Pakistan does not have an established animation industry. There has been remarkable animation made in the form of music videos, advertisements and even animated shows that were aired for a brief time but there has been no work done on animation on a large scale in the country. The only exception to this rule is Mano Animation Studios, a studio that specializes in animated work and is based in the city of Karachi.
The studio is yet to release The Glassworker, which is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The release of the animated short film Shehr-E-Tabbasum brings a ray of hope to the animation industry in Pakistan.
Puffball Studios, a Pakistani animation studio, introduces viewers to a dystopian Pakistan in 2071. The film Shehr-E-Tabbasum, which translates to “The City of Smile,” has been branded as “Pakistan’s first ever Urdu-language cyberpunk short film.” The plot revolves around a Pakistan of the future where no emotions are valid except for smiling. After a civil war in 2018, this law has been brought into effect to save the country from any disastrous events in the future.
Many independent films like this produced in Pakistan are geared toward film festivals and are not released for the general public because of restrictions. Prior to the film’s official release, Shehr-E-Tabbasum was screened at festivals, educational institutes and other venues and received a positive response.
The nine-minute animated film was put up on Puffball Studios’ official YouTube channel with English subtitles for public viewing. The reason for doing this was that the content was geared toward Pakistanis and was not an attempt to win awards at international film festivals. That was a good decision on Puffball Studios’ part because not only is the film accessible to everyone but it also displays the capability of producing animation in Pakistan.
The general view of animation in Pakistan is that it is targeted toward children, even with the popularity of anime and US animated shows geared toward the adult demographic, such as Cowboy Bebop, Rick and Morty and The Simpsons. Even in Pakistan, there have been successful attempts at adult animation. One such example is the music video of the song “Freestyle Dive” by Peshawar electronic music duo Sajid and Zeeshan, which falls under the adult-animation category.
The release of Shehr-E-Tabbasum to the general public has somewhat removed this concept that animation is only geared toward children and gives an indication of what kind of content can be produced in Pakistan in this genre.
Shehr-E-Tabbasum delivers a strong storyline and keeps it intact until the end. The animation coordinates well with the storyline. There are no main characters and the film presents a different Pakistan. It can be referred to as a one-of-a-kind project that has come out the country.
Shehr-E-Tabbasum gives an indication that there is a spark in the country’s animation industry but it just has to be allowed to flourish to its full potential. One hopes that this film will serve as a catalyst for more animation in Pakistan whether geared toward children or adults.
Turyal Azam Khan is a Pakistani writer, blogger, and journalist who mainly focuses on current affairs, social issues, lifestyle, and culture. He has written for Daily Times, Dunya Blogs, EACPE, The Nation, Naya Daur, Surkhiyan, The Times of Israel, Street Buzz, IBC English, Mashable Pakistan and The Diplomat.