“1978” is the latest Pakistani short film that is making the rounds on social media. Written and Directed by Hamza Bangash of “Dia” and “Stray Dogs Come Out at Night” fame, it tells the story of a Goan Christian Rockstar in 1970s Karachi. Based on the real-life experiences of Goan Christian Rockstar, Norman D’Souza, the film promises to be a nostalgic trip as well as a meditation on achieving one’s goals in mitigating circumstances.
“1978” will screen at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland between 5-15 August. PakistaniCinema.Net got in touch with the film’s Producer Carol Noronha, and Executive Producer Rashid Maqsood Hamidi for an exclusive in-depth interview.
1978 is a Story About Minorities in a Challenging Time
Rashid Maqsood Hamidi points out that the “1978” is about ‘minorities in a challenging time’. They created this film with the “Karachi of Yore” in mind and the social freedoms that once existed. The younger generation knows very little about those days and so, it’s important to tell this story.
Carol Noronha is from the Goan Christian community herself, and so when Hamza Bangash approached her with the project, she was ‘super excited’. She relished the opportunity to tell the stories of her community authentically. For her, as well as most of the cast and crew, it has been a passion project.
As with many passion projects, the budget was limited, and the film’s shooting days, which numbered only 6 were spread over 8 months. “1978” itself has been in the pipeline for about 2 years now. Lengthy though their journey was, Carol Noronha and the rest of the crew view the film’s making as ‘an amazing experience’.
The story of “1978” focuses on Lenny D’Souza, a Goan Christian Rockstar who finds himself in the middle of a changing scene, with conservatism gaining a huge foothold in the country. This is an all too familiar sight in Pakistan even today. The most recent film to become a target for conservative censorship has been Sarmad Sultan Khoosat’s “Zindagi Tamasha”. Sadly, this has long been the case in Pakistan, with all sorts of governments, civilian and dictatorial, banning and censoring art on several grounds.
Yet, 1978 is about more than that. It’s about hope, in a time of sorrow. It’s about ‘the struggle of surviving in this industry as an artist’, as Carol Noronha so eloquently puts it. She emphasizes that political and economic factors, even more than religious ones, play a part in snuffing out creativity and art. Yet, as “1978” emphasizes, possibilities are always present.
1978 Highlights the Community of Christian Artists that Have Contributed So Much to Pakistan
In the old days of the Pakistani film industry, several Christian artists, including singers, music directors, and filmmakers were stars. These included Saleem Raza and S.B. John, Irene Parveen and A. Nayyar, Robin Ghosh, and Perveen Alexander (Neelo). Of these, many were considered the best in their league during their heyday.
Today, there are still amazing Christian artists, but their place in the public eye is nowhere near as prominent as it once was. “1978” is a step in a more inclusive direction, at once telling the story of an artist that was forced to assimilate into the new normal. Carol Noronha notes that for more significant representation of minority communities, artists have to be given room to experiment and grow.
1970s Karachi is a Central Character in the Film
Aside from the artists in the film, the most prominent character is the city of Karachi; one that most can’t remember and others have never seen. The Karachi of Yore that was a ‘rocking place’ according to Rashid Maqsood Hamidi is a distant memory now, sadly.
Luckily cinema is a tool that can give new generations a ‘taste of what a thriving hub Karachi once was’. The city that was a stop on the Hippie Trail. The city whose beaches were stunningly clean and that once had a bustling nightlife. However, it was also a city that people from the Middle East and other Asian countries would send their children to study in, and also the one where a massive cultural exchange with the west took place.
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This is me on the toughest shooting day of #1978thefilm We were on hour 15 of an 18 hour day – and only had this location for 24 hours. We had to convert it into a TV studio and then a disco within that time period (and also get in our shots lolol). We had dozens of extras who were getting exhausted – and me who had never had more than 4 cast members on any of my shoots before. To say I was feeling overwhelmed would be an understatement. . Thats where I want to thank some people who I didnt mention in my last post – First off is @swearuponcoco – our costume stylist + hair and make up + life support. Samiya is the secret sauce behind some of Pakistans biggest projects including @cakethefilmofficial and #Churails . She came on board 1978 with more enthusiasm than I could have expected, and despite being used to working on bigger budgets – she made literal magic happen within our meager resources. She is one of those people who can ELEVATE a project and I am so blessed she joined the team. 🙏❤ . Because of the small scale of my other projects, I never really gave due credit to the assistant directing team – but 1978 wouldnt have been possible without the amazing efforts of @madhashmi @umaimataj and @falviiii . Their dedication and commitment made the impossible, possible. Special shout out to @madhashmi for putting up with my fragile directors ego with a smile and drugging me with caffeine🙌😍 . Finally, the cast of film. Auditions were a bit of a nightmare, and when @muhammadzeeshan80 walked in – I knew we had found our Lenny. His commitment to the project, his willingness and vulnerability – make this film. I’m so proud of his performance. . @sherwanthony in the co-lead – Sherwyn never wanted to be an actor, but I knew from when we met that he was our Thomas. Sherwyn is one of the kindest, most genuine people I have met – and I am so excited for the world to see his performance. . @rubyachaudhry – I first saw her in East is East and knew I wanted to work with her after that. 1978 is the project that brought us together- and I honestly dont think anyone else could have pulled off the role of Dina 🙌 . More thanks in next post. Much love + gratitude.
Executing the look and feel of the fairy tale land that Karachi seemed in retrospect on a limited budget is no mean feat. Yet, the crew of the film pulled it off somehow. They shot in places like Beach Luxury, and raided the executive producers’ homes for props which were from the old Karachi they needed to portray.
On top of that, they got a lot of guidance from musicians in the Christian community that contributed to their research. Carol Noronha says that pre-production was quite heavy and that many changes were made ‘on a daily basis’. Yet the conviction of City Lights Productions allowed them to pull it off.
1978 has an Unmistakable Nostalgic Quality
Just one look at the poster of 1978 shows that it’s dripping with nostalgia. That’s something it shares with various films and shows of today. A lot of entertainment is filled with nostalgia for the 70s and 80s today from shows, to films, to music. According to Carol Noronha, that is because the world moves so fast today that we ‘barely have time to savour moments’. This resonates with every section of society, whether conservative, liberal, rich or poor, etc. Nostalgia ‘allows us to find solace in those peaceful times’.
And, Of Course, 1978 is About Music
The film features original music composed by In-Time, a Goan Christian band that has Norman D’Souza as the frontrunner. It’s heartening to see that talent like that is still alive 40 years after the film is set. We couldn’t help but ask of other Christian bands that are still active in Pakistan, if only to widen our palette of music.
Carol Noronha recommends ‘old timers’ like the ‘Black Jacks, Talisman, Keynotes, InCrowd and the Benjamin Sisters’, as well as present day musicians like ‘Alicia Dias, Zoe Viccaji, Selwyn Fernandes, Gumby, Shane Anthony, Jason Anthony, Lenny Massey, the InTime Band and Club777’.
Also, there is a Facebook Group called “Legendary Musicians of Karachi (LMK)” which is dedicated to Christian musicians and bands from Karachi. This includes present musicians as well as legends.
So, Will 1978 Be Screened for Pakistani Audiences?
Definitely. Carol Noronha says the film will be available for local viewing after it’s ‘completed all festival rounds and premiers’.