Gunjal and In Flames Sweep The 2nd Pakistani Cinema Awards

While it’s been a year of commercial disappointments for Pakistani films, there have been a few critical successes which have made it big in Pakistan. Not only that, they’ve swept certain awards in the international circuit as well.

‘Gunjal’ and ‘In Flames’, two indie features that came out at the end of the year ended up impressing the Pakistani Cinema team the most. They tackled important subjects and did it with a lot of sincerity.


‘Gunjal’, the Ahmed Ali Akbar starrer shone a light on the slain child labour activist, Iqbal Masih. With a no-nonsense approach to the subject which included an exploration of all angles around his murder, ‘Gunjal’ delivered a great movie experience as well as one of the best screenplays of the last decade.

The film received the awards for ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Actor Male’ (Ahmed Ali Akbar), ‘Best Screenplay’ (Nirmal Bano and Ali Kazmi) and ‘Best Dialogue’ (Nirmal Bano, Faseeh Bari Khan and Ali Kazmi).

In Flames

‘In Flames’, the other big winner also clinched 4 awards. A psychological horror film about a mother and daughter dealing with a patriarchal society, ‘In Flames’ brought the genre of elevated horror to Pakistan. Most importantly, it did so in a way that was wholly Pakistani and with sounds and sights that are familiar to us all. ‘In Flames’ was most successful in the international circuit, winning ‘Best Feature’ at the Red Sea Festival this year.

At the 2nd Pakistani Cinema Awards, ‘In Flames’ won ‘Best Director’ (Zarrar Kahn), ‘Best Actress Female’ (Bakhtawar Mazhar), Best Editing (Craig Scorgie), and Best Sound Design (Kristi McIntyre and Brett Killoran).


‘Chikkar’ was also one film that we all loved at Pakistani Cinema. There were a lot of awards which it was considered for, for its haunting subject matter and great execution. There is no award however, which it deserved more than ‘Best Story’. Its effective portrayal of the scourge of mob lynching and its underlying motives in a society like Pakistan was very sincerely done. Usman Mukhtar is someone we’re all looking forward to. However, the story was written by Mr. Zaheer Ud Din who should be lauded and promoted for his talent.

Saleem Meiraj

Saleem Meiraj is an actor who has established himself as indispensable to the industry. It seems like you could probably see him in every film if you look hard enough. In 2023, he starred in several films including ‘Chikkar’, ‘13’, ‘Dhai Chaal’, ‘VIP’, ‘Dorr’ and ‘Daldal’. However, nowhere was his performance the most effective as in ‘John’. Playing a goon who does dirty work for a local gangster, Saleem Meiraj also acted a mentor and protector to young John, played by Aashir Wajahat. For his work in ‘John’, Saleem Meiraj takes home the ‘Best Supporting Actor Male’ trophy.

Zindagi Tamasha Finally Streams in Pakistan

It will always remain a tragedy that Sarmad Khoosat’s ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ was not released in its home country. However, it finally came out on streaming in 2023. A lot of people were surprised at the fact that the film was banned in the first place. Finally watching the film, they saw that all the hubbub was for naught.

What was surprising, for us at Pakistani Cinema at least, was Eman Suleiman’s performance. It was her debut role in a feature film, as the daughter of Rahat Khwaja, the local Naat Khwaan. She played it beautifully. Every emotion was sincere and none of it was overly dramatic.

For her performance, she gets the award for ‘Best Supporting Actor Female’.

The Strongest Melodies of the Year

In a year devoid of Coke studio, there were a few tunes given to us by Pakistani films which did more than entertain us. Shuja Haider beautifully render “Kahaniyaan” from the anthology film “Teri Meri Kahaniyaan”. It was his vocals that tied the experimental film together. In a rare occurrence, the film also managed to do decent business at the box office. Something which was almost a miracle this year. He clinches the award for ‘Best Playback Singer Male’.

Sanam Marvi also cast a spell with her voice in ‘Allahyar and the 100 Flowers of God’. Her sonorous voice in Meray Malik elevated the film beyond a children’s feature and sunk into the soul like her vocals often do. For her work, she deserves immense praise. She clinches the award for Best Playback Singer Female.

As for the melody makers and poets themselves, there is also much praise. Adrian David peppered ‘Babylicious’ with a lot of great melodies for which he gets the award for ‘Best Music’. Batool Fatima gets the award for ‘Best Lyrics’ for the soulful “Tu Who Qatil Hai” in ‘John’.

Strong Debuts

There were a lot of debuts and indie features this year. A lot of great talent came forward which could propel the industry into a new tomorrow. The first was Ibad Alam Sher, who played “Haaris Qadeer” in “Madaari”. The film was a tragic retelling of the chaos that surrounded Karachi in the mid to late 2000s. Ibad Alam Sher brought verisimilitude to the role that is rare to see from a new talent.

Romaisa Khan was also very impressive in her debut as a Christian girl with stars in her eyes in “John”. Her sensitive, restrained and charming performance gave the film its only bright corner.

Both of these performances receive the Best Debut Awards from Pakistani Cinema.

Special Mentions

For those that we can not neatly fit into boxes, but who do deserve praise, Pakistani Cinema has some special awards.

The team of ‘Kukri’ gets praise for delivering another product to Pakistan which the censor boards tried to ban. The story of Javed Iqbal is one that needs to be told in Pakistan, because we haven’t learned from it. Children are still abused, hunted, and murdered in Pakistan in astonishing numbers. In order to stop it, we must first look the problem in the eye. Yasir Hussain as Javed Iqbal and Rabya Kulsoom as a grief stricken mother both played their roles to perfection.

The second special mention goes to Faryal Mehmood in ‘Chikkar’. As the dancer Neelum Shehzadi who gets lynched in the beginning of the film, her character sets everything in motion. Even though her screen time in the film is perhaps 5-7 minutes in total, she casts an incredibly haunting shadow over the film. Her expressive eyes and clear delivery say a lot in very little time. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

You can find the complete list of Pakistani Cinema Awards on our Instagram (@pakistanicinemaa).


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Written by Yousuf Mehmood


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