Sunday, October 6, 2013

No to Priyanka, yes to Waar for Shamoon Abbasi

Villain in upcoming film says he is committed to Bilal Lashari’s vision.
LAHORE:  While most mid-career actors’ ultimate goal is to bag the main lead in a film, Shamoon Abbasi grew up with a different ambition — of being a hated villain. With the release of upcoming big budget film Waar right around the corner, Abbasi’s dream of becoming Pakistani cinema’s favourite bad guy may well come true.
“People have asked me why I always pursue negative roles,” says Abbasi, who plays a deadly assassin in Bilal Lashari’s Waar. “There are a lot of heroes — I want to be the anti-hero,” he says.
Born and raised in Italy, the ruggedly attractive actor says he has in the past declined offers, as he feels the idea of a villain needs a revamp in the Pakistani film industry. “I would receive countless offers to act alongside Shaan and Momi [Moammar Rana], but there was always this feeling that the work being done is not up to standard,” he adds. Perhaps this selective approach is the reason Faisal Bukhari’s Bhai Log is his only major venture to date. However, he believes Waar will be a game-changer for both him and the industry.
“When I met Bilal and was told about the [assassin] character, he had a clear view of how it should be. It was very well-researched and somewhat inspired from real life events. It became easier to bring the character to life.”
Releasing on Eidul Azha, Waar will pair Shaan and Abbasi against each other for the first time. However, the two will also be seen in similar roles in the upcoming Zeba Bakhtiar project Operation 021. “Shaan is already popular and has done a lot of films over the last decade. I don’t know how the combination will work out but I think my main goal is to be part of something that changes the industry,” says Abbasi.
Pitched as a stylish, visual effects-laden action thriller, Waar has created quite a buzz. Abbasi is quick to highlight its pre-release popularity. “This is the first time I have seen such a wave of patriotism surrounding our film industry — it is filling people with hope,” he says.
He appreciates the out-of-the-box approach of talented young director Lashari, who is making his debut in feature films with Waar. He claims to have turned down Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj’s offer to act alongside Priyanka Chopra, to stick to Lashari’s vision.
“This is now on the record. He [Vishal Bhardwaj] got a little upset [by my decision] but I explained that it was important for my country. This is the first time a project of this scale is being done and I can’t just ignore it,” says Abbasi.
Directing Dad
Lashari has said that Waar is a movie made for the audience. He says the biggest challenge was to maintain continuity over a period of three years and ensure the film eventually comes together. “We made this for the public. It’s an exciting time for us now and I am glad that it’s finally coming to theatre,” says Lashari.
Apart from Shaan and Abbasi, the film also features budding star Hamza Ali Abbasi and singer, Ali Azmat. Famed bureaucrat Kamran Lashari, who is also the father of the director, will also be playing a role in the film. “My father has been directing me my whole life. I finally got a chance to direct him and I think he was impressive,” adds Lashari.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

September Remained A Blessed Month for Pakistani cinema

September remained a blessed month for Pakistani Cinema
September, the 9th month of solar calendar, is considered oppressive in some ways, according to palmistry and numerology. But for Pakistani cinema, September and number 9 has proved to be very blessed as three of our filmsChambaili, Ishq Khuda, Josh — has won awards in international film festivals and one, Zinda Bhaag, has been selected for sending in for Oscar foreign language category.
Chambaili got four awards in Special Jury, Award of Excellence, International Best Film, Overall Winner categories at Film Festival for Inspiration, Peace and Equality 2013, according to their Facebook page. It is a thoughtful story on Pakistan’s present circumstances; wakefulness of youngsters; significance of ballot paper and thumb impression; dirty politics and power games; and the miserable condition of a common man, the most of all. But this serious story also had a saltish flavor of music, dance, and romance. Chambaili comprehensively showed up the importance of change through vote. It brilliantly created a wave of alertness in the society and proved that Pakistan can also make movies on thought provoking subjects.
Ishq Khuda, a much-awaited venture by Shehzad Rafique, has also got an opportunity to premiere in Bollywood Festival Norway from 6 – 13 September. It’s shown along with Indian films like Raanjhna, Life of Pie, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani etc. According to the Facebook page of Ishq Khuda, it got standing ovation. Earlier, Ishq Khuda has been premiered in Punjabi International Film Festival (PIFF) 2013 in Canada. Till the submission of this story, it’s being played in theaters in Punjab circuit.
Josh has also premiered in North American Festival and also nominated in multiple categories. It is nominated for Best Political Film at the prestigious Film fest Hamburg. They also got a chance to screen at Bollywood Festival Norway this September. It was included in the list of films given at the festival official website but their Facebook page didn’t confirm it. Now they are eyeing to have more screenings and film festivals in coming months. Josh story is based on the struggle of a young female teacher whose grand mother gets missing, and many other people who are also fighting against feudalism and cruelty. It’s the only film this year which is directed by a female. Iram is also one of the film makers who have made efforts to change the usual and traditional look of Pakistani cinema.
And now last but not the least, ZindaBhaag, which is sent in for the Foreign Language Category of Oscar 2014. Directorial debut of Farjad Nabi, and Meenu Guar, Zinda Bhaag is in news these days. Much is being talked about it on all sorts of media. ARY Digital and Mast FM103 are advertising and promoting it as media partners. It’s being successfully played in theaters across Pakistan right now and people are watching it with fondness.
So the 9th month, September brought many surprises and blessings for Pakistani Cinema! We hope this journey of success, which is getting smoother with the passage of time, going to continue and bring improvement and prosperity to Pakistani cinema!

Zinda Bhaag: ‘If we can do it, everybody can’

Director Meenu Gaur says that 95% of the crew consists of fresh graduates with no hands-on experience. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS
Director Meenu Gaur says that 95% of the crew consists of fresh graduates with no hands-on experience. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS Director Meenu Gaur says that 95% of the crew consists of fresh graduates with no hands-on experience. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS
KARACHI:  Despite not having a massive budget or a well-known local cast, Zinda Bhaag has swept away audiences with its robust depiction of loud and artistic Punjabi culture. With its relatable take on culture, class divides and relationships, the independent film has managed to bag the coveted title of Pakistan’s first Oscar submission in 50 years.
The sudden success and hype surround the film brought directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi and producer Mazhar Zaidi to meet a curious audience for a small group discussion held at The Second Floor (T2F) on Thursday evening.
Although the trio has collaborated on four projects previously, which includes a documentary, it is the first time that their partnership has come into the limelight. However, despite being rather low-profile, they managed to bag veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah for a role.
“It was next to impossible,” said Zaidi. “None of us knew him but we managed to trace the number and left a text on his cell phone – we heard from him after a while.”
“After sharing the initial details and only five pages of the script, out which Shah only read two, he liked the script and agreed to be a part of the film,” he said.
They were modest enough to admit that they learnt a lot during the process of making this film. “[We learnt] scripts should be completely ready before you hit the floor,” said Nabi. “In a day, we used to shoot two scenes, but we came to know that we have to be slow and have it on paper first.”
Shot extensively on the streets of Lahore, the absence of a star-studded cast worked in the movie’s favour, as it helped the film-makers bring out the real essence of Lahori culture. “Had we taken big stars, we wouldn’t have managed to bring across the effect we were aiming for. Many auditions were conducted across Lahore and we were certainly looking for young Lahoris who could naturally act out their roles,” asserted Gaur. “These three boys had to have a personality that closely matched their roles.”
Calling the movie “quintessentially Lahori”, Gaur also explained that the decision of casting new faces was deliberate. “95% of our crew comprises fresh graduates, with no hands-on experience. It’s a huge collective achievement at our end as a team – if we can do it, so can everybody else,” stressed Gaur.
The Zinda Bhaag team also revealed that the post-production of the film was done in India. “Since Pakistan lacks such technical expertise, we had either an option to go to Thailand, Malaysia or India. We opted for India because of pure budgetary constraints,” said Nabi.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2013.