Saturday, 30 November 2013

Pakistan Oscar Hope ‘Zinda Bhaag’ Heads to Canada, U.K., Middle East

GOA — Directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi’s “Zinda Bhaag”, Pakistan’s contender for the foreign-language Academy Award race, has concluded distribution deals for the Canada, U.K. and Middle East.
All Canada rights including theatrical, television and VoD have been acquired by Toronto-based D Films, a distributor specializing in independent features that also has a multi-picture output deal with U.K. sales and distribution company, the Icon UK group. A January release is being planned.
Boutique distributor Mara Pictures has acquired U.K. television and VoD rights.
Regional powerhouse Tanweer Group has acquired Middle East rights and will release the film in the U.A.E., Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in December.
Though there are glimmers of a revival, the film industry in Pakistan is in poor shape and the country has only 42 screens for a population of 188 million. “Zinda Bhaag” released there in September and is still running in some cinemas, having recouped some $200,000 of its $500,000 budget. The film had a limited release in the U.S. in October.
Gaur and producer Mazhar Zaidi are in Goa for the National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar and are in negotiations for an India release.
“Zinda Bhaag” is an illegal immigration comedy drama where three young men try and escape the realities of their lives in Pakistan. It stars veteran Indian character actor Naseeruddin Shah alongside Pakistani actors Amna Ilyas and Khurram Patras.
The film is Pakistan’s first entry to the Academy Awards after a 50-year absence. The filmmakers are realistic about their chances. Despite the excitement around the Oscar announcement, there has been no institutional or governmental support in Pakistan for the award campaign.
“For an indie film like ours, especially from a country like Pakistan that has no film industry to speak of, to lobby or to run a campaign, it is difficult. It requires too much finance. We are relying on some buzz for the film.” Gaur and Zaidi told Variety.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Super Cinema: New kid on the entertainment block

Super Cinema has completely revamped Shabistan theatre, turning it into a state-of-the-art cinema. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY
Lahore’s once pristine cinemas are rotting away and falling apart. This tragedy is well known, yet few have taken any initiative on this front. Last spring, the team behind Super Cinema decided to try something that others had yet to do — revamp a classically built cinema so that it could cater to a wider range of cinema-goers. Following the completion of the project, Shabistan Theatre became the first old cinema on Lahore’s famous Abbot Road to be fully refurbished. While the fa├žade has been restored to its former glory, the interior now boasts state-of-the-art technology and a greater audience capacity. With the screening of Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, the old Shabistan theatre was now officially Super Cinema.
“We took over the operations of Shabistan and revamped it with a state-of-the-art digital system, which includes 3D; almost close to IMAX. It has one of the best projectors in the world, along with a huge screen about 45 feet,” says Imran Idris Mufti, the director of Super Cinema and Summit Entertainment Pakistan.
The new Shabistan Super Cinema has been put together exceptionally well, and routinely fills its auditorium. It is an initiative that has also bridged the divide between old and new cinema. The cinema halls at Shabistan have a rich history, and the theatre itself stands lined-up against five other old cinemas, such as Metropole. All kinds of Pakistani films used to be shown at these once illustrious cinemas on Abbot Road, until the downturn of local films occurred.
“The cinema was in the heart of the city. It has culture and legacy. Abbot Road and McLeod road are famous for films but families had stopped coming [here]. Now our halls are filled with families who never used to visit this part of town,” says Mufti.
Mufti, who launched Super Cinema’s first screen at the Royal Palm Golf & Country Club, has always maintained high-definition cinematic experiences and says that they are here to stay. He has systematically been acting on his long-term plan, which hopes to push traditional pioneers of multiplex and cinema distribution in Lahore. The result has been a dramatic shift in Lahore for both cinema-goers and Pakistan’s local film distributors. Dominated by only one or two major players over the last few years, the growth in multiplexes has been shaken up by the introduction of Summit Entertainment’s Super Cinema. In a span of two years, Super Cinema has added 15 new cinema screens to the city and plans to continue expanding.
These plans were complemented with another adventure on Mufti’s part, to develop the first cinema inside a mall on MM Alam Road. This multiplex screen, which has already started to accommodate private screenings, is the first of its kind in Lahore. Basing this decision on the American concept of making cinema part of the shopping experience, Mufti says that it will give easy access to people in Gulberg who are looking to catch a movie while out shopping.
“It gives you multiple facilities under one roof, you can go shop, have a good time, and have food. The view is amazing, we have three screens there, and a gold cinema with VIP services,” says Mufti.
Now, with an infrastructure of a growing number of multiplex screens firmly in place, the next frontier is an expansion of the film distribution options in Lahore. Summit Entertainment has already started to import foreign films, such as Rush and Once upon a time in Mumbai Dobaara, and are quietly getting involved with local movies as well.
“We are picking up Pakistani movies. This wave that has sort of taken place, where there is improved Pakistani content, we want to be a part of that as well,” says Mufti.
“I think things have changed for the better, people are starting to come back to cinemas but when you talk about Pakistan and numbers, I feel even a hundred screens for Lahore would not be enough. The potential is a lot and growth and competition will be a good thing.”

Monday, 25 November 2013

Director's cut: 'Waar' is more pro-Pakistan, than anti-India

The tension on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan is always simmering, with each blaming the other for extremist elements within their territory.

Amidst political tensions a new film that insinuates an Indian hand behind terrorist violence, has set the box office on fire in Pakistan.
'Waar' is Pakistan's biggest film to date which has crossed approx $ 2 million at the box office till date.

Some news agencies and Indian media see the film as an anti-India movie.
But speaking exclusively to Emirates 24|7 debutant director Bilal Lashari says, "Waar is a pro-Pakistani film, more than anti-India."

"This was just one film and honestly it's not heavily based on the rivalry at all.
"In fact it only mentions RAW (Indian intelligence agency) ones in the entire film, it's not the same kind of film (to mint money of rival of both nations).
"It focuses more on Pakistan and things happening in Pakistan than the rivalry. It's approached in a very different way."
Indian filmmakers have been playing the rivalry card (between India and Pakistan) since long and with 'Waar' it looks like the Pakistani industry is also cashing on it. 

But Bilal clarifies, "As far as playing on the rivalry card is concerned I think that doesn't necessarily mean all the films will be successful. Even playing on romantic comedy or having an item number is considered to be safe but films still fail and film made on India Pakistan rival also have failed. So there is no safe formula in terms of making money, a film will always be tricky."

In the movie two agents of India's external intelligence agency R&AW Ramal (Shamoon Abassi) and Laxmi (Meesha Shafi) are shown as instigators behind political murders, suicide bombings and kidnapping.

In one scene from the 130-minute movie, militants overrun a Pakistani police academy and kill 100 officers. The Indian agents waltz in a glitzy flat in Islamabad to celebrate the success of their mission.
Even in Pakistan itself, 'Waar' is seen by some liberals wary of what they see as fiery nationalistic rhetoric and scenes demonising India.
There are some who believes that the movie is based on true events.

Zaid Hamid, a security analyst tweeted his approval for the film: "The entire patriotic narrative that RAW is backing Khawarij, political traitors and terrorists in Pakistan has been depicted well. #WAAR."

Bilal along with the producers are now planning for its international release. But they haven't approached any Indian distributors yet.
The director says, "We want the movie to be released in India. But instead of approaching individual distributors in India what we want to give worldwide rights to a distributor. That makes it more manageable and easier for us.
"That's the main reason. But honestly I don't know if the Indian censor will pass the film, I hope they will, because the RAW connection is just for the sake of the plot. It's not an anti-Indian film as such, the tone and spirit is more pro-Pakistan than anti-Indian."

Bilal is also ready to re-edit his film for the Indian audience.
"Not in terms of changing or cutting out scenes but maybe like very very minor tweaks but than again that will really come down to what exactly is being asked to change.
"If it doesn't change the spirit of the film, which is the fact that it's a pro-Pakistani film, if it doesn't hurt that (sentiment) than we can always consider. It's difficult to say at this point, it really comes down to what is being asked to change."

Sources within ARY films told Emirates 24|7 that 'Waar' might be released in the second week of December but the director is treading cautiously.
He said, "It's possible but again it's not confirmed so I don't want to give away dates until it's confirmed. We are still discussing and as soon as I find out the final date I can let you know."

In the UAE, fans have been eagerly waiting for the theater release and the director is also looking forward to bring his film to the Pakistani expatriates here.

During our telephonic conversation the young director was excited and said, "We are looking forward, in fact can't wait to, honestly. Now more than ever because we get all these messages everyday inquiring about its release, especially the UAE and in Dubai there seems to be a big market there.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Its official, Waar is the highest grossing Pakistani film of all time

KARACHI: Blockbuster movie ‘Waar’ has now officially become the highest grossing film in Pakistan of all time after it surpassed ‘Choorian’s’ Rs200 million mark at the box office on just its 36th day of screening.
‘Waar’ has so far earned Rs200,145,809 in a little over five weeks of screenings. The film was initially released on 53 screens at 35 cinemas all across Pakistan on Eidul Azha. It is still playing at five different sites, meaning it could go on to gross a higher total take from the domestic screenings.
Bilal Lashari’s film, which had opened to sold out theatres, is still selling 30-40% of seats with films such as Sanjayleela Bhansali’s ‘Ramleela’ drawing packed houses. ‘Waar‘ is also expected to see a limited release in neighbouring India, and the UK.
Waar’ owes its massive success at the box office primarily to a long public holiday when it opened on Eid. More importantly, ‘Waar’ has benefited from an exponential increase in the number of screens over the past year. Of the 63 working screens in Pakistan, 17 were added just in 2013. The advent of multiplexes has also seen the price of tickets double from an average price of Rs150 to Rs350.
The business has proven to be lucrative for entrepreneurs who are seen to be pouring in substantial amount money in opening up bigger and better cinemas in Pakistan. If the sociopolitical situation remains favourable for films, Pakistan could see the number of cinema screens to triple to 200 by 2015.
Provincial distribution of business:
Punjab: 57%
Sindh: 35%
Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) : 8%
City wise distribution of business:
Karachi: 34%
Lahore: 29%
Rawalpindi: 17%
Islamabad: 8%
Faislabad: 4%
Multan: 2%
Gujranwala: 2%
Hyderabad: 1%
Gujrat: 1%
Other: 1%

Waheed Murad Legacy Remains

Renowned chocolate hero and a legendary Pakistani film actor, producer and script writer Waheed Murad is being remembered today on his 30thdeath anniversary. He is considered to be one of the most famous and influential actors not just of Pakistan but of South Asia.

He is well known for his charming expressions, attractive personality, tender voice and unusual talent for acting in films. His romantic style of acting made him popular amongst the young cinema viewers of South Asia.

Waheed Murad produced eleven films under his father's established 'Film Art'. He was the youngest film producer in the industry at that time.

With an attractive personality Waheed Murad for almost 23 years Waheed Murad dominated the Pakistani cinema in which he performed in 123 movies.

Due to his outstanding achievements in the field of acting Waheed Murad was honored with Sitara Imtiaz and several other awards.

Waheed Murad came as a producer in the film industry but later he turned out to be a superb actor on the silver screen.

As a hero Armaan was his first mega hit which also completed its Platinum Jubilee.

He performed with almost every super hit heroine of that time including Zeba, Shamim Ara, Shabnam, Deeba, Babra Sharif, Naghma, Sangeeta and Nasho.

Waheed Murad gave several hits to the industry which includes Josh, Jag Utha Insan, Ahsaan, Doraha, Insaniat, Dil Mera Dharkan Teri, Anjuman, Mastana Mahi and Andleeb.

He died on 23 November 1983 at the age of 45.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Access restored: PTA reverses block on IMDb after public outcry

IMDb is a prominent source of reliable news and box office reports on films, TV programs. PHOTO: FILE
KARACHI: The government has reversed a ban on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a widely used online entertainment news portal and movie database.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesperson Khurram Mehran confirmed on Friday that a block on the website had been reversed, just days after it went into effect.
Sources within the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) also confirmed a fresh notification from PTA that asked ISPs to unblock the website.
They added that the PTA, on November 19, issued a notification asking ISPs to block the website, per a decision taken by the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC).
ISPs received numerous complaints from users, the raised the issue with the PTA over the block of an information database website. Another notification was then circulated on Friday that reversed the notification of November 19.
When asked why the site was blocked, the sources said they could only guess since IMDb contains millions of links.
Responding to complaints that the site was still inaccessible for some users, sources at local ISPs said that after the notification had been received, blocks were being removed and that the site would soon be accessible by all users.
The portal is ranked number 7 on the “Top 10: Must-know Entertainment Websites” by With 4.7 million fans on its Facebook page and a massive 995,279 followers on Twitter, the website is widely viewed across the globe. Termed as “the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content” on the website, IMDb has a great following here in Pakistan, as well.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Did you know?: IMDb inaccessible in Pakistan

IMDb is a prominent source of reliable news and box office reports on films, TV programs. PHOTO: FILE
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a widely used online entertainment news portal, has allegedly been banned in Pakistan.
Owned by, IMDb is a prominent source of reliable news and box office reports regarding films, television programmes and video games from all over the world. The portal is ranked number 7 on the “Top 10: Must-know Entertainment Websites” by With 4.7 million fans on its Facebook page and a massive 995,279 followers on Twitter, the website is widely viewed across the globe. Termed as “the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content” on the website, IMDb has a great following here in Pakistan, as well.
After a ban on YouTube that has lasted over a year, the restrictions on the access to IMDb come at a time when Pakistani films are gaining momentum and international recognition. While the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has not confirmed an official ban and any reasons for doing so are unknown, users in Pakistan remain unable to access it.
Tough luck, fellow Pakistani entertainment enthusiasts

'Waar': UAE cinema battleground for Pakistani's biggest blockbuster... Indians ready?

Pakistani film 'Waar' has tasted success like no other film in Pakistan.
The film that was made in a budget of approx. $ 1 million, has reached almost $ 2 million dollars at the box office till date.

The commercial success of the movie in Pakistan has built huge expectations among movie lovers in overseas as well.
Now after conquering home ground, 'Waar' is on its way for a global release. Speaking exclusively to Emirates 24|7 debutant director Bilal Lashari says a plan is being laid out for its international release.
Bilal said, "We are still talking to distributors and we are trying to finalise the release dates because we want to release it simultaneously in many countries that's why it's taking bit of time. 

"All our focus was on releasing it in Pakistan initially and now we are working on the international release. Within a week or two weeks it should be decided when is the international release date."

Sources within ARY films told Emirates 24|7 that 'Waar' might be released in the second week of December but the director is treading cautiously.
He said, "It's possible but again it's not confirmed so I don't want to give away dates until it's confirmed. We are still discussing and as soon as I find out the final date I can let you know."

In the UAE, fans have been eagerly waiting for the theatre release and the director is also looking forward to bring his film to the Pakistani expatriates here.
During our telephonic conversation the young director was excited and said, "We are looking forward, in fact can't wait to, honestly. Now more than ever because we get all these messages everyday inquiring about its release, especially the UAE and in Dubai there seems to be a big market there."

Though the film is bi-lingual (English and Urdu) it has done fairly well in all provinces in Pakistan.
Bilal said, "Not just the urban market we were targeting all of Pakistan, (though) the language is bi-lingual but that's also due to the flavor and international distribution as well. 

"But at the end of the day it's a very visual film so the language is really secondary. It's a kind of film that even if you mute the dialogues you can understand because it's a visually driven film.

"The film has got incredible response; the movie is on its way to be the highest grossing film ever in Pakistan. We've almost reached that point, in fact in recent times no film has done as much business. 

“Lot of cinema halls in the interiors of Pakistan has been renovated because this film got them that much business so it exceeded everyone's expectations. Not just in the main cities but in the smaller cities as well."

After Waar’s resounding performance it is touted that the film will revive Pakistan's dwindling movie industry.
Bilal thinks to revive an industry it has to be a collective effort. "The only thing this film can do is initiate, influence and motivate this collective effort. This movie is going to boast investor's confidence in terms of believing that there is a potential big market for Pakistani films. 

"Lot of cinemas have made money from this film, so their standards are going up, it has encouraged others and everyone is thinking it as a viable option.
"Not every movie is going to succeed but the important thing is that at least we will have a lot of films in production."

'Waar' revolves around the theme of terrorism in the country and has been filmed with the support of the all-powerful military, police departments and government organisations.
In bits and pieces the movie depicts the volatile aspect of Pakistan's rocky relationship with its arch-rival India.
The narrative is simple and packed with action.
Indian villains team up with Islamist militants to plot spectacular attacks across Pakistan. Pakistani security forces jump in and save the day.
"Like any other action film, we wanted to show the triumph of good over evil," said director Bilal Lashari, 31. "And we wanted to do it with a great amount of spectacle and scale."

Politics aside, 'Waar' is fun to watch. Helicopter gunships whizz over mountains and commandos lay siege to militant sanctuaries in Pakistan's picturesque, lawless tribal regions.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Usman Mukhtar experiments with new-age film-making

The title song of Waking Dead by Natasha Ejaz released this week. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Time and again, people are confronted with choices, but it seems Usman Mukhtar has made a firm decision. Despite being an actor, Mukhtar has followed the director’s path with two feature films already in the making. “I just want to focus on directing,” he remarks. But more than that, the talented director has been garnering quite a lot of attention for his short film, Waking Dead
Essentially a zombie-comedy, the film’s title song by Natasha Ejaz released this week. “I have known Natasha [for a long time] so I showed her the footage. I asked her if she wanted to try something different, maybe sing a rap song with some techno music in the background,” he says. Mukhtar envisioned the soundtrack to be fun and perky, and so the techno-track was born. The video, which shows two zombies freestyling to techno rap, appears similar to Tom Cruise’s dance sequence in Tropic Thunder.
Even though the song was completely different from what she has done before, Ejaz, too, is positive about Mukhtar’s creativity. “If you have heard my music before, it’s a huge leap. I am not really a rapper and have not played techno, but when I looked at the story, it was comedic and I can relate to that,” says Ejaz, adding that the song is about a girl who falls in love with a zombie. “We already have a lot of hard-hitting films being made but then there is this, which is fun and sort of detached from reality,” she adds. She has collaborated with composer Shaheer Shahid for the song and it took them three months to complete it.
Waking Dead has already been making waves for its peculiar genre. It has been submitted for international film festivals including the Dubai International Film Festival, Gulf Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Festival. But the idea for the movie came rather accidentally and with minimum planning.
Mukhtar was holidaying in Dubai last year when he found out that make-up artist Nouf al Jhadhami was in town. He then wondered whether he could tap into Jhadhami’s talent to make a zombie film. “Normally, in Pakistan we don’t find talented prosthetic make-up artists. So I thought I would work on something and edit it when I go home. Even then, we were doing this for free and there was no budget,” asserts Mukhtar. Like his little-known, independent film Black Coffee, which he had made essentially for himself but later released online, this film was also not intended to be big by any means.
However, as the work progressed the project began to grow. Within three-days, he had hours of footage and found a decent cast which starred UAE-based actors Nitin Mirani, Nadia Williams and Nidhi Jha. Working with limited shooting space, due to legal requirements, he utilised the basement garage of a PR agency and his sister’s apartment in Dubai. “When you are in Dubai, you need permission to shoot anywhere so it limited my options, but we worked through it,” says Mukhtar. He began work on the edit only two months ago. With a score by the talented Abbas Ali Khan, the dialogues are in both English and Urdu.
Meanwhile, Mukhtar has also signed on to direct Anwar Maqsood’s script, Mein Tou Dekhun Ga, which he says is very different from his popular plays on August 14. “The story is about child beggars on the street so it will be completely different. Right now we are in the initial phase so we don’t have an idea of the location, where it will be shot,” says Mukhtar. “There is also another project, which is in the pre-production phase. We are hoping that will be done for 2016, and will have a big budget,” he adds.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Spotlight on Pakistan's 'realistic' cinema: Zinda Bhaag's director

Meena Gaur is eyeing a December release for 'Zinda Bhaag' in India. PHOTO: FILE
KOLKATA: Conceding that it’s difficult for independent filmmakers to make movies, Pakistani filmmaker Meenu Gaur said on Thursday that the spotlight is nevertheless falling again on the nation’s film industry, thanks to a new breed of independent filmmakers who are churning out “realistic” cinema.
Gaur is in Kolkata with her film “Zinda Bhaag“, which will be shown at the ongoing 19th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF). The screening is scheduled for November 16.
“The Pakistani film industry has all but collapsed in the 1990s…frankly there aren’t that many films that are being made,” said Gaur, who co-directed the Naseeruddin Shah starrer with Farjad Nabi.
“Now there’s a new crop of filmmakers who are foreign-educated, who have just returned and making films again, and although they are not mainstream films as such…
“I think there are very interesting projects that you will see from Pakistan in the years to come. The spotlight is returning to Pakistani cinema,” she added.
Zinda Bhaag, which stars Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah among others, is the first movie from Pakistan sent for an Oscar consideration in the last 50 years.
Throwing light on the plight of the country’s film industry or Lollywood as it was once popularly known, Gaur said independent filmmakers face hurdles but are swimming against the tide to churn out meaningful cinema.
“Making films anywhere is a big big hurdle for independent filmmakers and in Pakistan’s industry, which went through a bad phase in the 1990s… its rising again. It’s even more difficult to make a film there…but we overcame many difficulties.
Zinda Bhaag speaks the mind of the modern youth in Pakistan through three 20-something men, who wish to make a living anywhere but in their own country and their city Lahore.
Gaur is eyeing a December release for the film in India.
“It’s been running for seven weeks in Pakistan and I hope it gets a commercial release in India too.”