The curious case of Maula Jatt
Maula Jatt stands as a monopoly breaker for Pakistani cinema at its time, one of the finest and most popular productions of Pakistani cinemas. It was seen as the biggest box office collection and savior for our film industries in the 1980s. However, during General Zia’s regime, it was immediately banned at first and then later unbanned for its uncanny and extraordinary outcome. Gen Zia’s regime was known for its draconian laws and cultural censorship in social, educational, and political aspects. The film industry had been one of the most affected arenas of the time.
Although Maula Jatt has been credited for its stage-wrecking performance and impact as a pathway for Punjabi cinema and culture, what most of us fail to recognize is the remarkable symbolism and metaphors that Sarwar Bhatti implies alongside the movie. It is described as it’s an intelligent exercise in commercial filmmaking, studded with some excellent performances, thoughtful plotting, imaginative direction, and sharp, snappy dialogue.” In dawn.
Maula Jatt, during the regime, stood as an artistic call for a revolution against the said dictatorship under Gen Zia. The film starts with ‘bismillah hirrehamnir rahim’, perhaps satirically mimicking the pseudo-religious regime that Zia had created. Throughout the film, the ability and strength of a protagonist to naturally win this war of good and bad is starkly depicted. The film characterizes Rahi’s (Jatt) as a civilian belonging to a lower middle-class family of a rural village standing up to Qureshi’s (Nuri) who stands as an undefeatable authority, perhaps, Zia. The movie subtly implies the police and governmental, institutional support in favor of Nuri who is the bad guy in the movie, while Rahi has the people’s vote and eventually defeats Nuri. Interestingly, a rising proletariat in those times (Bhutto) had a similar agenda and style while rising to fame, his roti, kapra, makaan slogan and his speeches for his ‘logon’ were a glimpse seen in Maula Jatt.
Does this cinematic expression impacts education?
My point here is that the role of education is complicated and distinguished in this setting. Here, we are not sitting in a classroom learning about numbers and grammar through a colonizer lens. But, we are consuming media, entertainment through informal sources of education which one may take up for peacebuilding or violence. Zia banning the movie, or the censor boards strict restrictions on the language and depiction of the characters was not entirely in good faith for the audience, if it were the case the movie may never have been released in the first place. However, the misinterpretation of the theme and creating a controversy and hype around it distracted the audience from what Bhatti expected express. In my opinion, if the conversations and discussions exploring the unsaid metaphor were more prominent, perhaps the consequence could have been more fruitful less sadistically violent? Maybe if there was an opportunity to educate masses rather than restricting it completely; appreciation for what it was rather than banning it completely; perhaps then the undefeatable consequences of the violent patriarch hidden in every Pakistani man would have been less apparent, but a need to stand up against the oppressors rather than the oppressed would’ve been more prominent.