Pakistani Showbiz

Without dance, we cannot make a good film: Pappu Samrat

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LAHORE: When Pakistani cinema began to shift gears, only a handful the old world eased into the new setting. Perhaps the followers of age-old methods or those who are accused of leading the film industry into a dark alley are no more wanted. Yet there is one family that has stood the test of time. It is safe to say it has pioneered an art form in the country that only a few practitioners took seriously, so much so that today the name Samrat is almost synonymous with the local realm of dance.

Samrat scion Shaukat Hussain, famously known as Pappu Samrat, is one of Pakistan’s most prolific choreographers and flag-bearer of the family’s trade. Having worked for over 572 Urdu and Punjabi films, he is still one of the busiest choreographers in the country. “Our family took charge of the art form right after Pakistan came into being. It is our commitment to dance that we are still associated with the profession,” he tells The Express Tribune.


Pappu says that instead of converting the institution into an enterprise by establishing academies, the family passed on tricks of the trade to generation after generation. “Today, 90% of the dancers in Pakistan have either directly or indirectly learnt dance from the Samrat family,” he proclaims.

Having recently worked on new-age projects, such as Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Halla Gulla, Sawaal 700 Crore Ka and Tum Hi To Ho, Pappu is determined to steer Lollywood out of its miseries through his art form. “This is why I never left the country to work elsewhere. I have given my life to this industry and its revival today is the result of this very commitment of people like me.”

Aware of the taboos associated with dance in Pakistan, Pappu notes it is the teaching of his elders to not complain and continue working hard come what may. Despite facing adversity at the hands of time, not once did Pappu think of calling it quits. “Dance gave us an identity. We are known around the world for it,” he says.


Pappu shoulders a legacy that dates back to several decades. His grandfather Master Aashiq Hussain was a famous choreographer in India and his father Akbar Hussain Samrat was himself a popular dancer. His brother, uncles and nephews are all associated with dance. “I learnt dance when I was 17. My father was my first teacher who trained me in different dance forms,” he shares. Pappu feels dance is a major component of our films and plays a vital role in their performance. “Without dance, we cannot make a good film.”

The youth of today are interested in exploring the art form more than ever. “This is why you see dance academies springing up across the country,” he adds. But he laments how things do not seem to be looking up like they are across the border. “In India, the situation is a little different. There, they have women who came forward and embraced dance. Lollywood never saw women take up choreography as a profession.” Looking ahead, Pappu has plans of directing films. “Indian choreographers made films on the subject of dance. I, however, want to make films on societal issues prevalent in our own country.”

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