Salma Sidique: "Rustic Releases Vernacular: Cinema and Partition Temporality in Lahore"
Mapping the complex temporalities set in motion by Partition for film representation and production, this article explores the aesthetic and narrative choices in vernacular cinema from early Pakistan. Here both émigré and ‘indigenous’ film-makers in post-Partition Lahore embraced Punjabi to safely negotiate a regional market, revealing continuity with pre-national film output. Thematically, these films drew on folk tales and legends (qissa – dastan) popular in the subcontinent for centuries, whilst deploying mystical Sufism to fashion a distinctive form, that of the rustic release. Rustic both in narrative content and technical treatment, these films reveal an imagery fabricated by infrastructural constraints. Visuals of an agrarian and highly stratified society are crafted commensurate with vernacular literary output from the region, and imbued with Sufi tropes of healing mystics, charismatic transgressors and annihilating love. Reading the partition classic Kartar Singh (Saifuddin Saif, 1959), the author follows the crystallisation of a local aesthetic, through the interplay of location, film apparatus, contingency (Partition) and image, thus bringing forth the manner in which Lahore films are simultaneously products and re-enactments of Partition.