Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sequel of Waar, ‘Waar2 ‘releasing in 2014

Cinema can be a good way to promote country’s image as it promotes the overall image of the country.  Lollywood is improving the quality of films that its making–not only in terms of content such as script and plot but also in terms of production, direction and music. And, flicking through the box office collections, it seems the Pakistani audience around the world is lapping it all up.  Pakistanis seem to find new Pakistani movie fascinating.
Salman Iqbal, President ARY Digital Network and Hassan Rana, CEO Mind Works Media, has signed the joint venture MOU for Pakistani movie, Waar2. One more time the Pakistani cinema industry will be hit by another mega hit ‘Waar 2’. Media giant ARY Films has entered into a joint venture agreement with Mind Works Media to produce “hi-octane” Pakistani movies.
Not only 1, but 2 movies will be releasing in year 2014. The joint venture, which was held at ARY’s Medina City Mall offices, launched “Delta Echo Foxtrot”, an actioner of “courage, sacrifice, patriotism and passion” and “Waar 2” thesequel of the immensely efficacious “Waar ”are set to release in 2014,
“Waar 2” will be helmed by “Waar’s” producer and writer Hasan Rana, and is set to be shot in Pakistan, U.K., Russian, Turkey and Yugoslavia. This sequel will incorporate not only national but also international superstars”.
At the occasion of joint venture, Mr. Salman Iqbal, President and Founder (ARY Digital Network), said “After the super success of Waar and the sound relationship that we have developed with Mind Works Media, it is natural for both companies to bring their expertise together for even bigger and better movies. The fans of Pakistani cinema have proved that if we make a good film, they will watch and appreciate it”.
Commenting on the occasion Dr. Hasan Rana said that “We want all projects to be game changers and we want to push ourselves to the very edge of what is possible. We hope that we can come up to the expectations which the people of Pakistan have with us”.
This is the third association ARY Films has cemented in the last year, making it one of the biggest and the most versatilePakistani cinema game changers in the last decade. ARY Films (including “The Platform”) has so far released Josh – Against the Grain, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Lamha, Zinda Bhaag and Waar. Not only that, but the company’s other associations includes a collaboration with Mandviwalla Entertainment focusing on tent-pole commercial feature films, an indie unit “The Platform”, and the recent partnership with Riaz Shahid Films to produce a slate of four motion pictures, including an official sequel to Mahesh Bhatt’s “Arth”

Box Office: Pakistani film ‘Waar’ opens up to a tremendous start in UK

Pakistani action thriller film ‘Waar’ has opened to a whopping response at the UK box office, BizAsia can confirm.

‘Waar’, which is a production of Hassan Waqas Rana, is being distributed by ARY Films. ‘Waar’ opened up at 23 screens across the UK including Cineworld, Odeon and Vue cinemas. The movie will retain all its sites and will add Cineworld Luton, VUE Halifax, VUE Blackburn and Cineworld Crawley to its listings.
The film collected £104,000 in its opening weekend alone, one of the biggest openings ever for a Pakistani movie. When the film opened up in Pakistan in October last year, it became one of the highest grossing films in Pakistan of all time.

‘Waar’ stars Shaan Shahid, Meesha Shafi, Ali Azmat, Shamoon Abbasi, Ayesha Khan and Kamran Lashari.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Sahir Lodhi all set for his big screen debut

While the film is romantic, the emotions are explored in a different light than the usual Bollywood dramas.
You have watched in bewilderment as he melted women’s hearts with his charm and wit on live television, and even on the radio, but it is now time to witness Sahir Lodhi’s flamboyance on the silver screen. The talk show host has recently completed scripting his first feature film, titled Mausam, and will be officially launching it by month’s end.
Lodhi has always had a penchant for acting and was offered a number of opportunities outside of Lahore, but his business commitments restricted him take up any project. “I always wanted to do films. In fact, television was more or less an accident. Nevertheless it was a blessing; it came at a time when I became a trendsetter and everybody then followed. Eventually, I got tired of all of that and wanted to do something bigger,” says Lodhi.
 photo 1_zps11f9813a.jpg
Lodhi has since then taken a break from the small screen and focused completely on his film. “If you do a show for five to six months regularly, who would want to come and watch you in cinemas? So, I wanted to take this break,” says Lodhi, who spends most of his time at the Lahore Hockey Stadium, where he works as the youth ambassador and media organiser for the Punjab Youth Festival.
Lodhi is not only acting in the project, but also producing it, under his and partner Irfan Rafique’s banner called Red Ocean. Rafique, who has worked closely with the delightful host, says that Lodhi has a great sense of creativity and is business-savvy. Hence, film-making seems logical for him to pursue and the originality of this script was apt.
“We thought the story is very powerful and he had been trying to work on the story for two to three years. When we discussed the idea with potential sponsors, even their response was positive because they found the subject to be very interesting and original,” says Rafique. “That’s why, when we formed the company, we decided to put everything else on the backburner and work on the feature film as our first major production.”
With Mausam, Lodhi hopes to add to the diversity of film-making, now prevalent in Pakistani cinema. The film which is about a father-son relationship will be directed by veteran screenwriter and director Pervaiz Kaleem. The project also includes new talents like fresh art directors from the National College of Arts in Lahore and an undisclosed London-trained film-maker who has the experience of working with Indian directors.
Lodhi emphasises he is serious about quality film-making and therefore, he is maintained a balance of experienced and fresh people on his production team. “This isn’t a run-of-the-mill, typical Lollywood or even Bollywood project. Instead its aesthetics can be related to Hollywood films because while it is a romantic film, the emotional concept behind it is very different from usual,” asserts Lodhi.
It is apparent that with this film, Lodhi has been able to follow his life-long dream of entering commercial cinema. “People don’t know this but even when I was doing television, I was trying really hard to do films, but it just never happened. Now I feel it’s the right time, and hopefully it will pay off,” he says.
The team is currently looking for a female lead, which will likely be from India. However, there have been rumours that they have signed British model Puja Panchkoty. The film will go on the floors in the coming few months, while the official press announcement will be made by the end of this month.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Why are we being cut off from independent Pakistani films?

These non-traditional pictures may never be able to compete with commercial movies of Bollywood but can leave their own positive impression on minds of viewers and critics alike.
In the last few months, screenings of movies with a strong Pakistani connection has surged in the United States. It has been culturally very exciting and rewarding to watch these fantastic films and afterwards attend interactive sessions with their directors and crew-members. 
Saving Face, These Birds Walk, Without Shepherd, The Waves, Night Life, Lamha (Seedlings), The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Zinda Bhaag, Torn, Wounds of Waziristan, Good Morning Karachi and Anima State were presented at different film festivals in the United States. A few also went into commercial distribution.
While movies like Waar and Main Hoon Shahid Afridi did create a buzz in the Pakistani cinema market, most of the internationally released movies were overlooked by the mainstream Pakistani media.
What is the reason behind this phenomenon of about a dozen Pakistani independent movies suddenly appearing in the US?
There are, of course, multiple factors causing this recent surge, but my best guess is that it was influenced the most after Saving Face won the Academy Award (Oscar) for best short movie in early 2012.
An independent process was going on in the creative minds of local and international filmmakers who did not follow Lollywood techniques or the local mindset. These artists, with their unique vision and experimental style, are young and most probably grew up watching Pakistani TV dramas in the 80’s, during its zenith. They have been inspired by high standards of the past but are using the big screen to fight against the inertia of the social and political status quo.
These movies cover various genres such as drama, romance, documentary, musical, comedy, tragedy, action and thriller. They also cover a wide variety of emotional topics like poverty, terrorism, corruption, love, peace, wealth, art and cultural heritage.
Cultural critics of these movies often object to the negative portrayal of Pakistan, such as the abuse of women, homeless children and terrorism. This criticism often comes from people who have not seen these movies but have only heard or read about them. Like any other area of art and creativity, movies present the view of the director. One may agree or disagree with the message but this should not mean that the director has to present a flowery picture of the country.
Saadat Hasan Manto once said,
“If you cannot bear to hear my stories then your society is unbearable.”
This quote holds true for the above mentioned productions as well. These documentaries often present a chaotic picture of modern day Pakistan but rather than criticising the artists who highlight our cultural defects, if you follow Manto’s thought, they should work to improve the country’s social and moral standards. While documentaries try to present the truth, fiction knows no limits. Directors create movies out of their imagination.
Most of these productions have limited budgets. In spite of these financial restrains, they are very good movies. Nevertheless, they failed to achieve world-wide distribution or even distribution in Pakistan. Without proper advertisement and financial assistance from big film distributors, distribution of these productions is very difficult.
Unfortunately, the film industry is not supported by the government of Pakistan and it is very hard to find local producers and investors for international markets.
By qualifying for different film festivals and winning critical acclaim, the filmmakers hope to get the attention that would lead to worldwide distribution. They have to go through furious competition to get selected for film festivals, where many of them have won awards in different categories.
Regrettably, most of these movies are usually ignored by film critics and distributors, even if the audience present at the film festival enjoy and praise them.
It is very unfortunate that most of these films will never be screened in Pakistan, not just because of financial reasons but also because of strict censorship and lack of good cinema houses.
Pakistan’s strict and rigid censorship policy is a big stumbling block for freethinking and creativity.
Even though the state’s control over electronic media has loosened up a lot in the last decade, somehow this liberation has not changed the old scripted policies for film industry censorship. Also, some creative film directors have had limited and disappointing screenings in Pakistan because these films touch topics that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for Pakistani audiences, who are accustomed to commercial Bollywood productions.
These movies have received mixed reviews from Americans. Usually, there is an interactive session after the premiere of a movie in a film festival, as these discussions play an important role in bridging the gap between different cultures. They enable the audience to get a greater insight into the film and provide the directors with an opportunity to emphasise their creative points of view and talk about different happenings behind the scenes.
In my experience, all of these discussions left a good impression of Pakistan, showing its diversity and cultural beauty. On a few occasions, there were Caucasians in the audience who had traveled, lived and worked in Pakistan, and they shared their positive views and image of its people.
Overall, I think these art productions are presenting a positive image of Pakistan and making cultural and social connections, which are currently much needed.
The American youth frequently dream about a career in Hollywood and study music, dance and acting from elementary school to university level to fulfill their dreams. A film industry career is not a common life goal for most middle class Pakistani children. There are virtually no schools and institutions in Pakistan to teach acting and movie production techniques.
Most of these independent film directors are self-taught and had started their careers making short music videos or documentaries. They worked hard against all odds to make their way up to the international market. Their original ideas, visions, creativity and determination have brought them to where they are today.
These people have instilled hope and vision for the upcoming generation of the filmmakers and opened new avenues for them to explore.
Most of these production teams are already working on their next film projects and I hope this film flow continues. There are rumours about Waar being released in the US after its international premier in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While these talented artists look for big private sponsors and government subsidies and find new venues for their production, I want to support them by being present at the screening of all their movies in New York.
The spurt has not stopped after a short burst of wonderful production.
There are marvellous movies like Morqaye (Moor), Downward Dog, The Extortionist, Fatima and many others in the pipeline. Even if they do not have big budgets, they have catchy story lines, powerful imaginations and hard work to support them.
These non-traditional pictures may never be able to compete with commercial movies of Bollywood but can leave their own positive impression on minds of viewers and critics alike

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Zinda Bhaag speaks to all

Zinda Bhaag, which remains Pakistan’s most celebrated cinematic export in recent times, is led by a trio of unknown, inexperienced actors. The lead actor Khurram Pataras was a clothes salesman before he was nudged in the direction of the camera. But don’t write him off, just yet. His portrayal of a twenty-something Khaldi, desperate for a visa to the United Kingdom to escape the drudgery in Lahore, is moving.
Barring veteran Naseeruddin Shah, who plays an orange-haired local goon, every young thing in that neighbourhood considers the West as a passport to freedom. And they are willing to go to any lengths to secure that elusive document. These men don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to forging passports or securing a berth on an illegal ship as human cargo to reach their promised land.
But what makes this Punjabi-language drama engaging is that their realities are grim, though it is narrated in a way that doesn’t weigh you down.
The drama begins by introducing us to Taambi (Zohaib Asghar), Chitta (Salman Ahmad Khan) and Khaldi (Pataras) who are just like any other twenty-somethings out there. They love to drink, love girls and attend funerals just to dig into the chicken curry that is served after the wake. Their camaraderie doesn’t look forced, but the mood changes as the movie progress. We are introduced to a typical large Pakistani household, where mothers and grannies are glued to a hilarious television soap about a man with two wives called Auqaat, but dream of their daughters marrying well. Their fears are amplified during commercial
Naturally all their hopes are pinned on their sons to acquire that glossy life.
It’s set in Lahore but their problems seem universal. These characters could easily be in Kerala in South India where the Gulf is considered an economic elixir.
Supermodel Amna Elyas, as the enterprising Rubina, thwarts the perception that models are wooden. She sells organic soap for a living and is a welcome antidote to all those young boys who look to the West as a Utopia. As always, Bollywood actor Shah keeps his end of the bargain. He runs gambling dens for a living and has warped sensibilities of right and wrong. The way he underplays his meanness is a treat to watch. Plus, his acting workshops that he carried out for the young actors before filming has paid off.
While directors Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur should be lauded for Zinda Bhaag, I wish they had not introduced Bollywood-style songs into the narrative. It was meant to be kitsch but somehow it derailed the pace and diluted the intensity of the script.
With English subtitles and some good acting, Zinda Bhaag speaks to all. Don’t miss this one.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Waar set to run on 23 UK screens from January 17

The cinemas in which Waar will be releasing in UK. PHOTO: WAAR OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGEPHOTO: PUBLICITY
Blockbuster movie Waar is set to be  screened in UK from January 17, the film’s official Facebook page announced on Tuesday.
According to a schedule posted on the page, it listed release in 23 cinemas in the UK including in 12 Cineworld cinemas, 10 Odeon Cinemas and one VUE Cinema.
The movie will be exhibited in London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Bolton, Bradford, Sheffield, Leicester, Leeds, Glasgow, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Cardiff, High Wycombe and West Bromwich.
The film, directed by Bilal Lashari, had a record breaking run in Pakistan before an anticipated release in Dubai, on December 12, 2013.
The film had grossed Rs190 million on the domestic circuit since its release on Eidul Azha.
There has also been some speculation about the film’s release in India. Bilal Lashari said, “I have not approached anyone specifically for distribution in India.” Given the theme of the film and the perception that ‘Waar shows India as cause of nation’s problems’, the director says, “I have no idea how people will react, but it would be great if it ends up being screened. A lot of people are saying it’s never going to happen.”
The movie was released on 42 screens across Pakistan and beat the box office record for an opening day take of Rs11.4 million.
It is an action/thriller and drama film, written by Hassan Waqas Rana and stars Pakistan’s actors, Shaan Shahid and Shamoon Abbasi. The storyline has been inspired by the war on terror in Pakistan and its effects on the world, but with a stylised interpretation of it.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Shehzad Rafique to make a film on the journey of a martyr

Rafique says his target is to make an issue-based film, one that revolves around a serious subject matter. PHOTO: FILE
In the light of countless lives that were lost in the war against terror, it seems like an obvious choice for Shehzad Rafique to make a film that pays tribute to the young ones relentlessly fighting on the frontline.
“I had been searching for a script to follow-up Ishq Khuda. I was divided over the idea of making a comedy or an action film, but a politician’s statement made the choice very easy for me,” explained Rafique.
“I just couldn’t understand how he [Munawar Hassan] could make such a careless statement about the armed forces fighting on the frontline,” he added.
The film Salute will not be an ISPR-funded project. In fact, it will be Rafique’s attempt to explore the questions of morality surrounding extremism, and will give thorough insight into the journey of an individual from a man to a martyr. Film is an important medium that can be used to challenge extremist ideologies surrounding war on terror, and, more importantly, religious intolerance.
“This film will not be made on an agenda in terms of funding. It’s sort of a tribute to the journey of a young man and the challenges he faces on his way to becoming an army officer,” said Rafique.
“Till now, every film I have made always tries to address a broader question. I am over 40, I don’t feel the need to make a fun film. My target is to make an issue-based film that is serious.”
Even in an earlier movie, Rafique touched upon a sensitive topic. His previous film Ishq Khuda aimed to challenge the notion of extremist ideologies by addressing the idea of true love and spirituality. It also openly challenged rigidity and the fundamentalism that has flourished on a societal level.
Salute is currently being scripted by writer Tariq Ismail. He is hoping to cast Ahsan Khan in the lead role, with Nadeem Baig and Atiqa Odho as part of the cast, depending on availability. He will shoot major portions of the film at military academies as he feels that it is time to move beyond the methods of formula filmmaking. “The things that have to stand out in every film are emotions and sentiments. This is the only formula that matters. The rest is your story, your characters, and your topics,” said Rafique.
It is worth mentioning that Rafique is planning on giving young directors a platform under his production banner. He said that he plans on grooming his assistant directors for feature films and would be launching them in the near future.
When Assistant Director Hasnat Afridi was asked to give some insight on this upcoming movie Salute, he said, “This is not your typical story on the armed forces. Whatever I have seen of the script is very original, because it gets into the details of how one man becomes an army officer and the hurdles he comes across.”
He said that the film is not necessarily about the armed forces, but focuses primarily on patriotism and an officer’s life. Afridi disclosed that the film would be shot in Swat and Karachi and have some scenes shot in America, as well, since there is a parallel storyline set there.
“We are planning a lot of interesting things for the film. The main point is that the story will focus on the officer himself and there will be an element of patriotism. We are also planning on including a large production team, so that we can introduce more young people to the film industry,” said Afridi.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Did you know? : Zinda Bhaag to be released in Dubai

Zinda Bhaag poster. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Following in the footsteps of Waar, Zinda Bhaag is now making its UAE debut. Pakistan’s official submission for Best Foreign Film for the Academy Awards 2014 will now be reaching a much wider audience. The red carpet premiere of Zinda Bhaag will be held on January 15. Bollywood award-winning actor Naseeruddin Shah, who stars in the film, will also be attending the premiere.
The film’s cast also includes Pakistani actors Khurram Patras, Salman Ahmad Khan and Zohaib Asghar. It is the story of three young men who try to escape the reality of their everyday lives and succeed in ways they least expect.
While the premiere is invite-only, the film will release in the UAE on January 16.
This year looks to be a good one for Pakistani cinema. Not only are there over 50 films in the pipeline, local movies are being shown the world over. With Waar and Zinda Bhaag in the UAE and Chambaili in England, we hope for a year full of international premieres!

Taking comedy to new heights: Hamza Ali Abbasi

Abbasi has assembled a delightful array of actors to star in his upcoming directorial venture. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
Hamza Ali Abbasi is a rare man among today’s breed of actors. Driven by passion, his latest directorial venture, Kambakht, is Abbasi’s own Joseph Gordon-Levitt Don Jon moment. While he has already established a burgeoning career for himself as a leading man, he is looking to make his mark on cinema from the director’s chair.
“I am better known for my acting, so a lot of people told me ‘focus on that’ or ‘wait before you make a film’, but I felt I had to do it. It’s kind of like getting married, you can wait five years or do it now,” Abbasi tells The Express Tribune.
Abbasi has paid no heed to these suggestions and is currently in the process of directing what is being hyped as a vitriol comedy that should be released  by mid-2014.There are many positive things about Abbasi, but one thing is certain, he is always talking about bringing people together and supporting each other for the betterment of the industry. The actor-director has kept his indie-film roots intact with this endeavour by casting and running the production through people he feels comfortable with.
“The passion aspect has overshadowed professionalism. We’re all people who are doing this for the first time, so I think that’s what made the project so interesting,” says Abbasi.
His production team is a cultivation of minds he has brought together or scouted over the years. More importantly, they are people he trusts. For instance, the script is a collaborative effort between Abbasi and two theatre veterans, Atif Siddiqui and Jawad Rana. His production team includes two relatively new figures — Shayan Latif, who was his DOP in Mudhouse and newcomer Sharmeen Khan.
“My first priority was to work with people I already knew and thought I had a comfort level with, so we would stay together at work, so that helped me,” says Abbasi. The hype surrounding the film has been apparent since its inception due to the originality of the piece, and the star ensemble assembled by Abbasi. Ahsan Khan was initially going to star in the lead role, which is now being played by Abbasi himself.
Kambakht has quite the all-star cast, including Abbasi, Shafqat Cheema, Humayun Saeed, Shehryar Munawar, Sohai Ali Aabru, Fizza Zehra and Gohar Rasheed, amongst others. A comedy with an original storyline, Kambakht is about two people, one middle-aged man from the backward areas of the frontier, played by Shafqat Cheema, and a young urban city-slicker played by Abbasi himself, who strike an unlikely and accidental friendship.
“I think it’s going to feel like a combination of both Hera Pheri and The Hangover mixed together. It’s pure comedy and entertainment, in which I think the film’s strength is going to be the story and the characters,” says Abbasi.
Gohar Rasheed, who helped with production and is playing the role of a policeman, is quite excited about Kambakht, due to the hilarity surrounding its characters. He says that the out-of-the-box and non-conventional approach has provided something really different.
“It’s really a roller-coaster ride; it has one turn after another, one twist after another, and one event after another. Personally I am against comparisons, because I feel it’s just that original. This film will leave its own mark,” says Rasheed.
 photo 1_zpsc2eea78b.jpg
Comedy aside, he says there is a broader change coming, in light of the fact that type-casted actors such as Shafqat Cheema, who has only been known for his roles as a villain, will be seen in a completely different light. Another person to look out for will be Humayun Saeed, also known for dark-harrowing characters, playing against his type.
The film is going to be distributed by ARY Films, and will be releasing its teaser trailers in the coming months. We can’t wait to see what Hamza Ali Abbasi has in store for us this year.