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Shehr-e-Tabassum An urdu animated short film

Director: Arafat Mazhar
Creative Director: Isma Gul Hasan
Lead Animator: Haseeb Rehman
Animation Team:Isma Gul Hasan, Haseeb Rehman, Arafat Mahzar, Haaris Mansoor Sanabil Hasan, Zahra Aamer, Aman Asif Lone, Salman Karim
Type and Graphic Design Shumyle Haider

It is the year 2071. There have been no reported instances of terrorism or violent crime in over 3 decades in Pakistan. The cost – the systematic subjugation of human emotion.

What happens when citizens are asked to conform? This is the question that Pakistan’s first animated short film, Shehr e Tabassum, poses to its audience; it does not present an answer, but explores the realm of possibilities that the current political climate brings with it.

The film is placed in a dystopian Pakistan, in Shehr e Tabassum, the City of Smiles, where citizens are asked, nay, commanded to show no emotion and simply smile through life. Citizens are required to wear a brace that monitors their face muscles and cortisol levels, bringing back the conversations around George Orwell’s novel, 1984, where State Surveillance guides the citizens’ every move.

Visuals of smiling faces begging on the main roads and destitute, drug addicts in back alleys, create a visual and auditory disconnect in this fictional, yet all too real world. While ‘terrorism or violent crime’ has not taken place, there has clearly been no real improvement in the lives of the people, a fact highlighted by the consequence of not conforming – State-sponsored violence.

The name of the city itself is a hint towards the debacle of emotion and the rise of despair, Shehr e Tabassum, is the City of Smiles, but not a city of happiness, not a place where one can laugh or express joy, but one where you simply smile through life.

Unfortunately for the State, as we follow along with our protagonist, it is clear that something is simmering just below the surface, waiting to create waves as it is pushed off the edge, being broken, and erupting in mass mayhem.

This film is a visually stunning piece, hand drawn and painted; it is a labor of love for our country and serves as a warning, lest we fall prey to the looming, fatal error of continuous policing, similar to that depicted in the film.

Produced by Shehri Pakistan, a social initiative that seeks to provide accessible civil education and legal literacy to Pakistani citizens through digital content, the short film Shehr e Tabassum premiered on YouTube on 29 February 2020, prior to which the team made its way across the nation – and beyond – to provide screenings and Q/A sessions to their audience.

View the film below:

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