Hamza bangash’s ‘1978’ starts out with a wide shot of a wall almost completely covered with election posters bearing the outline of a mosque. As the movie title appears on screen, you have a sense of what is to come. For those that have lived through or read or heard about how Pakistan transformed during that era, it’s pretty familiar territory.
The film takes us through a few days in the life of Lenny D’Souza, a Goan-Christian Rockstar slowly coming to terms with the changing entertainment landscape.
The film’s 17-minute runtime is dotted with scenes in nightclubs, concerts, churches, and a small home. The cinematography by Yasir Khan is to be applauded, specifically during the nightclub sequence. The deep blues and reds of the disco lights made it looks like an Abba music video.
It’s details like that which make the film look authentic. The wardrobe, the hair, the posters of Egyptian dancers, etc. all make the Karachi of the 70s come alive. The film’s 4:3 aspect ratio also provides context and make the close-ups of the actors (which are plentiful) seem all the more claustrophobic, as if to say, the walls are closing in.
The film is based on real life events that took place in the life of Norman D’Souza, a Goan-Christian Rockstar from the 70s. The film does a great job of capturing the frustration he must’ve felt during the turn of the decade. In the film, the protagonist’s identity is stripped away to match the evolving (or devolving) landscape of music in the country. He either has to adapt or quit.
While that is often the case when one steps into the entertainment industry in any country, at any time, it’s especially heartbreaking that it happened here, and barely half a century ago.
In Pakistan, popular music has been reduced to a few covers expertly performed at Coke Studio every year. This year may not even see that happen. How did that happen in a country where hands were a dime a dozen barely 15-20 years ago? ‘1978’ may not have all the answers, but it may give you a clue about how it began to happen.