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Misrepresentation of Pakistani Culture in Punjabi Movies

punjabi movies

In this present age, media in general, movies, and cinema, in particular, is a very powerful and effective force behind the promotion of various social and cultural changes. Media has a powerful influence over the audience and viewers. And it, thus, forms the ideology and perception of viewers about reality in the desired way. Electronic media has adverse effects on the social, cultural, and moral lives of the viewers in Pakistan.

One of the most important factors of socio-cultural changes in the media is the film industry. The film industry is a source to provide entertainment to people without any class and gender discrimination. In fact, it is considered one of the cheapest sources of entertainment for the common man. It does not only provide some moments of entertainment to the people but also shapes the ideology in their minds. Films or movies can never entirely transmit the culture and the attitudes they represent, but somehow they manage to create its impacts on the lives of people.

People are continuously interacting with such kinds of things like movies and films and they create a smokescreen in the vision of the audience through which viewers perceive the world in a different way. For example, the audience perceives the world in the way it is presented on the cinema screen. But it is totally different from our real world. These films or movies misrepresent our culture. And as a result, our true culture is pushed backward and an alien culture is introduced in our society that is far away from our real culture. This alien culture is not based on our actual norms and values. The representation of a specific social group and their culture should be based on reality. Whatsoever is shown through electronic media should be a realistic manifestation of cultural background and values.

The standard of the Pakistani film industry has been lowered to the large extent due to some reasons. So the producers and directors are presenting such text, images, symbols, and signs which are misrepresenting our culture. These signs and symbols are not part of our culture, still they are shown in our Punjabi movies. And it has become difficult for modern consumers and audiences to relate such types of text, images, signs, and symbols with their surroundings and with their local culture. So they extract desired meanings from these images, signs, and symbols. It affects the lives of audiences and is somehow causative for creating and structuring their public opinion. 

Read: Why Pakistan is famous?

 The main objective of this article is to identify and explore the various visual scenes and images from Pakistani Punjabi movies which are misrepresenting the Pakistani culture, values and neglecting the true values of cultural beliefs and norms. This article also tries to describe the effects of this misrepresentation on the mind of viewers.

The local culture of Pakistan is being replaced by an alien culture. This particular article would focus on different movies of different periods. Visual scenes in the text serve as a text for the analysis. Every image would be discussed at length by looking at its denotative and connotative significance with respect to its culture. I will analyze different images taken from different movies. But the main focus would be on the costume of different characters, symbols, signs, settings of the movies, colors in the images, gestures, and expressions of the characters, and their effects on the viewers. Images are selected from different movies representing the visual elements for semiotic analysis. These images and their description are as follows:               

Image (1)
Image (2)

The above-shown images are taken from the super hit Punjabi movie “Moula jatt”. In the image (1), the hero is wearing a shalwar kameez. And he is having a gandasa (axe) in his right hand displaying the expression of anger and frustration. The location of the scene is fields. A horse is also there behind him. here, gandasa is the sign of brutality and violence. And the horse standing on the back of the hero is the sign of power.  Both gandasa and horse shows the hero’s love for evil.

 And in the image (2), which is from the same movie Moula jatt, hero is shown helpless lying on the ground. He is wearing a qameez of blue color having stains of blood. Hero is badly injured and qameez is tattered. Here the blood on the chest hero signifies his passion towards violence. Upholding of blood-stained axe by hero signifies his undaunted nature. Expressions and gestures expressed by the hero is symbol of his stubbornness.

In both these images, the men of Pakistan are misrepresented. Every society of the world has instances of bloodshed and violence but men with gandasa are shown only in the Punjabi movies as they have bloodshed, brutality, and violence in their heritage.  People are not as brutal as presented in the movies. Such visual scenes provoke people towards violence. Burton claims “it is a truth often proposed that media contain ‘too much violence and that this violence is in some way to blame for violent social behaviors” (Burton: 2005: 108).

Image (3)
Image (4)

Images (3) and (4) are taken from the Punjabi movie “churiyan”. These images are captured from the song “nere aa zlima” way from that movie. This is a seduction scene. The girl is trying to seduce the boy. Girl is displaying very obscene expressions. Her expressions are foregrounded here and everything around her is pushed in the background. Only her expressions are prominent. And her expressions are reflecting her inner desires and wishes. Girl’s expressions are very significant here. Her open and expressive nature is shown by her expressions. As far as our society and culture is concerned, women are not supposed to be so open and expressive. Women are not allowed to show their inner desires and wishes. They are supposed to suppress their feelings and emotions.

But in the above-pasted pictures, heroine is showing her inner desires, feelings, and emotions. The gestures of the girl are showing authority of women over men. Here woman is signified as an object of sex for men. They are giving us a sense that men can easily be seduced by such women. A totally wrong portrayal of a woman is being portrayed in these scenes. From these pictures, it is clear that our film industry is misrepresenting our true culture. And as a result, an alien culture is introduced in our society. Women are not portrayed according to our cultural values. In fact, they are being portrayed in a manner that is far away from reality.

Image (5)
Image (6)

Images (5) and (6) are taken from the movie “kalu”. This is the scene when the hero and heroine are dancing. The setting of the scene is the fields in a village which shows the peaceful atmosphere of life. Starting from the dress code, boy is wearing qameez and shalwar and a patka around his neck. The girl is wearing kameez and laacha without dupatta. The dress is an important element of any society. Because it shows the culture, ethics, norms, values, ideology, and physiological background of any society. Women usually wear shalwar (trouser) and kameez (a long shirt) with a dupatta (long scarf). But in the images shown above, the girl is wearing indecent clothes without a dupatta.

 On the one hand, they are showing the peaceful atmosphere of the village and on the other hand, they are showing girls out of their true identity. Such visual scenes have given us an impression that these days’ Pakistani people seek their peace, pleasure, and comfort in such obscene scenes. In our culture, girls do not dance in fields with such indecent clothes as shown in this movie. Such obscene things do not happen in our society. These things are not part of our culture. So from these images, it is clear that our Punjabi movies are representing such things that are not part of our culture. In short, our film industry has introduced a culture that is not based on our true cultural values.

All these pictures are not according to our true culture. These are against our true cultural values. Pakistani women do not wear indecent clothes. They do not dance in front of so many people. The relationship of love is taken in the wrong sense. The relationship of love is not supposed to be shown in front of so many people. But in these pictures, love is shown as a tool of sexual harassment. Such a type of vulgarity, which is evident from the above-pasted pictures, is included in our culture now. Such movies are not a source of entertainment for us, because they do not relate to our moral values.

In short, we can say that the culture being represented in Punjabi movies is against the true culture of Pakistan. The pure Pakistani culture is being replaced by an alien culture. Things being shown in these movies tend to obscure the purity of Pakistani culture. In fact, our film industry is trying to blend a foreign culture into our pure Pakistani culture. The underlying messages and meanings provoke our youth to follow the patterns being projected in such movies. Our youth takes the projected patterns as real and creates their world view according to those patterns. Reality is being dislocated from the minds of viewers through the gradual process of misrepresentation. Our youth is deprived of their pure culture and is not even conscious of it.

This misrepresentation is changing the attitudes and ideology of viewers and a new ideology is installed in their minds. The need of the time is that our viewers should be observant enough not to be manipulated by such types of movies. Only in this way, the negative effects of such movies can be minimized. Viewers should be able to disapprove of the promotion of an alien culture and misrepresentation of our pure culture. We should maintain our own identity as a civilized nation by preserving our values and traditions.

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Zarmeen Zahid

I am a professional article writer. I mainly write articles on case studies and technology.

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