Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder; at least that is the lesson we learnt from the magnificent Rowan Atkinson in his hilarious film Bean. Asked to talk about the world famous painting Whistler’s Mother, he said that although Mrs Whistler was not a good looking woman, her son loved her enough to paint her portrait. Recently we have heard that another elderly lady is making a comeback.
No, it’s not a Lollywood starlet of yesteryear trying to make a comeback. I am talking about the Nigar Awards, established in 1957 to celebrate cinematic excellence in Pakistan. They were instituted by the film magazine Nigar, which was founded in 1948 by Ilyas Rashdi, who was inspired by India’s Filmfare magazine. Rashdi was an inspired entrepreneur (as he would be called in today’s terms); he bought a children’s magazine and converted it into Pakistan’s first film magazine. The Awards were a natural extension and for many years were regarded as the top honour in Pakistan’s film world.
In 2002, the organisers decided that since Pakistan’s film industry was in decline, the Awards would not be held anymore. The reason given by Rashdi was that the number of films had dropped and they did not want to award work that was not of quality.
Now after a hiatus of 15 years, the Nigar Awards will be held in March in Karachi. The reason for the revival is because the organizers now believe that Pakistan’s cinema industry is back on track. Whether the rebirth of Lollywood is hype or a fact remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is the role brands will play in the Nigar Awards in 2017 and in the future.
The Awards also cater to the regional languages, so there is the opportunity for brands to slot themselves in areas where they sell the most or have affinity with.
The Awards do not follow the closed envelope formula and the winners are announced beforehand. The Awards also cater to the regional languages, so there is the opportunity for brands to slot themselves in areas where they sell the most or have affinity with (for example Gourmet in Punjab and Vital in Sindh). However, it seems unlikely that the Awards can be pulled off to the required grand scale without roping in at least one large Telco or FMCG company. Personally I would love to see Tarang sponsor the Awards as the brand has maintained a consistent connection to Lollywood style over the past years. I am sure the organisers will weigh the cost and benefit of having brands as partners.
Will these awards capture the imagination of the young and spark a surge in cinema going? I don’t think that is very likely, however the Nigar’s are a vehicle for the projection of a softer image of Pakistan and therefore their revival bodes well. If these Awards do take off and regain their former stature, this will be an excellent situation. Family is a keystone in our social fabric and if the revival of these Awards can help the Pakistani film industry produce quality family entertainment with or without the support of brands as partners, then they can be once again looked on as a thing of beauty and a joy.