Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tamanna: A step in the right direction for Pakistani cinema

With all the talk of the revival of Pakistani cinema, or a new age of film emerging, Tamanna, with its postmodern stance towards style, is certainly a step in the right direction. PHOTO: TAMANNA - THE FILM FACEBOOK PAGE
There has to be something about a movie where a Pakistani audience sits silently in cinemas, where mobile texting and chatting during a movie is the norm otherwise, and watch two lead characters dominate the story in a single location for 83 minutes. Billed as Pakistan’s first ‘Film Noir’, Tamanna is definitely in a league of its own in the context of Pakistani cinema. Prominent film critic Taran Adarsh raised an important point upon release of the film Barfi

You don’t formulate movies (like Barfi!) targeting its box-office potential or its commercial prospects. You create such films for its passion of cinema.”
This statement applies to Tamanna as well; which takes several brave strides. It fulfils what it sets out to do and keeps you hooked and guessing all the while.  
Based on a well-known Anthony Shaffer play, Sleuth, the film incorporates elements of dark humour, melodrama, crime, passion and revenge. This is the fourth adaption of the play on screen, the first one starring Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972, followed by a remake starring Michael Caine and Jude Law in 2007 and a made-for-TV West Bengali adaptation.
The film’s hero is Rizwan Ahmed (Omair Rana), a struggling actor who meets Mian Tariq Ali (Salman Shahid), a relic of the once-thriving film industry. The struggling actor, Rizwan, is there to convince Ali to divorce his wife, played by Mehreen Raheal. A contest of male dominance between the two men ensues; starting quite reasonably, playfully even, but eventually turning angry and violent.
Director Steven Moore has made a mature and evenly paced film, detailed with layers. The film keeps you interested, attentive and anxious to learn about what will unfold. While most thrillers only work well if someone gets caught, here, the story sails through even after you have figured it all out. I especially enjoyed the scene with the police character, Faisal Khan; the director made clever use of a load-shedding blackout to conceal the policeman’s identity and build the anticipation. Also, the viewer needs to savour Salman Shahid and Omair Rana’s brilliant performances; one of the strengths of the movie.
Another important aspect of the film is the stunning cinematography, complimented by the film’s original background score and songs by local artists.
The second half of the film relaxes, where it could be tauter. One grouse would be that the sub-plots in the story are likely to test your patience at some points, as the narrative deviates from the pure treatment, with a lot of twists and turns. However, thankfully, ‘Tamanna’ doesn’t come unhinged. The first rate performances, especially of Salman Shahid, under Moore’s direction, help steer it to shore.
What does ‘Tamanna’ mean for new Pakistani cinema?
Content is king in movies, where a new age of realism and portrayal of reality onscreen has become a common film-making practice, as opposed to showing a larger than life drama. The set formula used earlier, of a big star cast, exotic locations and song and dance, is at risk of falling flat without a solid script and concept. The internet generation is becoming more aware of world cinema and content quality.
In terms of cinema, one must distinguish between ‘popular’ and ‘important’. Popular, or mainstream, cinema means remaining within the expectation of the audience and the dominant ideology of society from which it arises. Whereas ‘important’ refers to cinema with ideas that are not yet fully realised or discussed, or are generally under-represented by the mainstream. In the conventional sense, these films were considered ‘Art Cinema’ or ‘Parallel Cinema’. This means that these films are intelligent and they are meant for a niche audience (read: poor box office).
This no longer applies, as we see how Indian commercial cinema (in spite of mainstream Bollywood) has taken a different route of late, entertaining its viewers with the blend of auteur and new age cinematic realism.
This is evident from the selection of Barfi for an Oscar consideration or the official selection of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ at Cannes. With directors, such as Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandrakar, Dibakar Banerjee, Vishal Bhadwaraj, Imtiaz Ali, Nagesh Kuknoor, Santosh Sivan and Srijit Mukherjee amongst others, and their individualistic approaches, it is clear that Indian cinema now takes the art more seriously.
With all the talk of the revival of Pakistani cinema, or a new age of film emerging, are we going straight to this situation of having both the commercial and art cinema, not wasting time catching up like the Indian cinema did over 20 or 30 years? Time will tell. But Tamanna, with its postmodern stance towards style, is certainly a step in the right direction.

Did you know? Mathira refuses to do an item number in Sahir Lodhi’s film

While Mathira’s sister, Rose is all set for a film debut with the upcoming Azaad it seems that her sister become more selective about big screen projects since Mein Hoon Shahid Afridi.
According to Roznama Express, the VJ turned actor refused to do an item number for Sahir Lodhi’s debut feature film Mausam. Mathira has stated that the reason why she has refused to do the item song is because she would not be doing any more item numbers in films. She only wants to star as the female lead.
The shoot for Lodhi’s film had begun a few months back but came to a halt after only a few days of progress, states Roznama Express. After Mathira refused to do the item number in his film, Lodhi has already approached a well known model to fill in for her but the name of the model will be disclosed once the deal has been finalised.
In an earlier interview with The Express Tribune, Lodhi had stated that films were always his first love and Television became his mainstay as a mere coincident.  He emphasised on maintaining very high standards in his upcoming film, which is why he has a mix of experienced and inexperienced people on his production team.
“This isn’t a run-of-the-mill, typical Lollywood or even Bollywood project. Instead, it’s aesthetics can be related to Hollywood films because while it is a romantic film, the emotional concept behind it is very different from usual,” he said.
We wish both Mathira and Lodhi luck in their upcoming ventures and are eager to witness what both of them have to showcase as part of their big screen dreams.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dukhtar’s premiere sees no bounds

Film will have its World Premiere in Canada as an Official Selection of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Award-winning director Afia Nathaniel’s first independent feature, Dukhtar is a film about a mother and her ten-year-old daughter, who flee their home on the eve of the girl’s marriage to a tribal leader.
The much-awaited Pakistani film, which disappointed fans when they heard the announcement of a delay in the film’s release, will now be having its World Premiere in Toronto on September 5, 2014 as an Official Selection of the Toronto International Film Festival in their Discovery section. It will be followed by its theatrical release in leading cinemas and film houses nationwide on September 18, 2014, according to a press release.
The film is featured in the Discovery programme of the festival, which showcases feature films by first and second time directors from around the world. This year approximately 25% of filmmakers in the Discovery programme are women.
“It’s a great honour for a Pakistani film to be selected for Toronto. We hope audiences all over the world get to enjoy this beautiful film with a beautiful heart. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. It will make you sit on the edge of the seat until the very last scene of the film. I am so looking forward to bringing Dukhtar home, right after Toronto,” said Nathaniel, the writer, director and co-producer of the film.
Dukhtar was shot in a month in below freezing conditions on the world’s highest altitude roads. Set against the backdrop of the surreal landscapes and roads of Hunza, Skardu, Gilgit and Kallar Kahar all the way to the urbanscape of Lahore. The film revolves aound the pressing issue of child marriage through the setup of a road-trip thriller that explores the intense drama of a mother’s frantic search for a new life for her daughter with the help of ex-Mujahid truck driver, played by Mohib Mirza.
“TIFF is dedicated to presenting strong contemporary stories from around the world, and Afia Nathaniel’s Dukhtar is precisely that: a beautifully photographed, compelling story that is universally accessible. We are pleased to present the film in our Discovery section, where we aim to draw attention to this year’s most exciting emerging directorial talents, a category into which Afia Nathaniel most certainly fits,” said Jane Schoettle, Programmer for Toronto International Film Festival [TIFF].
The film’s ensemble cast includes Samyia Mumtaz, Mohib Mirza, Saleha Aref, Asif Khan, Ajab Gul, Adnan Shah (Tipu), Abdullah Jan, Samina Ahmed and Omair Rana.
“This is an incredibly proud and humbling moment for us all. This is the first time a Pakistani film made by Pakistanis is going to be showcased in the world’s most popular film festival. The talent of our local cast and crew will now be seen on the big screen by the rest of the world,” said the producer of Dukhtar, Muhammad Khalid Ali.

Friday, 15 August 2014

#Throwback: When Nadeem, Shamim Ara won the Nigar Awards

Here is a rare image of film stars Nadeem and Shamim Ara posing together at the 1972 Nigar Awards.
Both the actors bagged the awards for best male and female actors in lead roles for their filmsChakori and Lakhon Mein Ek, respectively.
Nadeem, who is still a vibrant part of the film fraternity, has recently played prominent roles in movies such as Love Mein Ghum (2011) and Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (2013).
Shamim, however, has been in a state of coma for about four years now and is receiving treatment in a hospital in London since 2010. Her son Salman Iqbal has been looking after her.
We, at The Express Tribune, hope that Nadeem continues to play his part in elevating the budding local movie industry and wish the legendary Shamim a speedy recovery.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Did you know? Dukhtar postponed till September

The much-awaited Pakistani film Dukhtar, which was slated for an Independence Day release, has been postponed till September 18.
The film’s director Afia Nathaniel told The Express Tribune that apart from this, Dukhtar’s team will soon issue an official press release to announce its plans for the film’s international release. “We thank all our fans for their patience and excitement as we unroll our plans for a major release,” she said.
Nathaniel didn’t divulge much when asked to elaborate on the reason for the delay. But sources have told The Express Tribune that the film is being delayed due to Imran Khan’sAzaadi March on August 14, as the Islamabad cinema circuit will remain inaccessible for the audience on the day.
On the other hand, Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Centaurus Cineplex in Islamabad, said that the accessibility of Centaurus in Islamabad on August 14 depends on accessibility to the mall. “The cinema will open if the mall opens and vice versa,” he said.
A few cinemas in Punjab have decided that they will halt business if need be, but the Cinema Owners Association has not given an official statement on this. “We can’t say what is going to happen on August 14, so we are not issuing any official circular for the opening or closing of cinemas on the day,” commented Zuraiz Lashari, who is the chairman of the association. “It will be an individual decision on the exhibitor’s behalf.”
Other than Dukhtar’s initial release date, Expendables 3 is slated for an August 14 release and the film has already been submitted for certification to the Sindh censor board.

Friday, 8 August 2014

This girl just wants to have fun

A shimmering ghagra, a tiny choli. A slender waist gyrating to powerful desi beats. A few raunchy thumkas and jhatkas to the frenzied approval of the  all-male crowd. Sounds like a scene from Munni Badnam or Chikni Chameli, doesn’t it? Only it’s not. This is what a three-second teaser of model /actress Mehwish Hayat’s item number from the upcoming film Na Maloom Afraad looks like.

“It’s going to be the highlight of the film,” an excited Mehwish told Instep over the phone. Shot inside a ‘maut ka kuan’ or well of death, the song has a carnival-like atmosphere and the kind of energy and masala that make for a hit item number. It might not be a Fevicol, but it is a far cry from the absurdly choreographed dance numbers that have characterized Pakistani movies till recently.

The 22-year-old lightly dismissed the idea that some people would find her dance moves and revealing costume ‘vulgar’ – a term often used to describe female actors in this country who dare to break out of the girl-next-door mould. “I think I’ve done enough submissive roles as a television actress. How many times can one play the good wife, sister or daughter-in-law? The song provided me with a great opportunity to have a bit of fun. It was quite liberating to do something that was a departure from the lackluster roles given to women on TV.”

A passionate dancer, Mehwish has proven to be anything but lackluster when it comes to setting the stage on fire. Her live performances at television award shows are crowd-pleasers, the right balance between energetic and sensual. When the producer of Na Maloom Afraad approached her for the role, Mehwish says she accepted it without a second thought. “It might be a tiny role but it’ll have a lasting impact on the final product. It has been very tastefully done and is not demeaning at all. There is not even a hint of cleavage! Plus the song has an amazingly catchy beat and is sure to become a hit at weddings. Won’t it be a pleasure to finally be able to dance to a good Pakistani song at a mehndi rather than just Indian numbers?”

Not that she has anything against our friends across the border. In fact, Mehwish claims to have been offered Huma Qureishi’s role in Dedh Ishqiya initially, an offer she declined because it required her to film some very explicit scenes. “I told the director I would only accept the role if those scenes were written out of the screenplay, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen.” Does she regret her decision, seeing how the role catapulted Huma to the A-list? “Not really. I’m glad my debut film is going to be a Pakistani venture. Plus, I would never have pulled off those racy scenes as well as Huma.”

In case you’re getting the wrong message, let us set the record straight: Mehwish is no prude. She is quite comfortable with her ‘sex symbol’ tag and revels in all the attention it gets her. She lists as a proud accomplishment making it to the ninth place in the “Sexiest Asian Women in the World” ranking by a UK-based Asian magazine in 2008. “Sandwiched between the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra as I was, it was quite an honour,” she says.

Will Mehwish be chalking up Na Maloom Afraad as another milestone in her career? One fervently hopes so, for the Pakistani film industry could do with a sizzling new hottie amongst its ranks. The current crop of filmmakers is producing some remarkable work but in pursuing the lofty goal of ‘reviving Pakistani cinema’, they are forgetting what it means to have some light-hearted fun. The makers of Na Maloom Afraad seem to have the right idea with this item number and if executed right, it will soon have Mehwish dancing her way into the audiences’ hearts. After all, a bit of masala never hurt anyone.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Waar to make world TV premiere on August 14

Presently, Lashari’s upcoming film, the remake of Maula Jatt, is in its pre-production phase. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
KARACHI: The wait is finally over. All those who were unable to watch Pakistani blockbuster Waar on the big screen should brace themselves, as the film is soon to premiere on television.
Filmmaker Bilal Lashari’s action thriller will be aired on ARY Digital at 8pm on August 14, as announced on the local television channel’s Facebook page.
“It’s high time since a lot of people missed the theatrical release, and have been wanting to watch the film,” said the director, Lashari.
“And what better timing than Independence Day?”
The film, that broke new ground by surpassing previous box-office records on its release, earned a whopping Rs230 million at the local box office.
It was slated to release in 35 countries across the globe and has, so far, been released in the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Australia, among others.
Raking in a business of Rs150 million in the overseas market, Waar has generated a total revenue of around Rs400 million.
However, those looking forward to owning a Waar DVD will have to wait a little longer.
“The delay in the DVD release is primarily because foreign distributors aren’t interested in the film if the DVDs are out,” Lashari said. “The film is still in the process of being released around the world, with Australia being the most recent country where it has been released.”
According to sources, the delay is also because Lashari filed a case against the film’s writer and producer, Dr Hasan Waqas Rana, over the film’s profit sharing.
Presently, Lashari’s upcoming film, the remake of Maula Jatt, is in its pre-production phase. And Rana is busy shooting Yalghaar, which stars Humayun Saeed, Sana Bucha and Shaan in lead roles – which is also being termed as a sequel to Waar.
Although we are uncertain if Yalghaar will make the impact Waar had without Lashari, we hope that both Lashari and Rana manage to attract local audiences with their upcoming projects.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Oscars: Calling all Pakistani filmmakers...

– File photo
The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee has invited Pakistani filmmakers to submit their films for Oscar consideration in the 'Foreign Language Film Award’ category, for the 87th Academy Awards. The deadline for submission is August 25, 2014 at 5pm (PST).
In 2013, the Pakistani Academy Selection Committee selected Zinda Bhaag as the first Pakistani film in over fifty years to be submitted for Oscar consideration in the 'Foreign Language Film Award’ category. Apart from ZInda Bhaag, three other films were submitted to the 2013 committee for Oscar consideration including Chambeli, Josh and Lamha(Seedlings).
The 2014 committee is chaired by Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and includes veteran Pakistani film-maker, Mehreen Jabbar, Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid , actor and singer Ali Zafar, Pakistani film director and producer Iram Parveen Bilal, actor-model-singer Meesha Shafi, Samina Peerzada, and actor Nadia Jamil, amongst other prominent figures.
The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee will choose one film as Pakistan’s official submission for the, 'Foreign Language Film Award.’ A foreign language film is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.
The committee will announce its nomination for award consideration on September 15, 2014.
The Academy Awards, now officially known as The Oscars, are a set of awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements. The Oscar statuette is officially named the Academy Award of Merit and is one of nine types of Academy Awards, organised and overseen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

What the members have to say

Speaking about the Oscar committee of Pakistan, the members share their thoughts.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
"The Pakistani film industry is beginning to slowly stand on its own two feet. Filmmakers are experimenting with style and form and we are slowly starting to carve out a place for ourselves in the international sphere. I'm excited to see what our talented filmmakers will bring to the table this year."
Ali Zafar
“It's an honour to be a part of the committee. I am looking forward to some authentic, indigenous and entertaining cinema from Pakistan.”
Iram Parveen Bilal
"Pakistani cinema's true revival depends on making internationally viable films. We must encourage and develop a quality of cinema that stands our ground in the international market, not just Pakistan and Pakistani audiences. My focus in this committee will be voting for a film of such quality that transcends space and time."
Meesha Shafi
“Looking forward to playing my part in the Oscar Selection Committee. What a treat to watch and critique some of the most promising Pakistani films of the year. This is precisely the kind of incentive our filmmakers need to actively produce great cinema and most importantly, dream big!”
Mehreen Jabbar
"I am excited to be part of the committee especially at a time when the trend to make features continues at an accelerated pace in Pakistan. Looking forward to seeing new and exciting work coming out.”
Mohsin Hamid
"It's fantastic to be part of this effort to raise the visibility of Pakistani cinema internationally. Plus, selfishly, it's enormous fun to get to watch all these films. And this year already seems to have many more Pakistani releases than last."
Nadia Jamil
“All the colors, music,textures, the histories, landscapes, romance, the evolving dynamics of tradition and modernity, the songs, the violence, resilience, laughter and tears, the many many layers of the sub-continent and Pakistan’s place in it, no better place to watch and experience these stories than the new exciting, evolving cinema of Pakistan today. I can't wait to watch it all unfold. It's already proving to be an exhilarating and utterly authentic experience.”
Samina Peerzada
“Every film that we create is a testimony that we are alive. I am looking forward to another great year for Pakistani cinema.”