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Year of fear takes its toll on Lahore’s art, culture scene

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* Theatres targeted, World Performing Arts festival cancelled
* No Lollywood film released on Eid for the first time
* Ali Zafar weds, Meera’s ‘marriage’ rules gossip columns

By Ali Usman

In terms of arts and culture, the year 2009 can almost be classified as “forgettable”, since most such activities were overshadowed by the fear of terrorism that gripped the city this year. Many events had to be cancelled or postponed and no international events took place this year.

Terrorism, the law and order situation and the global economic recession remained the key factors plaguing the city’s cultural life, even changing the outlook of many historic and archaeological sites across the city.

Attacked: The city took its first hit in the very first month after the New Year celebrations. On January 9, five small explosions outside the Alfalah Theatre and Tamaseel Theatre created panic across the city. No casualties were reported in both the attacks, however, the resulting fear was enough to disrupt the commercial theatre industry.

Although the theatres resumed service shortly after the attacks, the damage had been done, with audiences reluctant to risk their lives to watch movies in cinemas. Commercial Theatres Producers Chairman Chaudhary Zulfiqar told Daily Times the industry had suffered millions of rupees in losses in the year 2009.

No Basant: In February, a month that normally sees many cultural activities and celebrations — Jashn-e-Baharan and Basant — citizens were left dazed and bemused after it was announced that Basant activities would not be allowed. .

March was hailed as a breath of fresh air after the Faiz Ghar in Model Town formally opened its doors to the public on the first day of the month. Various literature and culture-related courses are being conducted at Faiz Ghar, with several renowned scholars holding seminars there.

Overshadowed: However, it all went downhill from there as section 144 was imposed in the province, and the lawyers’ long march overshadowed all other activities and resulted in the cancellation of most of the cultural events planned in the city.

Spring: April succeeded in bringing some colour to Lahore, with the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) organising its annual skit festival, SkiTmasha, which was warmly received by audiences.

The month of May was not witness to any notable cultural activity, as art galleries remained closed for the seasonal break. Even the Lahore Zoo saw a low visitor turnout after the nearby offices of a security agency and the Rescue 15 building on Queens Road were attacked on May 27. The zoo remained closed for one week and suffered losses of Rs 400,000.

Not this year: No major cultural activity, apart from some art exhibitions, helped ease the city’s woes from June to December. This was also the first year the Rafi Peer World Performing Arts Festival was not held, since the event began.

Speaking at a press conference, a disappointed Faizan Peerzada announced that the festival could not be organised in the prevailing law and order situation. Although the RPTW organised a Youth Performing Arts Festival in December, it failed to bring in audiences in large numbers.

The International Sufi Festival, which features performers from Muslim countries including Iran, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, was cancelled following terror attacks in the city. Even the Youth Performing Arts Festival failed to become an international festival.

“We planned to make the Youth Performing Arts Festival an international festival by inviting youth from other countries but it was not possible due to the security concerns,” RPTW Media Director Tasneem Peerzada told Daily Times.

Another important festival, which was cancelled, was the Alap festival.

No high-profile music concert could rock the city, as most of the pop-singers preferred to do their concerts abroad following the security threats.

December brought a glimmer of hope after eminent artist Saeed Akhtar displayed his works of two years at an exhibition.

Lollywood blues: Meanwhile, Lollywood witnessed an all-time low in 2009, as no new Urdu film was released on Eid for the first time ever.

Around eight films were released in the year, but none of them did any notable business, while Indian movies such as New York, Wanted and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani attracted large crowds. Pakistan Cinema Management Association Chairman Qaiser Sanaullah Khan told Daily Times that most of the cinemas had refused to buy any Pakistani movie, fearing heavy losses.

Although the All-Pakistan Music Conference organised various musical evenings, the city did not witness any major musical concert of international stature throughout the year.

Wedding bells: Meanwhile, heartthrob singer Ali Zafar tied the knot, while a marriage scandal, involving film star Meera kept the masses entertained.

A businessman, Attiqur Rehman, claimed that he was Meera’s husband. The film star denied any such relation, with the matter eventually being settled in court.

Also, noted classical singer Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan passed away on November 30 at the age of 54.\01\01\story_1-1-2010_pg13_5

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