindi — Bhattiyan, it leaves the Pakistani audience reminiscing their childhood days.

Even though, the film shows various issues faced by these performers, according to Anam, her purpose wasn’t raising awareness about these issues but depicting their lives and experiences. It was premiered at Face Film Festival in Islamabad earlier this year as well as the 8th Vasakh Film Festival in Lahore.

Anam Abbas














Talking about her current projects, Anam revealed that she’s working on Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan, a documentary feature directed by Saad Khan. The trailer, which was unveiled earlier this year, received a lot of criticism from conventional Pakistanis worldwide for being controversial.  In the film, Anam documents the lives of three showgirls of different areas of Punjab.  It unveils a world of Smut Theatre and strip-shows in small towns and villages through the eyes of the women who profit from the business but are never heard of.

“We all know that Smut Theatre and strip-shows are part of the Punjabi culture, but somehow talking about it and bringing it out in the open is considered a taboo,” said Anam. These showgirls are managed by a violent mafia, pimps, boyfriends who regularly traffic them outside Pakistan as well.

“The idea behind this documentary was to hear these women’s side of the story.” Anam believes that our society, being male-dominated, has a lot of mud-slinging to do when it comes to such women, but in reality, these women are in this business because of these men. The film is in post-production and the team is looking for funding to complete it.

About the changing film world in Pakistan, Anam shared, “It’s heartening to see a lot of women at the forefront of filmmaking today.” Anam is also working as an associate producer on Ali Zafar’s new commercial film titled Deosai.

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