Wednesday 16 October 2013

Making a Big Budget Movie in Pakistan

09:01 By Lollywood Online 1 comment

Off Road Studios
A still of Shaan Shahid as Mujtaba from the film “Waar.”
The biggest budget film to hit Pakistan’s cinemas arrives on screens in the country Wednesday. “Waar,” which means “to strike” in Urdu, is a slick and fast-paced action film centering around Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.
The film took more than three years to make and cost around US$2.2 million, a paltry sum by international standards but huge in comparison to other films in Pakistan which usually cost less than US$25,000 to make, according to Hassan Rana, writer and producer of “Waar.”
Mr. Rana, and director Bilal Lashari, hope that big guns and heroes with even bigger biceps, will help the film tell Pakistan’s side of the war of terror. There are currently plans to distribute the film in 25 countries.
The Wall Street Journal met with Mr. Lashari to find out more about the film, which he says is providing a much-needed boost to Pakistan’s moribund film industry.
Edited excerpts:
The Wall Street Journal: Why did you decide to make a film about counter terrorism in Pakistan?
Bilal Lashari: Basically it’s an action film and it’s intended to be more of a cinematic experience than a classroom experience. If you want to make an action film in Pakistan, counter terrorism happens to be a very important and relevant backdrop. It’s a theme and it’s a story that we want to tell to people in Pakistan and people outside of Pakistan. And at the same time we wanted to give them quality entertainment.
WSJ: How do you think the film will be received in Pakistan?
Mr. Lashari: The reaction has already been pretty overwhelming just from the trailers. I think that they will be proud of this film. It is a really slick looking high-production value film, and I think that it will inspire a lot of people in Pakistan. I hope it’s going to do a lot for the film industry as a whole, as well as get an important story from Pakistan out to the rest of the world.
Off Road Studios
The director, Bilal Lashari, at the Karachi premier of the movie.
WSJ: How do you think the international reaction will differ?
Mr. Lashari: The world is more receptive to stories from Pakistan than ever before, and the film naturally has an audience because of the topic. The fact that it is primarily in English should also provide a decent audience internationally.
WSJ: Do you expect the film to provoke any controversy?
Mr. Lashari: I don’t personally find anything in this film to be too controversial. But a little bit of controversy isn’t a bad thing. I hope the film will start debates. But overall I don’t think that people in Pakistan will focus as much on the content as on the cinematic experience. 
WSJ: The main hero of the film, Mujtaba, is not only fighting terrorism but he is also fighting with the loss of his wife and son in a terrorist attack. How did you develop his character?
Mr. Lashari: We added the family element to his character later on. We needed to give the character a little more motivation, to give him that past and something that he needed to get over in order to start on this new journey of hunting down the terrorist. It is also something that people can relate to in Pakistan. A lot of people have lost family members to terrorism in Pakistan, and in the film Mujtaba is trying to overcome his past in order to put his country before his family. The country itself is the reason to move on and this is something that people in Pakistan will relate to. We are very emotional and very patriotic people.
WSJ: Do you think that Pakistan today it lacking these sorts of heroes?
Mr. Lashari: Yes, the lack of heroes is one of the problems that Pakistan is facing right now. People need heroes that they can look up to. So many exist in this country, but their stories are not out there. While making this film I had the chance to interact with a lot of people in the armed forces and their stories are incredible. They’ve lost their friends and their family members but they still keep going on and keep fighting that enemy. Mujtaba’s journey in the film reflects the stories of a lot of people in Pakistan. It’s a film so it’s going to be more intense and sensationalized, but I do think that people will be able to relate to him.
WSJ: The film claims to be inspired by real events, how so?
Mr. Lashari: It was inspired by an attack on the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore in 2009, but it might be a little misleading to say that the whole entire film is based on that. Originally, the film was supposed to be more about that one event, but with time it ended up changing. We also linked in a couple of other real stories, like the rescue of the Chinese engineer.
WSJ: What’s next for you?
Mr. Lashari: At the moment I’m just enjoying the reaction to the film. I’m talking to a few people about the next project, which is definitely going to be something epic but I don’t want to give it away right now. Right now, I just want to take some time to get this film out of my system because I’ve been living it for over three years.