Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The System’s pre-release hype creates hope and anticipation

The System cast and crew at the launching ceremony of the film’s music. PHOTOS: FILE
Film launches are essentially a media spectacle. The scale of the spectacle generally attributes how the pre-film hype is going to add to the long-term momentum of the film.
The comparatively grand music and trailer launch of the Pakistani film The System did just that; it left the people anticipating whether the film will be worth all its hype.
With a budget of sixty million, The System is slated to release in May and an Indian music producer has been hired to give the music. Interestingly, the film is a sort of a redemption case for Ghafoor Butt; the former president of the Producer’s Association, whose last filmKhamosh Raho was a complete failure. Butt had long been written off before this film; therefore, all eyes will be on him to see how he fares. The film is directed by his son Shahzad Ghafoor and stars his other son Sheraz.
Butt feels guilty that he had to go to India for the processing of the film and also because the music is an off shoot of the Bollywood music style, however, given the technological limitations back home, he had no other option. The film is currently completing its post-production in India.
“Last year, we saw the success of a film Waar this film is made in the same pattern, same technology and will be of the same caliber,” says Butt.
The film is entirely funded by Butt himself and he has intentionally avoided any outside funding.
The trailer shows the new look of actor Sheraz, who has worked relentlessly on improving his screen presence. Sheraz who will be seen in the leading role went through various training regiments to get in shape for the role of a macho man, who fights against social injustices. The film’s theme hovers on the systemic corruption which starts from various levels of society.
The rest of the cast includes Nadeem Baig, Kashaf Ali, Shafqat Cheema, Irfan Koshart, Kashaf Ali, Nayyar Ejaz, Rabia Tabassum, Saleem Shah, Saima Saleem, Mariyam Ali Hussain, and Saira. The screenplay has been written by Wajid Zuberi with additional input by Shahzad Ghafoor and Sheraz. The songwriting has been done by Indian lyricists Irfan Siddiqui and Mohit Pathak.
“We have tried to make a film that people will appreciate, and even after this we will continue to try and make good films,” says Sheraz. On working with his brother, he says that the thing that stood out was his dedication and passion for films. Besides Sheraz, the film includes a new female lead star Kashaf Ali, has an uninhibited flair about herself; Sheraz on the other hand is comparatively reserved.
“We aren’t trying to compete with other films; at this stage we just need more high quality films. It was great working with Shahzad because he has a passion for Pakistani film industry and cinema,” says Sheraz.
Film Cinema Owners Association’s president Zorraiz Lashari says that this film shows a continuity of the small gains that the film industry has received through Pakistani film. He adds that The System has all the characteristics of a potential box-office success.
The support for the film could be summed by the rare appearance of legendary actor Ejaz Durrani. For the last several years, he had curbed his public appearances. His speech was filled with nationalist rhetoric statements and advocated that Pakistani filmmakers can produce films and art comparable to international standards.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Cinema Reviews Operation 021

The Pakistani film industry has experienced major ups and downs since its inception. There have been times when the industry lacked quality film directors, scriptwriters and producers, which led to the creation of extremely ordinary and boring films. But since the last five years, the Pakistani film industry has taken an upward turn. With not only qualified producers and directors entering the film industry, there has been a new breed of screenwriters that have entered the industry and given the film industry a boost that it had never seen before. Especially in the year 2013, the film industry rose to new heights with many well-directed movies which are determined to bring the Pakistani audience back to the magic of cinemas.
After the release of back-to-back great international hits in the last year, the former Pakistani actor and director Zeba Bkhtyar decided to make a movie named operation 021 according to international standards with the help of her son Azan Khan. The Duo has been working on the movie from the past one year and the film is in the final considerations now. The new Pakistani movie that is in the process of being released is none other than operation 021.
The upcoming Pakistani movies named operation 021 has all the things that are needed for a great hit. The team that has worked on the graphics and action sequences has worked a lot in the Hollywood movies. This new Pakistani movie has all the spice that an international standard movie should have.
With the addition to the super hit movie of the previous year, another new movie, Operation 021, is set to release in 2014. It is produced by One Motion Productioncompany run by the famous Pakistani television and film actress, Zeba Bakhtyar.
Zeba Bakhtyar and her son Azan Khan (aged 19) have co-produced this movie, incorporating state of the art technologies in film production to make a high quality film. The cast includes, Shan Shahid, Amina Sheikh, Shamoon Abassi, Iman Ali, Ayub Khoso and Gohar Rasheed.
After the mega hit “Khuda Key Liye” this will be Shan’s and Iman Ali's second movie together. Shan adds magic to the cinema screen and is expected to provide the same in the upcoming movie, Operation 021. In a recent interview, Shan expressed his excitement and optimism for this new movie. He is hopeful that there will be more films like Operation 021 in the coming years.
Operation 021 is a spy thriller movie with motion graphics and best action scenes. The movie is based on the current events and true stories, involving the bombing by NATO tanks Afghanistan, and how it has affected Pakistan at a national and economic level.
The film is directed by Summer Nicks and will be released under the banner of One Motion Productions. The technicians that have contributed in the movie veteran technicians hiredespecially to enhance the production quality of the movie. The latest reviews about Operation 021 specify that it contains all the necessary ingredients of a super hit moviethat can be compared with award-winning international films.
The first trailer of new Pakistani movie, Operation 021, was released in September 2013 and is expected to release in 2014. Zeba Bakhtyar in a recent interview told the press that she has experimented a lot in Operation 021 and has tried to create something unique, by moving away from the standard plots. She hopes the movie will give a voice to the desires of the young generation of Pakistani movie audience.
Bakhtyar further added that the youth of Pakistan will prove to be reliable and useful resources for the Pakistani film industry. She had incorporated her son’s ideas in the production of the movie and hopes that it will take the Pakistani film industry to a new and advanced level of film production.
Operation 021 is the most awaited movie of 2014. Fans in Pakistan and abroad are anxiously waiting for the movie to come out. We are keeping our hopes high for Operation 021 and wish that it will perform well on the box office as well.

Friday, 25 April 2014

From Sunehray Din to a new beginning

Saleem Sheikh talks about the comeback to cinema and his journey of making a mark on the silver screen. PHOTOS: FILE
It’s always fascinating to discuss the conditions of cinema with veterans who made their debuts in the early 90s. Saleem Sheikh, like Shaan, Baber Ali, and then Moammar Rana, came during a window of history that was described as a dark era. 
Many of these actors believed that it was their work that somehow improved the conditions of the industry. Out of this mentality came a last attempt to revive Pakistan’s film industry with movies such as Chief Saheb, Sargam and later, Choorian.
This year has not been particularly fruitful when it comes to film production. However, change is definitely on the horizon with Pakistan’s new breed of filmmakers. Veteran leading man Saleem Sheikh is all about trying to maintain a consistent effort with his upcoming romantic comedy for which shooting will begin in October.
His approach and understanding of the entertainment industry has changed in an attempt to come back with a bang and there are no overambitious expectations, he insists. “I want to focus on making a film with a strong story, embrace the new trends of cinema and tackle issues with commercial appeal,” Sheikh tells The Express Tribune.
With fresh faces like Hamza Ali Abbasi and Goher Rasheed taking over the big screen, there will be a lot of pressure on Sheikh to prove himself again. “The pressure has been on us for quite some time, as there is a lot of new talent that is making inroads into the industry. Another change is that emphasis is now on characters, you don’t have to be a hero, or be visible in every scene, you can do a smaller role with which you can improvise and make a strong impact,” says Sheikh.
Looking back at his earlier days of Lollywood, he remembers how he and his contemporaries were trying to sustain the industry with an array of different films but that experiment ended up with more bad films and less good ones.
“It’s funny when I was starting doing films, as it was just about the beginning of the end for cinema, but we didn’t see it coming,” recalls Sheikh
“I remember we used to follow these weird trends. For instance, Evernew developed a concept where films could be dubbed for two markets, both Urdu and Punjabi. They did this only for the money, and, as a result, the quality of our cinema declined,” adds Sheikh.
Sheikh is one of those film actors who began their careers with the small screen, and that too as a child star in the mid-1970s. But it was under the direction of Shoaib Mansoor thatSunehrey Din became an instant hit and people started recognising Saleem Shiekh.
“It was an interesting period and that play took about 1.5-2 years to make. I kept waiting for it come on air and right after that I had become a star in my own right because people had formally recognised who Saleem Sheikh was,” says Sheikh.
The ongoing debate about the influx of foreign content has infuriated Sheikh but like most of the new contributors to the cinema industry he welcomes healthy competition. He believes that insecurities surrounding Indian cinema or foreign content, had dominated the film ranks for the longest time. Now, Pakistani filmmakers have an opportunity to compete and show their mettle. Not only have foreign films brought in a bigger audience, but that audience is more understanding and aware of cinema.
“In television, we found that even though there is competition, be it Turkish or Indian, Pakistani content  has to survive. The same is true for Pakistan cinema, we can really challenge and change things now,” says Sheikh.
Saleem Sheikh’s previous films
Mohabat ke saudagar (1992)
Duniya Dus Numberi (1993)
Qassam (1993)
Chief Saab (1996)
Yes Boss (1997)
Kaheen Pyar Na Hojaye (1997)
Aik Aur Love Story (1999)
Yeh Dil Apka Howa (2002)
Khulay Aasman Kay Neechay (2008)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Did you know? : Babra Sharif denies remarrying rumours

“There is no truth to any such news report or statement” she said.
Contrary to what has been reported by several blogs, websites and media corporations, Babra Sharif, the glamourous diva of the Pakistani film industry is not marrying again. She spoke to The Express Tribune, confirming that the claim was just a baseless rumour. 
“It’s a silly rumour that is being spread that I am getting married again,” Babra Sharif toldThe Express Tribune.
“There is no truth to any such news report or statement” she said.
As for her previous marriage, Sharif married veteran actor Shahid in 1977, but the couple got divorced a year later due to some personal reasons, which weren’t brought to the media’s attention. Sharif did not remarry after this split. However, when the rumours flew that she is marrying again, it inevitably became the talk of the town.
Sharif began modeling at the age of 12; she made her presence felt in a Jet washing powder commercial in 1973 and came to be known as Jet powder girl. Fair-haired, attractive and intelligent, she soon became a household name. The Nadaan Nadia star is known for her bold choices when it comes to being happy and she has inspired many Pakistani women to follow their heart. She has been a symbol of beauty and intelligence and has swayed generations with her style statements.  She may not be remarrying, but regardless, we wish her health, wealth and happiness. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Did you know? : Film on Olympian Hussain Shah to be released this year

Shah is the only boxer in the history of Pakistan, and the first from South Asia, to put his country on the Olympics medals table after winning a historic bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Logos Films, a local independent film and media production house has kickstarted the making of its debut feature film, which is based on the life of Pakistani boxer Syed Hussain Shah. The sports biopic is the first in a three-part series of films, based on the stories of forgotten Pakistani heroes. According to a press release, it had been in pre-production since August 2013.
Shah is the only boxer in the history of Pakistan, and the first from South Asia, to put his country on the Olympics medals table after winning a historic bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Widely considered to be one of the finest boxers ever to emerge from Asia, Shah also has the distinction of winning the prestigious Asian Boxing Championship and multiple SAF Games Gold medals, while on his unbeaten streak at the top of Asian boxing for a decade.
He started his life as a homeless child on the streets of Lyari, an impoverished neighbourhood in Karachi, and used to make his living as a daily wage labourer while sleeping on a footpath at night. Unfortunately, soon after his retirement, he was forgotten by the public and media alike and his story buried in obscurity.
Lahore-based musician Adnan Sarwar is playing the role of Shah after attending a six-month-long training programme, in which he was guided by the boxer himself. Logos Films acquired the life rights for the sports biopic last year and the film is expected to be released in late 2014. The film production is taking place in Pakistan, United Kingdom and Japan.

From FiLUMS to film-making

Students raised up to three hundred thousand Rupees in order to buy equipment for the film. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY
Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) isn’t exactly known for being breeding ground for aspiring filmmakers. While it has regularly hosted the LUMS International Film Festival (FiLUMS), arguably one of the larger student film festivals in Pakistan, there has always been a perception that its own film-making talent has not been brought to the forefront. In a strictly student run initiative, the LUMS Media Society has come through with its first feature film project, a fifty minute independent film which will be entered in several film festivals in the coming year.
The film La Hasil (the unachievable) is based on the famed O’ Henry short story, The Cop and The Anthem. The project was an interesting venture into amateur film-making, taking students with little to no film-making experience, and training them in order to create an attempted work of art.
The film has been shot at Qutubshahana, a small village near Sahiwal, and includes an all student cast which stars Khurram Bukhari as Jibran, Amtul Baweja as Anila, Nauman Khalid as Imtiaz and Ali Zafar as Wahid. The story has been written and directed by Arham Usmani.
The story is about a village boy named Jibran who makes ends meet by working at a factory. Unfortunately for him, the factory closes down and he is forced to leave his home in search of work, thereby ending up living in a remote village. Still without work, he concludes that maybe his best hope of survival, with three regular meals and a roof over his head, is prison. With this newfound possibility of escaping his current living situation, Jibran, in quite a comedic manner, sets out on a number of comedic escapades in the hopes of landing behind bars.
The premiere of the film, which was held at the LUMS auditorium, saw in attendance several people from the film industry. Bilal Lashari, Syed Noor, Shehzad Rafique, Murtaza Ali, Shahzad Ghafoor, Sheraz Ghafoor and Rambo were all in attendance.
“People really liked the initial screenings of the film; they were surprised by the cinematography and story. It was very difficult to make because none of us had any experience before, but we found a way to get it done,” says director Arham Usmani.
The students had little to no experience in film-making so in one fall they engaged with film-makers such as Zinda Bhaag arts director Ishra Tariq to gain some technical experience. They also held workshops with several people from the National College of Arts in the hopes of shoring up their skills.
Shot during the students’ winter break, they also raised funds to buy equipment and other things in order to increase the film’s quality. Usmani says his original scripts had to be changed completely in order to accommodate the constraints of the film. He also adds says that by the end, the story had changed completely.
“We, as a society, had been thinking about how our campus had hosted FiLUMS, but we had never been able to produce an actual film, something that we could say is a piece of art of sorts, that people could watch and enjoy. It also had to be something we would be able to complete in a year’s time,” says Usmani.
Project Manager Haroon Bajwa, a third year student, said that the project served as a potential launching pad and inspiration for other people on campus to try their hand at film-making. He said that they had raised between two to three hundred thousand rupees to make the film and, subsequently, were able to buy the latest equipment to help with editing. This, in turn, ensured the end result was polished. He added that the collective endeavor had showcased the rising interest in film-making across students, and was an attempt to use creative ways to produce art.
“The amount of hard work and effort that went into this project made a lot of people happy. In the past, there was only one other sort of attempt to do a film project of this magnitude, but it was never completed or showcased. This is our first big project, and we will be looking to get it to national and international festivals,” says Bajwa.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Will Syed Noor reclaim his stature this year?

Noor, who has four movies in the pipeline, says his focus for now is Urdu films. PHOTOS: FILE
For a considerably long time, director Syed Noor struck a blow for Pakistani cinema. With a series of films, such as Choorian (1998), Nikki Jai Haan (1999) andMajajan (2006), he consistently made an effort to fill the void in the industry.
However, with the new wave of film-makers having lent impetus to the movie industry like never before, the pressure is on the veteran director to deliver something equally good, if not better.
After facing delays, the only film of Noor’s that was released in 2012 and did considerably better than others was Sharika. The film is a family drama concerning the socio-cultural issue of watta satta (give-take) marriages.
Sharika is a traditional film, which did normal business. A person should take pride in his work,” says Noor.
He says that he made multiple films at a time when there wasn’t much support for film-makers. Through the platform of Pakistan Film Producers Association, he has been vocal about the question of Indian films taking precedence over Pakistani ones.
In terms of films, this year is going to be an important one for Noor. He has around four films in the pipeline and all eyes are set on him to see if he manages to reclaim his status in the industry.
Otherwise popular among the general public, he says his upcoming film will cater to a different audience. “People my age have stopped going to the cinema. A select, new generation audience has been created; their perception is different. Remember, this is not a big audience. It’s just a few thousand people we are talking about,” says Noor.
His much-delayed film on honour killing, Price of Honour is ready for release in May and then, he will be going to Karachi to shoot action film Bhai Wanted, which is based on target killings and ‘missing’ persons. In the fall, he is scheduled to shoot a love story in Canada titledFirst Love, followed by another film that he will be shooting locally by the end of the year.
His emphasis as a film-maker and scriptwriter has always been on the content of the story and ensuring it had depth in the way it connects with the audience.
“Presently, I am not making any Punjabi films; I will be focusing on Urdu films. I have always felt that films should highlight [pertinent] issues, but if you do just that, they become dry,” he shares.
Price of Honour, he says, is going through the post-production phase in India and its cast comprises first-time actors. He feels that the time is right for a film with such a bold topic to be released. The film was shot in Rahim Yar Khan over a span of two months.
“The film has all new actors. I selected fresh faces because of the type of characters in the film. They had to look real, not scripted. This is difficult because a mature actor doesn’t [require the same effort as] a new one,” he says.
Noor spent several months researching on the topic of honour killing with his friend Abdul Imkan. “I researched where honour killings occur more frequently and why they do. I also looked at the Mukhtaran Mai case. We made a story by looking at these facets of the issue,” he shares. “There were some tensions, but I have always wanted to do work on things that have not been done before.”
The film Bhai Wanted would have been shot a couple of months ago, but was delayed due to the troubling situation in the city.
“[Film-making] is mainly about drawing inspiration. You can be inspired by a character or sometimes, a true story,” says Noor.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Vasay Chaudhry - more than just a 25-minute sitcom writer

After reshaping comedy on television, Chaudhry is now earning his spurs in the world of cinema .
Before his films, particularly, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Vasay Chaudhry was known for being the 25-minute-sitcom guy. He created interesting stories and plot lines ranging from Jutt and Bond, based on a stage play he had created, to Rubberband, a detective-comedy about inspector Khoji, and then a political-satire show Yes Sir, which was an adaptation of the British show, Yes Prime Minister (he deems this as his best effort as writer, in terms of research and comedy).
“I was brought up in the type of family where I was not allowed to watch Hollywood films. It was only Indian films and Pakistan television for me. However, the added advantage that I had was that I got to see Pakistani cinema for free, which I think had a major influence on me,” says Chaudhry.
He had a strong underlying vision that whatever work he did had to be original. It was for this reason that he avoided the Government College theatre scene and focused on creating an independent one.
Similarly, in the case of Jutt and Bond, he humbly approached Dr Younis Butt through his friend Zain Ahmed and asked him to write the serial.Butt refused and told him that if he wants to do something he’ll have to do it himself. That is how he ended up writing it on his own.
“So, then I sat down to make the decision and thought about all the terrible dramas I have seen in my life. I thought about how bad could my writing really be, decided to give it a shot and wrote Jutt and Bond. Over the years, you learn by writing a lot of screenplays. It’s a complete cycle one has to go through as a writer,” says Chaudhry.
While the global economic meltdown had various impacts on television across the globe, it meant a different sort of shift in Pakistan, from Lahore to Karachi. Karachi-based media houses started favouring a different trend, in which the 25-minute sitcoms did not factor. Therefore, for the first time, Chaudhry hit a dry-spell after seven years of prolific work.
“What had happened was that the market had moved to Karachi and people stopped buying content from Lahore. That one year in between was very tough; I was unemployed, Lahore was only making 25-minute-programming primarily and they weren’t buying our content,” recalls the writer.
“It had become our trademark that we did good comedy in Lahore, but people also felt I was just a 25-minute writer and could not handle longer formats,” he added.
His career was at crossroads until his good friends and directors Nadeem Baig and Marina Khan approached him to write for Kis Ki Ayegi Baraat, a Pakistani television drama. The writer of Azar Ki Ayegi Barat, Mohammed Ahmed was tied up with other projects and therefore, Chaudhry was approached to co-write the sequel with Bushra Ansari. By the time he reached Karachi, he discovered that five episodes had already been written.
“This is the first time I am telling this to anyone. They had told me that five episodes had been written but they were incomplete, so I will have to write them. I tried to write for two days and injected whatever life I could in them, but I didn’t think it was good enough. At that point, I went to the co-director (Marina Khan), asked her to give me one chance to write my own version of it and told her that if she doesn’t like it, I will go back to fixing the original script,” said Chaudhry.
Being a writer is inherently difficult, reminds Chaudhry. His own work in building an independent scene, out of which he bred his television projects, has a unique following. But today he is treading new ground as a screenplay writer for films. He is completing the script for one film and will possibly be on board for another film, to follow-up the success of MHSA. He says that his intent is to provide entertainment through his writing.
“I think nothing beats the feeling of 500 people, packed in the cinema house, cheering and clapping. That is what I have grown up watching. Nothing can beat that adrenaline rush and that’s something only cinema can provide,” commented Chaudhry.
“My target has always been to entertain people; I am not into art as far as my work is concerned, at least not now. Even when I was doing theatre, I wasn’t into it. I suppose it’s because I am influenced by entertainment films of the 80s and 90s,” he concluded.