The year 1997 marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of Pakistan. The film “Jinnah” produced by Professor Akbar S. Ahmed and directed by Mr Jamil K. Dehlavi was launched in Pakistan in the same year. The film project faced severe criticism from several quarters in Pakistan but it acted as a catalyst for establishing the Jinnah Society. It was also launched in 1997 with the object of propagating the ideals, principles and vision of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a nation building venture.
The Jinnah Society extended undeservedly its help and support to the Jinnah (film) Project on the assumption that the film would be good for Pakistan and also serve the purpose of propagation of the ideals, principles and vision of Mr Jinnah. Accordingly, the Jinnah Society provided a platform to mould public opinion, propagate the Jinnah (film) project which faced un-certainty and difficulty from the inception due to lack of Government patronage and withdrawal of support by PTV and fight its battles both in the public arena and in the Court.
A constitutional petition filed in the High Court of Sindh at Karachi against the Producer, Director and cast of the film ‘Jinnah’ was successfully defended by S. Sharifuddin Pirzada and Liaquat Merchant. The High Court upheld that a film was an expression of thought and ideas and was protected on the same basis as freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan. The petition was dismissed and the film went on to completion.
The Jinnah Film Project ran into financial difficulties during the period 1997 – 1999 and it was at this juncture that a decision was taken to establish The Jinnah Society. The inaugural function as well as a fund raising event was organized by The Jinnah Society at the residence of Mr. Farrokh K. Captain which was attended by Professor Akbar Ahmad as well as Shashi Kapoor and several other events were similarly organized in support of the Jinnah Film Project which ultimately led to its completion in Pakistan in spite of PTV withdrawing its offer of financial support.
The Jinnah Film Project was launched at a function held at the residence of the President of Jinnah Society in 1997 at which the entire cast and crew of the film were present including Mr Christopher Lee who played the role of Jinnah as well as the other cast who played the role of Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, Lord Mountbatten, Lady Mountbatten, Fatima Jinnah and Ruttie Jinnah. Like the real Jinnah, Christopher who played the role of Mr. Jinnah spoke at the function and said:
"This is a unique occasion. First and most important, it is the first time that so many members of the Jinnah family have come together to give their support and encouragement to this film. Secondly, it is unique because it marks the first time that a film will have been made about Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah who certainly was not only one of the most remarkable statesmen of the century but also an extra-ordinary man in every way. The more I read about him and meet people who knew him, the more I realize that he was a man of indomitable will, of total faith, of great vision and above all of immense integrity.
This is the first time that the world in general and the people of Pakistan in particular, will have the opportunity to see this portrait of the founder of this nation, in which the Quaid-e-Azam is shown not merely as a great political figure but as an intensely human being. He has been so misrepresented and maligned over the years in print and on the screen that it is high time that this totally false impression was rectified and that is what we are doing in this film, to put the record straight.
He was not an aloof, arrogant, cold figure. Anything but was a man of deep emotions which he only showed in private.
As an actor, I am privileged to portray him on the screen. It is for me a great honour and a great responsibility. All of us connected with this production are determined and dedicated people and we are convinced that we are creating motion picture history. Otherwise we would not be here. To some generations, the Quaid-e-Azam is only a painting or a photograph on the wall as well as a historical figure learnt about at school. We recognize him as the father of Pakistan.
We are making a film as accurate as possible about the life of the Quaid and his times and we will continue to do so to the very best of our abilities. This would be a fitting tribute to the memory of a particularly great man.”
Following the launch of the Jinnah film project, functions were arranged by the Jinnah Society for the purpose of securing financial support to the film project. The legal hurdle was overcome and the film project though in financial crisis went on to completion with the assistance arranged by a group of Pakistani physicians in the US led to Dr. Nasim Ashraf. A grand premiere was organized and held by the Jinnah Society at the Governor House, Karachi in May 1999 which was attended by more than 2500 guests who were invited by the Society and the Governor of Sindh. Awards were given to Professor Akbar Ahmad, Jameel Dehlavi, Dr. Nasim Ashraf and others. The film hit the headlines in Pakistan’s newspapers.