In port of Gwadar, remains of Pakistani cinema’s bygone glory

Ali Muhammad, a former assistant at the Taj Mahal Talkies, drives his rickshaw in Gwadar, Pakistan, on May 20, 2022. (AN photo)
Ali Muhammad, a former assistant at the Taj Mahal Talkies, drives his rickshaw in Gwadar, Pakistan, on May 20, 2022. (AN photo)
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Updated 28 May 2022

In port of Gwadar, remains of Pakistani cinema’s bygone glory

Ali Muhammad, a former assistant at the Taj Mahal Talkies, drives his rickshaw in Gwadar, Pakistan, on May 20, 2022. (AN photo)
  • Opened in 1973, Taj Mahal Talkies cinema used to be main source of entertainment in the fishing town
  • When Pakistan’s film industry started to collapse in the mid-1990s, people turned away from cinema

GWADAR: When he drives his rickshaw past the yellow Taj Mahal Talkies building, Ali Muhammad can never resist stopping to recall how he used to paste posters of Pakistani blockbusters on its walls.

Opened in 1973, the cinema was one of only two in Gwadar — a fishing town of 50,000 people in Balochistan, an impoverished province of southwestern Pakistan, which is now a key destination for Chinese infrastructure investment projects.

The theater served as a key source of entertainment in the city for over three decades, until it closed in 2006. The other one, Balochistan Talkies, shut down even earlier.




 In this photo taken on May 20, 2022, Saleh Muhammad Sajid, a former cinema operator, looks at the building of Taj Mahal Talkies in Gwadar, Pakistan, where he once played Pakistani blockbusters. (AN photo)

Taj Mahal Talkies witnessed the best years of Pakistani cinematography, its “golden era,” attracting hundreds of people to its screenings of hits such as “Nadaan” (Innocent), a 1973 drama featuring legends Nadeem and Nisho, “Jadoo” (Magic, 1974), featuring legendary actors Sudhir and Mumtaz, “Parastish” (Worship,1977), a drama with Mumtaz, Nadeem, and Deeba, and hundreds more.

Muhammad most vividly remembers “Shadi Magar Aadhi,” a 1984 hit whose poster was the first he pasted during his Taj Mahal career.

The film is still special to him, and he often plays its soundtrack to remember the times when the cinema was full of people. Now not even chairs are left, and only a huge white screen remains on a blistered wall of the ruined building.

“But when I enter here, I go back to the golden days when this space would be full of film enthusiasts,” Muhammad told Arab News. “I continued to paste posters till it was closed.”

When Taj Mahal was shut, he started working as a fisherman, and recently became an auto-rickshaw driver.

“When the cinema was shut down, I was very upset,” he said. “Even today, I’m very sad.”




Ali Muhammad, a former assistant at the Taj Mahal Talkies, drives his rickshaw in Gwadar, Pakistan, on May 20, 2022. (AN photo)

Saleh Muhammad Sajid, who joined Taj Mahal Talkies as a projectionist in 1976, said women sent their children to Gwadar’s main square, Mullah Fazal Chowk, to check the posters and see what was on.

He remembered how as many as 1,000 people would come to the movies for some evening screenings.

Once, when the 1968 classic “Shahi Mahal” with Mohammad Ali and Firdous was scheduled, Sajid said, people swarmed the cinema in such huge numbers that one of its walls collapsed.

“The enthusiasm had no boundaries. When the hero would hit the villain, or deliver a punch, people would toss a coin towards the screen, in a show of appreciation,” he told Arab News.

Gwadar residents would endlessly talk about a movie from the moment they woke up the next day after its screening.

“‘Mohammad Ali was hit,’ one man would remark. The other would reply ‘no, Sudhir had run away,’ while another would interrupt ‘no, actually it was Sultan Rahi,’ and the discussion would go on for the day.”

The streak would last until the mid-1990s, when Pakistan’s film industry started to collapse and people generally began to turn away from cinema.

There were very few Pakistani productions to play, and although in neighboring India cinema was booming, Bollywood films could not make it to Pakistani screens — a ban on Indian movies, imposed after the 1965 India-Pakistan war, remained in place.

“Had Indian films been allowed, Taj Mahal Talkies would have survived a few years more. Pakistani content could not grab the audience,” Sajid said. “When I see this building, my heart cries.”


Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice
Updated 28 September 2022

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice
  • Designer explores world’s growing aridity with local materials, practices
  • Theme of next year’s event is ‘The Laboratory of the Future’

DUBAI: Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah is set to curate the National Pavilion UAE exhibition at the 18th Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia), organizers announced this week.

The selected research proposal by Tabbarah, who is an associate dean and associate professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah, aims to explore the relationship between architecture and dry landscapes in the country.

“My approach will rely on integrating technology with land-based materials practices and knowledge found in arid landscapes in the UAE,” said the Aleppo-born curator in a released statement.

“I am honored to have been selected as the curator for the National Pavilion UAE … Aridity is a fast-approaching future condition for many regions, and through this exhibition, we’ll explore their potential as spaces of abundance and productivity,” he added.

The selected research proposal by Tabbarah aims to explore the relationship between architecture and dry landscapes in the country. (Supplied)

This exhibition will mark Tabbarah’s first participation as a curator of a national pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, and his second participation in the Architecture Biennale as a whole.

He has previously collaborated with the Kuwait Pavilion’s curators in 2021 for their presentation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, or IAE, of the Venice Architecture Biennale, titled “Space Wars.”

Tabbarah was selected following the National Pavilion UAE’s open call which invited designers around the world to develop proposals for the 2023 architecture exhibition.

The applicants were tasked with exploring an intriguing aspect of the UAE’s architecture or built environment that contributes to the discourse around architectural practice locally, regionally and internationally.

Research findings by Tabbarah, to be exhibited in Venice and supplemented with an accompanying publication, aim to respond to the Architecture Biennale 2023’s theme “The Laboratory of the Future,” which is being curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, educator and best-selling novelist, Lesley Lokko.

The National Pavilion UAE will present its exhibition from May 20 to Nov. 26, 2023, with the pre-opening on May 18 and 19.

Next year will mark the UAE’s 12th exhibition at the Art and Architecture International Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia since 2009 and its fifth participation in the IAE. The pavilion won the Golden Lion award for the best national participation in the 17th IAE La Biennale di Venezia in 2021 for its exhibition “Wetland.”


Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  
Updated 28 September 2022

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

DUBAI: US Pakistani filmmaker Bassam Tariq has exited his role as director of Marvel Studios’ “Blade” due to shifts in production schedule, according to a report by Variety.

Tariq’s departure comes before production was set to commence in November on Marvel’s upcoming feature about the iconic comic book vampire slayer. The film stars Mahershala Ali in the title role, alongside a cast that includes Delroy Lindo and Aaron Pierre.

“It’s been an honor working with the wonderful folks at Marvel. We were able to put together a killer cast and crew. Eager to see where the next director takes the film,” Tariq said in a statement, confirming his exit as director.


Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain
Updated 27 September 2022

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

BARCELONA: A Spanish judge on Tuesday approved a trial for Lebanese Colombian pop singer Shakira on charges of tax fraud.

Spanish prosecutors accused the entertainer in 2018 of failing to pay $13.9 in taxes on income earned between 2012 and 2014. Prosecutors are seeking an eight-year prison sentence and a hefty fine if she is found guilty of tax evasion.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shakira (@shakira)

Shakira, 45, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and rejected a deal with authorities to avoid going to trial. Her public relations firm has said that she has already paid all that she owed and an additional $2.8 million in interest.

The date for the trial has yet to be set.

The case hinges on where Shakira lived during 2012-14. Prosecutors in Barcelona have alleged the Grammy winner spent more than half of that period in Spain and should have paid taxes in the country, even though her official residence was in the Bahamas.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shakira (@shakira)

Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, has been linked to Spain since she started dating soccer player Gerard Pique. The couple, who have two children, used to live together in Barcelona but recently ended their 11-year relationship.

Spain has cracked down on soccer stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade for not paying their full due in taxes. Both players were found guilty of evasion and received prison sentences that were waived for first-time offenders.


Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks
Updated 27 September 2022

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

DUBAI: French Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri’s new movie “Novembre” is set to hit cinemas early next month and the star has taken to social media to whip up interest among film fans.

The actress announced this week on her Instagram account that the movie will be out on Oct. 5 and shared pictures of the posters with her 100,000 followers. 

“‘Novembre’ by Cédric Jimenez on Oct. 5 in cinemas. Let’s go (sic),” she wrote. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by lynakhoudri (@lynakhoudri)

Directed by the French auteur Jimenez, the intense film charts the five days after the devastating November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed more than 100 people.

The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year in the Out of Competition section.

Speaking at a press conference after the film’s premiere in May, Jimenez said his mission was to show how the anti-terrorist unit experienced five “awful days.”

“The idea was not to turn them into heroes,” he said. “Even though the situation was resolved, there are only losers: the many people who died, the witnesses who are upset forever, the police officers who resigned because it was such a terrible hardship. In this kind of event, there are no winners.”

Khoudri stars as Samia in the film — a charitable young woman who volunteers at a homeless camp. Her flat mate is bankrolling her cousin, one of the terrorists.

She stars alongside actors Jean Dujardin – who plays the leader of the police division — Anaïs Demoustier, Sandrine Kiberlain, Jérémie Renier, Cédric Kahn, Sofian Khammes, Sami Outalbali, Stéphan Bak, Annabelle Lengronne and Raphaël Quenard. 


Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair
Updated 27 September 2022

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair
  • 1840 Victorian globe showing Makkah, Madinah, among 10 pieces for sale
  • Growing Mideast interest in collectibles, says auction house head

DUBAI: The Riyadh International Book Fair returns from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 presenting some of the most prominent Arab and international publishing houses and institutions. Considered a major cultural event, this year marks greater international participation, notably from Sotheby’s auction house for the first time, in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture.

The auction house’s highlights include a rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979 — including their welcome at Riyadh’s airport by King Khalid. There is a museum-quality World Globe dating to 1840. The Victorian piece belonged to Oxford University. It shows Makkah, Madinah and the port of Jeddah.

A rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979. (Supplied)

In addition, an Ottoman carpet once belonging to the great traveler Gertrude Bell, gifted to her by King Faisal I of Iraq is on display. There is also a photorealist painting of a falcon by Nicholas Manning, marking, according to the auction house, the first edition of the finest work on falconry that has ever been produced.

Everything displayed will be on sale.

“Creativity is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s future and there are ambitious plans in this sector — both in terms of grassroots initiatives and government support,” Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and India told Arab News. “We regularly sell a lot of material that buyers in Saudi are interested in, and there is certainly growing interest in collectibles.”

A rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979. (Supplied)

Gibbs noted that over the past five years, the auction house has seen a doubling of the number of buyers and bidders from Saudi Arabia — with a high proportion interacting with Sotheby’s for the first time.

“We feel it is important to build on this by physically travelling to the region and bringing the best of what we can offer to the doorsteps of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Late last year, the auction house was also present at the inaugural Diriyah Biennale. Its participation in the book fair marks increased engagement with Saudi Arabia during a time of great cultural expansion for the Kingdom.

A rare and unusually large 36-inch terrestrial library globe by John Addison and G&J Cary, circa 1840. (Supplied)

“We are traveling with 10 exceptional pieces, carefully curated to appeal to the tastes of collectors in the Middle East, and celebrating the illustrious history of the region,” Richard Fattorini, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, told Arab News.

“The showstopper will surely be the monumental Victorian globe, which still has its original receipt. Visually and historically, it is the perfect piece to showcase at a book fair. The close links between Great Britain and the Kingdom are also celebrated in a few of the pieces, most notably with the photographs of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit.”