Thursday, 28 February 2013

Films like Maula Jatt changed Lollywood forever, says Sarwar Bhatti

Sarwar Bhatti produced one of the most memorable films in Lollywood titled Maula Jatt — biggest box-office hit ever in Pakistan’s history — that ruled the big screens for over five years. Released in 1979, clouded with the confusion of General Ziaul Haq’s reforms and shifts in Lollywood, the film reached cult status and the Pakistani film industry changed forever.
“During a time of vulgarity, we changed the parameters of Lollywood for good by making films like Maula Jatt,” says Bhatti, who aside from having other businesses runs a beat-up distribution office in Lahore’s film district Royal Park.
In a career that barely lasted 10 years, Bhatti has only produced five films. He says that his films have promoted “Islamic culture” and given Lollywood a new look.
“It was an unjust claim that Maula Jatt had promoted violence,” says the conservative and proud producer. “You have to realise, it rid Pakistani cinema of Indian or Hollywood influences which had corrupted the films,” Bhatti adds about Maula Jatt, the sensation of the ‘80s. He feels that the film represented the true culture of Pakistan.
Bhatti’s direct involvement as a producer did not last long, but it was not due to any financial issues, he assures The Express Tribune. “I had the complete capital to make a film and easily ensured that it was of quality,” says Bhatti. He boasts about having a Mercedes when he entered the film industry, and feels the only reason his career in Lollywood was short-lived was due to the structure within the industry that never improved.
“During that time, cinemas were still being made and cinema owners were taking the films’ earnings,” says Bhatti, with disappointment in his voice. “And the government was profiting by putting 100% or 200% tax on a single film.”
Bhatti explains the issue was the lack of profit for him; film-makers were not fully earning a return on their projects. “After watching successful films in cinemas, other people would be inspired to make films only to realise that it just wasn’t profitable.”
He feels that if the right environment was provided in the Pakistani film industry, old producers would be willing to return to film-making.
Currently, Bhatti’s small office for distribution seems to be simply the last figment of his connection to film. More importantly, his film Maula Jatt, which is arguably the most screened and copied film in Pakistan, has not given any profit to Bhatti. The illegality, which is prevalent, means he lost millions of rupees in royalties.
“I have never sold my films to cable companies or video rights,” says Bhatti. “I know the value of my property and I have never given it to anyone. Everyone has used it [Maula Jatt] without any legal permission.”
“This illegality is rampant but that’s the case in our society,” shares Bhatti. “I defend my rights through taking action against those who used my film without my permission, but there are thousands of people who have taken it illegally.”
Bhatti is a traditionalist and believes that the mindsets of people in the Pakistani film industry will have to change for advancement. He explains that the irony of Pakistani cinema is that censorship laws are only limited to Pakistani films, while foreign films can be passed without any questions.
With regard to the foreign content being aired on Pakistani television these days, Bhatti says, “If a Pakistani film was to show the same thing, it would be censored for being against national interest. Why are Pakistani films held to a different law while television or foreign films get a free hand in screening whatever they want?”

Monday, 18 February 2013

Nation Awakes, Pakistan’s first superhero film

Pakistani films have been about love, romance, action, comedy and even terrorism and social issues embedded deep in our system, but never have we seen a film based on comics or sci-fi superheroes.
With a huge budget (Rs200 to Rs250 million) backing its production, Nation Awakes is about to break this trend and will serve to be the country’s first superhero feature film.
“The basic concept of the film is that it is not a normal superhero movie — we are trying to take a different route by exploring Pakistan’s current scenario,” says producer Aamir Sajjad, who is also playing the role of the superhero in the film. “A superhero in that context [of Pakistan] will be one who aims to preserve humanity on a global level.”
“We have constructed the story so that it focuses on the life of a superhero from the time he is with his foster parents; we won’t go into the details of where he comes from or his background,” says Sajjad, who owns an expansive collection of comic book collectibles — over a hundred items from films such as Iron Man and several others.
Sajjad further reveals the role of the superhero has been moulded to fit his own self and although he has minimal experience in the realms of acting, he says the film is a serious venture. “Since the comic culture is so limited here in Pakistan, we figured it would be more logical to make a film first as compared to a graphic novel,” he says, adding that they are ensuring the best technology is used to make the film worthy of international viewing.
With Nation Awakes, Sajjad is hoping a broader culture of comics could be introduced to the Pakistani audiences. With the launch of this film in June in a Comic-Con styled event in Karachi, Sajjad reveals the officially registered event will showcase comic-related items as well as the movie itself.
“The whole idea is that we want to develop an adequate pop culture in Pakistan that respects comics,” he continues. “And in the future, we want to promote graphic artists so that eventually we have a thriving comic-culture.” Sajjad also owns a company on the sides which promotes comic-related collectibles and products. With the release of this film, he plans on collaborating with leading comic institutions such as Marvel in the future.
Nation Awakes, a bilingual film (larger portion of the script in English and smaller portion in Urdu) will be filmed in 12 different countries and the characters have been developed according to the latest graphic technologies in the US and other countries. Renowned composer Sahir Ali Bagga will be doing the film’s music.
The film is still in its initial stages and 80% of its scripting is complete, reveals the film’s director, Umair Nasir Ali. “Aamir has been fascinated with the concept of making a superhero film with Pakistan’s scenario in mind,” says Ali. “While Hollywood has Spiderman andBatman and India has Ra.One and Krish, he thought the work should begin on something that represents Pakistan.”
The film’s casting is scheduled to begin in April which will then be followed by a small teaser release in June.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

KLF: The film is good but what are its box office hopes?

The films being produced in our country today are not reviving Pakistani cinema, but are rebuilding it. These were the thoughts of Atrium Cinemas Managing Director Nadeem Mandviwalla on the second day of the Karachi Literature Festival.
He was one of the speakers at a session titled ‘The Fall and the Rise of Pakistani Cinema’ at the Beach Luxury Hotel, along with film-makers Meher Jaffri (producer of Seedlings) and Adnan Malik. Mandviwalla said Pakistani cinema will have to be rebuilt because the “gap between the films of the ‘60s and ‘70s and 2012 is huge and cannot be filled”.
So much has been said and written about the revival of Pakistani cinema, that one doesn’t expect anything fresh or thought-provoking from a session like this, but fortunately the discussion at the KLF had more to offer than was expected.
Since it is geographically sandwiched between two film industry giants India and Iran, Pakistani cinema faces an identity crisis: what kind of films should be produced by our industry? Mandviwalla resolved this mystery by presenting an interesting analogy of contrasting the film industries of the US and UK to India and Pakistan. He said that Pakistan might never produce commercial blockbusters like Dabangg, but has the potential to produce one influential film that will sweep all awards like Shakespeare in Love did, as opposed to many other Hollywood flicks of that time.
He also spoke about Mandviwalla Entertainment’s collaboration with TV channel ARY Digital, which will help create venues for public screenings of independent films like Seedlings.
Jaffri said that the gap between producers and distributers creates difficulties in getting independent films projected on big screens. She spoke about the difficulties she is facing as she tried to get her film Seedlings onto big screens. “You can make a film in Pakistan but there is a huge void between producers and distributors,” she said.
Arguing that things have started getting better for Pakistani cinema, Madviwalla urged the film-makers to continue making films in order to improve the quality, instead of waiting for the cinema industry to provide them an ideal working situation.
While independent film-makers like the Seedlings team are making films that rank high in terms of quality and content, movie marketers and distributors are more likely to pay attention to films that rake in big numbers at the box office during their opening week. As a result, businessmen expect producers and directors to make the film industry economically feasible. To make this possible, Pakistani film-makers can follow the Indian film industry’s business plan of stepping up on making films which are not only suitable for local audiences but can also be featured in the international market.

Monday, 11 February 2013

After New York, Seedlings is screened in Lahore

The film Lamha (Seedlings), which has recently been in the limelight for bagging awards at the New York International Film Festival, impressed a crowd of students with its debut in Lahore on Saturday night at Lums International Film Festival (Filums).
The film’s first screening in Pakistan showed how the medium of films, abandoned in Pakistan over the years, finally seems worthwhile. The low-key inauguration only emphasised the fact that times have changed and a new sense of film-making has arrived.
“People have asked how I made something different from Bollywood,” says Meher Jaffri, the film’s producer who is also the CEO at Bodhicitta Works. “We need a revolution in film-making, audiences are smarter now and there is room for a niche audience,” she adds.
“I guess when the journey began, we had no corporate interest until after the festivals, my only advice to film-makers is to make films that you believe in, there is no formula,” says Jaffri.
The Seedlings team is like a family that has struggled. In fact, the project Seedlings was launched only after the team’s much hyped sci-fi thriller Kolachi was delayed.
Unlike mainstream commercial films, the Seedlings show didn’t open with an array of other trailers. Instead, the screen showed another Bodhicitta Works production, a short film directed by young musical sensation Usman Riaz.
The story involves three separate lives trying to connect after one tragic event. It revolves around a couple played by Aamina Sheikh and Mohib Mirza, who after a year of losing their son, are trying to come to terms with life. As everything around them deteriorates, madness prevails. The film is dominated by fleeting emotions and flashbacks, keeping the viewer engaged.
Gohar Rasheed gives a standout performance as a broken-down rickshaw driver, who is also trying to cope with the accident. The screenplay rolls smoothly with succinct and solid dialogues, the great camera work and sound which make up for the flat acting.
The cinematography showcases a different side to Karachi, a metropolitan city with flashing scenes of markets and the suburbs. More importantly, it sets a tone in the film where Usman Riaz’s musical score has a strong impact.
The film’s commercial release is yet to be confirmed, but Jaffri admits that despite its festival success, issues regarding distribution have prevailed. She says that creating a market for independent and like-minded film-makers is needed.
“Negotiations are under-way, but these things basically come down to the best deal,” adds Jaffri.
Director Mansoor Mujahid, who made his directorial debut with Seedlings, says, “The film is not constructed as a commercial film.”
“A lot of films have used some of the techniques we employed but I never looked at this through the narrative; I thought this was a collection of fleeting images that projected emotions on to the screen,” says Mujahid. “Viewers expect more action, but when you are stuck with low-budgets, you’re forced to make character-based films,” he adds.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Waheed Murad’s ‘Armaan’ Is Being Remade with Fawad Afzal Khan

For all the Lollywood lovers, there is a big news coming your way as it has been revealed that ‘Armaan’, a blockbuster movie from the past, is being remade. And this just doesn’t end up here because the shooting of the film has already started. The film stars Aamina Sheikh and the super star, Fawad Afzal Khan in the lead.
Armaan was originally released long time back in 1966 and is regarded as one of the most successful movies ever being made in the Pakistani history. It stared Waheed Murad and Zeba, two of the most renowned names of their own time. The music of the film got even more popular and contained tracks such as “Akele Na Jaana” and “Ko Ko Korina” that are still remembered and being played in the gatherings quite often. This movie is said to be the game changer for not only the Pakistan cinema but also for Waheed Murad who instantly attained new heights of fame with the release of this movie.
And now almost after 47 years of its earlier release, the remake is in the process of shooting which is directed by Anjum Shehzad. For those of you who don’t know him, he is the same person who played the role of Bobby in the famous television program Family Front. Lately he is seen behind the camera, producing and directing various hit drama serials which are being aired these days.
Coming back to the cast which is taken on board for the remake, Fawad Khan and Aamina are both capable actors and they will surely try to match the success of the original make. Fawad Khan, the rockstar turned actor, first came into limelight with his much hailed performance in Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Ke liye and recently he broke all records of popularity with his Drama serial “Humsafar”. Now this will be interesting to see how he goes back and adjust himself to the big screen.
That’s it for now, but we will have to wait for more of the information regarding the release date of the movie and the sound track. It is certainly going to be a breath of fresh air for our dying film industry if this project really sees the light of the day.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Reema Khan Announced Comeback With Her 3rd Directorial Venture

Pakistan’s leading actress who  Soon-to-be-mom Reema Khan has once again announced to come back to Pakistan and to work on her next film. She believes that her upcoming movie will really be a great addition in Lollywood and will help to get back its lost charm.
She also said that she will not work in her next film rather she will cast new faces in her movie and will strive to take Pakistan’s film industry to great height.