Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ishq Khuda translates to ‘Love is God

Watching the trailer of Ishq Khuda which translates to ‘Love is God’, the spirituality of the movie is seen along with the title itself that encourages the concept as well.
The movie explores the love of God’s people and the transformation they go through.
The movie expresses the theme of love and promotes many Pakistani values such as brotherhood, respect and sacrifice along with the correct ideologies of Islam in a world full of hatred and violence. With a director like Shehzad Rafique, a movie that seems to depict a powerful message is not a surprise.
Alongside Rafique, the film was produced by Shafquat Chauhdry.
The film features many of Pakistan’s film industry’s great actors such as Shaan Shahid, Zara Sheikh, Ahsan Khan, Humaima Malik, Meera, Saima, Wiam Dahmani and Inam Khan.
The movie is known to be releasing on Eid, as are many other anticipated products of Pakistan’s regenerated film industry. -Text by Safa Gangat

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mai Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack: Lollywood in the garb of Bollywood

Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack, has some catchy numbers but even those are repetitive. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Lollywood soundtracks with their deafening vocals and jhankaar beats better brace themselves. The music of new-age films is crisp and fresh and will definitely give them a run for their money.
The stir that was caused by Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye (KKL) in 2007 changed the face (and genre) of ‘Lollywood music’ to one that moves within the range of pop, rock and mellow tunes. KKL’s original and distinctive music album became a chartbuster not only in Pakistan, but also in India with album copies selling in equal numbers in both countries.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack, has some catchy numbers but even those are repetitive. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Six years down the lane, the soundtrack of one of the most expensive Pakistani film’s in our cinema’s history, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, has been released. But while the music of actor-turned-film-maker Humayun Saeed’s film is not your run-of-the-mill dose of Lolly beats, it could have been better.
Like the entertainment-packed film, the soundtrack is also heavily inspired by Bollywood. While it’s Bollywood-inspired trailers and storyline will attract hordes to theatres, the music suffers as it  follows the same-old formulaic treatment, making one feel that although the songs are catchy, the tune is repetitive.
The album consists of five songs. Jera Vi Hai Aanday has been written by Shani and Nadeem Asad, while Malal, Teri Hi Kami and a cocktail of two songs Angreja and Beautiful Night have been written by Sabir Zafar. An undisclosed item song Teri Hi Kami is also on the soundtrack. The music has been composed by the young Pakistani duo Kami and Shani.
Judging by the one item song (Teri Hi Kami), the soulful ballad in the voice of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (Malal) and the upbeat, motivational/ patriotic song (Jera Vi Hai Aanday) by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan which is sure to give you an adrenaline rush, the film’s music has everything to make it a hit but nothing as such to make it memorable. There is no denying that apart from Beautiful Night (which is lacklustre), Kami and Shani have created music which is as good if not better than the music of any Bollywood film. Having said that, there is nothing awe-inspiring about the MHSA soundtrack. It is good for Bollywood, but average by Pakistani standards — we have always made better and original music.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack, has some catchy numbers but even those are repetitive. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Our inclination towards Bollywood music is rather shocking. It seems that the composers were given a heavy dose of AR Rahman and Lagaan music as inspiration, which is reflected in the safe and orthodox song writing. Khuda Kay Liye, Bol and even Chambaili had the signature Pakistani sound, which is why they stood out and this will be considered an extension of the Bollywood music we hear every day.
Where Angreja has the groove, rebelliousness and punch to be blared from car woofers — courtesy of Punjabi lyrics —  Beautiful Night, an English song based on the same groove and mood released separately is rather irritating and quite exaggerated. Club music, it seems, is strictly a no-go area for a country that grew up singing and listening to mehendi songs. Artists need to confront this reality and get over it because so far, all attempts at making English-desi club music have been pretentious.
Owing to its catchy melody and lyrics that suit the music of a rebellious theme for a cricket loving nation, Jera Vi Hai Aanday remains to be our favourite.  Lines like “mae ki jaanaa tuk tuk karna, mae tae yaar lapetaan (I don’t know how to play tuk tuk but I can hit the ball hard)” not only address the ongoing Misbah-Afridi competition, but also encompass our sentimentality as a nation.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

For new-age Pakistani films, the dawn for dance sequences has arrived

Pappu Samrat has choreographed ‘item songs’ and dance sequences for Main Hoon Shahid Afridi and Ishq Khuda. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
The Bollywood film formula is popular in the sub-continent; a film offering mindless entertainment (take, for example, Karan Johar’s Student of the Year) along with catchy songs draws in the audiences even if it is not inspiring or insightful.
For this reason, choreography is an important part of cinema, as the first look of a film is often a teaser of a choreographed number. In Pakistan, while dance has always been an integral part of Lollywood and other regional films, it has been largely absent from mainstream commercial films (such as the recent Bol and Khuda Ke Liye). But with the emergence of new-age cinema, the concept of choreographed numbers for mainstream films seems to be catching on. The trailer of Main Hoon Shahid Afridi shows a glimpse of the sultry Mahnoor Baloch dancing at a club, and the upcoming Ishq Khuda is also promising some catchy sequences.
In this environment, Pappu Samrat remains to be the lone ranger – possibly the only experienced film choreographer on this side of the border. With several films premiering on Eid, Samrat has choreographed ‘item songs’ and dance sequences for Main Hoon Shahid Afridi and Ishq Khuda. Having worked in all types of film for pretty much every director, he is the most sought-after choreographer for film today.
Pappu Samrat has choreographed ‘item songs’ and dance sequences for Main Hoon Shahid Afridi and Ishq Khuda. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
“I can’t explain what has happened, but I think because of the lack of education, I don’t see many youngsters interested in choreography,” he says. He feels that the industry has shifted away from classical dance, so there is a growing need for professional choreographers. “We are seeing some new choreographers come about through new films, but there is obviously still some time before this area is perfected.”
Samrat blames the absence of dance culture and intent from actors to learn dance for the huge talent gap when it comes to male dancers. “There isn’t really any will amongst male actors when it comes to learning to dance,” he says, without taking names. “In fact, this has a lot to do with how characters are presented. For example, if a hero is a police inspector, he has to be a macho man. Our audiences have not accepted something different,” says Samrat.
No way to go but up
Despite the low number of dance sequences and subsequent participation from actors, there is hope that dance talent will be promoted as Pakistani films evolve.
Screenwriter and director Pervaiz Kaleem says that the over-all execution of films is being forced to change thanks to new films entering the market. He elaborates that screenplay, dialogue and direction require a new aesthetic which is different from classical films. As a result, dances will also have to improve.
“Dance is an integral part of Pakistani films because it gives life to music,” says Kaleem.  Despite this, Kaleem feels there is a dearth of choreographers and that most directors, no matter which background they come from, tend to use Samrat for his experience and skill.
“There are only a few people who have the experience and knowledge to provide good sequences,” he adds. “I have not seen much innovation on this front.”
Lollywood versus Pollywood
Samrat’s competitor and rival, choreographer Nigah Hussain, who choreographed the Lux Style Awards this year, also feels that dance will evolve when the Pakistani film industry takes off. Hussain says that the lack of dance academies has contributed to the dearth of choreographers in the country.  “There still is no film industry to speak of. Till new films with new stories and ideas are made, new dances cannot be made,” says Hussain.
Despite this, he says investment is being made for better dances and points out that even Pollywood has started to work on increased budgets to produce better sequences that could compete with Lollywood.
“I think that we have talented individuals who have the ability to perform,” he says. “Many major actors in Lollywood have done good sequences.”

Friday, 26 July 2013

A truly Pakistani Eid for cinema-lovers

Instead of competing with Bollywood potboilers, cinema-goers will see three Pakistani films compete with each other this Eid.
This Eid seems to be a promising one for the long lost Pakistani film industry, or so we hope. Three local films are set to make their debut in cinemas across the country. A  glance at the corridors of Atrium Cinemas makes one feel proud as next to half man, half wolf Hugh Jackman and the sari-clad Sonakshi resting on Ranveer, are the faces of Pakistani talents like Aamina Sheikh, Humayun Saeed and Ahsan Khan, splattered all over posters. We may not have ‘stars’ like those in Hollywood and Bollywood, but we do have capable actors, many of whom will have their very first experience on the silver screen.
Each of the three films releasing this Eid belong to a different genre entirely and hence, their impact on the box office and audience is likely to vary. The line-up includes the most-hyped Humayun Saeed production Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Shahzad Rafique’s long-delayed Ishq-e-Khuda and Iram Parveen Bilal’s internationally acclaimed, small-budget Josh.
Amongst the three, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi has the highest expectations attached to it since it is not only Pakistan’s first sports-centric movie but also one that involves a major chunk of the film industry in its making. However, it remains to be seen if it only turns out to be a potpourri of sorts with Afridi’s name as its best selling point, though we hope otherwise. A blessing in disguise for the film is Shahid Afridi’s brilliant form in the first and last ODI. If he performs well in one of the upcoming T20 matches, the film will incidentally attract hoards to the theatre hall, since he is the only surviving star of Pakistan who is equally acknowledged by the ‘classes’ and the ‘masses’. The Afridi factor, accompanied by its big budget, catchy music and a commercially-layered patriotic theme can possibly make it a gold mine for the local box office.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is releasing on 35 screens across Pakistan and may cross the Rs30 million mark in its first week, barring any major unrest in the country. Keeping that in mind, it might do a total business of around Rs80 million, which, compared to the approximately Rs100 million budget of the film, is inadequate. However, with no mainstream Indian films being released on Eid, the film may gross more than expected.
The other release is the long-awaited Punjabi film Ishq-e-Khuda starring Ahsan Khan and Meera. This, too, will be released on 35 screens across Pakistan. It is expected to face stiff competition from Main Hoon Shahid Afridi at multiplexes and other cinemas in urban and sub-urban areas of Pakistan but is expected to sweep the single screens in Punjab.  The film seems like it could prove to be a surprising win for Punjabi cinema like Syed Noor’s Majajanbut it won’t do that well on the box office compared to the other big release. Overall business of Rs20 million to Rs30 million will be quite an achievement.
Finally Josh, which despite having gained international fame received the least amount of attention in terms of marketing, will release digitally only on nine screens across the country. Nevertheless, it might just prove to be a surprise package. In terms of business, nine screens can barely result in a good return for the film though we can expect some power-packed performances. Although the budget of the film hasn’t been disclosed and returns can’t really be predicted with such a narrow release, we hope that Josh competes well alongside these commercial films so that other independent film-makers are also encouraged.
Alongside celebrations, this Eid probably brings the biggest test for Pakistani cinema as the return will truly represent how dependant we are on foreign films and how many more screens we need to have in order to make film-making a feasible business in Pakistan. Best of luck to everyone involved!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pakistan’s latest independent film ‘Josh’: an interview with the director

Pakistani cinema is having a bit of a moment. Decades of collective angst over the slow decay of its much put upon mainstream film industry – Lollywood – is giving way to excitement over a sparky and emergent independent film scene. Driven by a growing and determined breed of filmmakers mobilising all the resources at their disposal to raise funds, crew and a camera or two, this is the cinema of Pakistan’s film school generation, out to change an outdated narrative, one small film at a time.
Iram Parveen Bilal is one such filmmaker, and her first film Josh is exactly one such film. It’s showing this week as part of the London Indian Film Festival – the Festival’s first ever screening of a Pakistani film.
Starring two of Pakistani television’s finest actors, and real-life power couple, Aamina Sheikh and Mohib MIrza, Josh tells the story of a high school teacher living in Karachi, whose blissful ignorance about the realities of life in rural Pakistan is shattered when her nanny goes missing. Screened as the inaugural film at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival in October 2012, the film got rave reviews. It’s also fresh from a round of sold out screenings across the USA and Canada.
Iram Parveen Bilal
We caught up with Iram a couple of days ago, and she told us about the inspiration behind Josh, what it takes to make an independent film in Pakistan, and her plans for a certain Shahrukh Khan.
Us: What’s Josh about?
Iram: It’s a film about many things – class separation, education, women’s rights, feudalism and the youth movement. It’s about what happens when you find your world turned upside down and you want to take control of your life again. It’s also a story of hope, of trying, of redemption. And  in that way, it’s the story of Pakistan, and of the pain, the pleasure and the spirit of unity and independence. Ultimately, if I were to pick one thing, it’s a film about never giving up.
Us: Was there a particular inspiration behind the film?
Iram: There’s an initiative in Karachi called Khana Ghar, which is run by an activist called Parveen Saeed and provides affordable meals to the city’s poor. That was an initial motivation, but the script and story are completely original. I wanted Josh to be a film which showcased sides of Pakistan the international community wouldn’t know of or expect. It was also important to me to raise a voice against injustice and the fragmentation of society. I started with a general idea of what I wanted to say and then brainstormed the type of characters audiences would want to watch or know better. That’s how any script really starts and that’s how Josh started after the initial inspiration.
Us: Making films anywhere in the world, but particularly in a country like Pakistan where the film infrastructure is so limited, is a tough ask. What made you do it?
Iram: Because I am crazy. You have to be crazy to want to make a film. The film took 35 days to shoot. It was a long, hectic, gruelling 6 months in Karachi in the summer, with Ramadan falling smack in the middle of location scouting. There is a lack of film infrastructure in Pakistan so everything takes more time and energy but that being said, the rewards are unique since the country is largely untapped and unfilmed.
Us: What was your favourite or most memorable part of making the film?
Iram: Late night eruptions into group singing. There was just such great camaraderie on set. We were exhausted and overworked but totally excited. And inspired.
Iram with some of the cast of Josh
Us: Josh is releasing in Pakistan in less than a month’s time. How are you feeling about that?
Iram: I am anxious. There is a large section of Pakistan’s audience which is more used to big budget Hollywood and Bollywood films, and not so much to the pace of independent films. That said, I know we have an audience that is ready for something different, and will appreciate the film.
Us: What do you think of the recent emergence of independent films in Pakistan? Do you think its headed in the right direction?
Iram: Absolutely. The most important this is that it’s a movement from the ground up. It’s no longer just people from film families making films, which means more of society is being represented in the narrative voice. That will hopefully lead to a greater variety of films, and ultimately a cinema which is thick and strong.
Us: Many of these films have been largely focussed on powerful social narratives. Why do you think so many filmmakers choose to go that way?
Iram: Pakistan is always in turmoil and so you can either focus on the turmoil or go completely escapist in your narratives. Those are two natural reactions, which are reflected in current films. But we’ve only just restarted the process of making films, and the more that are made, the wider the spectrum will get.
Aaminah Sheikh as Fatima
Us: You originally trained as en engineer. What made you switch to film-making?
Iram: I think I was too impatient to wait for a scientific discovery that would help mankind. I wanted to see a quicker reaction to my work. Films are such a strong source of visual resonance between human souls that the inspiration that comes from that is unmatched. I think living is to inspire and be inspired, hence films and art.
Us: What types of projects would you like to be working on in the future?
Iram: I never think very far ahead into the future. Six months from now though, I would love to be directing Mr SRK.
There are two screenings of Josh as part of the London Indian Film Festival – on Tuesday 23rdand Wednesday 24th July.  Each screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the director

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Zomcom Waking Dead to hit theatres soon

The trend of horror movies seems to be picking up in the subcontinent. Following Siyaah, Zibahkhana and Zinda Laash, it’s now time for Pakistan’s first zombie comedy movie — Waking Dead by independent short film-maker Usman Mukhtar. He feels this production will be different and a “movie of its kind.”
Mukhtar’s first film Aasia, a story of child abuse, was released in 2006, followed by a short comedy Whattay Scary in 2008, Black Coffee in 2010 and I Dream a Day last year.
For this production, the film-maker has roped in international actors and admits that the experience has broadened his horizon as a director.
Shot in Dubai, the short film was produced in less than three days and stars UAE-based actors Nitin Mirani, Nadia Williams and Nidhi Jha.
“No doubt that there is talent in this country [Pakistan], but there are no proper institutions of support,” he said, adding that Pakistan has a long way to go in order to be at par with international standards. Mukhtar, a horror movie fanatic, has used professional prosthetic, make-up artist Nouf Al Jhadhami’s expertise to make the characters look “wonderfully scary.”
Waking Dead is PR and talent management agency Muse Dubai’s first zomcom production.
“A zomcom in particular, hasn’t been shot on this scale locally, making it a great collaboration between South Asia and the Middle East, based on talent,” says Roha Daud, co-founder Muse Dubai.
“And this ultimately is Muse’s forte and vision to bring together talent from across the countries to work on such projects.”
“Although the film industry in UAE is steadily growing, I haven’t heard of any [movies] being made in this genre,” says Rehaab Daud, CEO Muse Dubai.
She added that when Mukhtar came up with the concept of a short zomcom, it sounded like a fun movie to be involved in and turned out to be exactly that.
“It turned out to be a great learning experience and a step towards Muse Dubai’s goal of representing and working with talent from different countries,” she said.
The dialogues have been penned by Shahana Khan and the movie is in its post-production stage at the moment. It is scheduled to release in the next two months in Dubai — the exact date of release is still not final — and then Pakistan. Mukhtar also hopes to showcase Waking Dead at the upcoming Dubai Film Festival this year.
He is also working on a feature film whose script has been written by Pakistan’s versatile urdu legend, Anwar Maqsood.
Cast speaks up
The film’s lead actor Mirani said that he was ecstatic when he was first approached for the project. “The movie kept me up for a few days. But it is a zombie movie so the character came naturally to me,” he joked over a telephonic interview. “Mukhtar is a supreme talent and Pakistan has definitely made a mark when it comes to quality short films, globally.”
Nadia feels that there just aren’t enough short movies being produced in Dubai. “They should become more popular as they are fun to watch and even more fun to participate in,” she exclaimed. Jha, who has made her debut with this film, hopes that such projects are taken up more often in UAE as they are a source of inspiration and people get to showcase their talent and ideas. “We all need to come out of hiding and create more [movies],” she says.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Did you know?: Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack is on air

Three tracks from the much-awaited movie Main Hoon Shahid Afridi have been released back to back this week. The producers have predicted that Jera Vi Aaan Dey,Beautiful Night and Engreeza Tere will be chartbusters.
“The music is brilliant. Even if all songs are not hits, I am 110% sure that at least two songs will be very successful,” actor and producer Humayun Saeed said in an interview earlier.
Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is a story which centres on cricket. Jera Vi Aaan Dey is more of a motivational track and serves the purpose of boosting the players’ self esteem. Beautiful Nightfeatures young boys and girls dancing and having a good time at a club but the lyrics don’t seem to go beyond “Everybody’s gotten closer, it’s a beautiful night.”
There’s good news for all the bhangra fans out there — Engreeza Tere is an upbeat Punjabi number and might just be one of the tracks to be played at mehendis.
The cast of the film includes Javed Sheikh, Nadeem Baig, Shafqat Cheema, Noman Habib (lead), Mahnoor Baloch and a host of others, including Saeed himself. It is scheduled to release on Eidul Fitr this year.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Rabia Butt’s ‘Hijrat’ to the big screen

Rabia says the director is convinced she will mesmerise the audience. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Two-time winner of the Lux Style Award for Best Model, dusky beauty Rabia Butt is now gearing up for the big screen. After stints in commercials and music videos, Rabia is set to star in Farooq Mengal’s debut film Hijrat.
“Good things come to those who wait for the right time and opportunity,” says the model. “I accept a project when it seems right to me. I did have an idea that this might happen at some point, but I was not hunting for a role in a big film.”
Hijrat, which marks Mengal’s directorial debut in Lollywood, is said to be a romantic drama that is placed in the backdrop of the Afghan War, where millions were rendered homeless. Rabia plays an Indian doctor named Jia, who works for rehabilitation centres set up for IDPs. She is happy that she’s debuting in the industry with a lead role. “The passion is fiery and we [the team of Hijrat] are determined to captivate the audience. No stones are being left unturned; now the success of the film depends on fate,” says the model-turned-actor. “Things solidified once I was ready to switch from the fashion industry to the mesmerising silver screen and the director was convinced that I would dazzle the audience,” she adds.
Rabia admits that Hijrat is one of the most demanding projects she has been a part of. “All this hard work is a demand of my role, but I am sure it will pay off. I am really excited about all the upcoming projects in the industry and foresee a sparkling revival of Lollywood.”
She is optimistic about the Pakistani film industry’s future. “You know Lollywood is no more. I don’t know what I should call this rebirth [of cinema] yet, but it seems good things are in the making,” she says.
Mengal, a well-known name in the Pakistani television industry, has gone all out to make his film debut with a perfect mix of fresh faces and seasoned actors. Apart from Rabia, the film stars model Asad Zaman and actors Noman Ejaz, Ayub Khoso and Wiam Dahmani.
“The first spell has been shot — what an enlightening experience it has been!” exclaims Rabia. “The silver screen is hungry for blood and sweat — it demands serious hard work, which means there was no slacking at all on our part.”
Still a novice in acting, Rabia says she will not make hasty decisions in her acting career and will focus more on improving her craft. She adds that she’s being offered projects for acting and modelling, but tries to refrain from being easily impressed.
When asked if she will take up offers from India, she says, “I will not bend over backwards to earn a role in Bollywood. I am staying true to my ideology and my craft. If things are meant to be in my favour, I will be handed whatever I deserve on a silver platter.”
When asked why he chose Rabia, Mengal says that the unusual love story will show her in a different light. “I felt Rabia was perfect for the role and after auditioning her, it was clear in my mind that she suits the character well,” he adds.
The director also expressed that he was committed to promoting new talent and that Zaman, who plays the lead role opposite Butt, was also making his debut. “We [film-makers] have to promote new talent in the industry. I think the two [Rabia and Zaman] will have strong on-screen chemistry and give powerful performances in the film.”
The film, which is touted as a big-budget project, is expected to release between October and November, adding to the array of Pakistani films slated for this year. The teaser will be out this Eid.