Dubai Chalo

Posted by sepoy on March 28, 2013 · 2 mins read

In The State, vol IV, I have a small bit of writing "The State Shall Remain Nameless" - which is a reading of the 1979 Punjabi movie Dubai Chalo!:

In 1980, we went to Lahore for our annual visit and I heard, for the first time, Dubai Chalo! It was a catchphrase. It was everywhere. Off to Dubai! The title belonged to a Punjabi movie released in November 1979, which had become a blockbuster hit. Every roadside dhaba had the Madame Nur Jahan solo Munda Meinon Tang Karda blasting from tape recorders. Every kid incessantly went around offering each other pinjeri, (a running joke in the movie), which every other kid would then refuse after making gagging motions. I loved pinjeri—my grandmother made it. I was perplexed by all this talk, and of course we were not allowed to go to the theatre to watch a Punjabi movie, so I did not understand any of it.

Slowly, from fad, Dubai Chalo! entered political lexicon and became the shorthand for labour migration from Pakistan to the Gulf. “Yeh Dubai Chalo! log hain” my aunts would say, snottily, pointing out some nouveau riche family moving in across the street. It was the moniker for the rural migrant to the city whose migration was enabled via a relative in the Gulf: uncouth, crude, attracted to bling and gild, and prone to building large houses with extravagant facades and big, big walls. The Dubai Chalo! changed Lahore's urban fabric, and its social fabric, and its political fabric. And all of it was presaged by writer Riaz Batalvi, and director Haider Chaudhry in Dubai Chalo!.

Here is Madam Nur Jahan:

Please go buy and read (e-version is 5 bucks and there are loads of really interesting looking pieces in there). I will post it here, at some point.