Saturday, 30 January 2016

A whistle in the dark

Ever since the critically-acclaimed crime drama series Narcosmade it to the TV screen last year, the dark world of drug trafficking came in the spotlight of popular culture, gaining relevance once again in the entertainment consumption market. While hit PTV dramas likeDhuwan and Inkar delved into the subject with full liberty, 2015 filmSwaarangi fell on its face as it attempted to peek through the veil of the drug underworld.
However, director Ammad Azhar has reason to believe his big-budget debut cinematic venture, Whistle, is a unique take on the drug industry. The bilingual film is being filmed at different locations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and the director plans on releasing it in both the neighbouring countries simultaneously. Talking to The Express Tribune, he says, “We need to understand that those who control drug sales target specific markets for specific reasons.” In order to bring a realistic feel to the film, Azhar chose locations that are infamous for being hubs of narcotics.

A collaborative project of Mian Brothers and Meditation Productions,Whistle has been written by Naeem Baig, the author of spy thrillerKogon Plan. Coke Studio debutants Bakhshi Brothers have put together the soundtrack while the film’s cast includes the likes of Farhan Ali Agha, Sohail Sameer, Tatmain Ul Qulb and Amir Kazmi.
The film comprises a title track and also an item song that has a very Middle Eastern feel to it. “We have already launched a promo of the film that is doing well on social media. My actors have done brilliantly, especially Tatmain. Her performance in Kandahar Break was very impressive and I am very happy with her role in Whistle,” he said
Azhar says the film closely follows the process through which narcotics are grown, smuggled and distributed across Pakistan. “The film also identifies elements that are involved in the trade and has an active stance against the evil.”
The director believes Whistle does touch upon themes of national unity and why they are essential for uprooting a menace like drug trafficking. “Through unity we can help protect the future of this country,” he adds.
Whistle is an all-out action film that has something for every section of the society. Azhar maintains, “I hope that the film attracts a large number of audiences.”
The director maintains many educated people have ventured into film-making and things are not the same as they once were. “I studied screenwriting in New Zealand and I am aware of the global film culture,” Azhar says.
He maintains a lack of focus on storylines was one of the key reasons why Lollywood films lost their touch in the past. According to Azhar, this was part of a deliberate attempt to remove the role of screenwriters from the industry. “Our senior directors used to develop their own stories with an utter lack of foresight. It is heartening to see the new wave of film-makers going back to the basics and I really hope that my film too contributes in this regard,” he adds.
Drawing a comparison between Hollywood and world cinema, Azhar says American films concentrate on the story the most and that is what attracts the largest number of people. “Naeem and I have worked hard on the script and I am quite satisfied with its visual translation.”

Friday, 29 January 2016

Another ‘Maya’ set to hit the screens

Just seven months ago, Jawad Bashir tried his hands at film-making for the first time ever. After establishing himself as a comic and a singer, the renowned music video director decided to veer away from mainstream cinema and make a horror film, titled Maya. Unfortunately, the movie proved to be a rather forgettable experience, not just for cinema-goers but for Bashir himself.
Now, fast forward to today, film-maker Komal Pervaiz also plans on venturing into the same field. The British-Pakistani director is currently working on a horror movie, also titled Maya. However, she clarified that apart from the name, the movie bears no resemblance to Bashir’s film. Speaking to The Express Tribune, she explained how her film is more of a throwback to horror classics of yesteryears. “I grew up watching films like Evil Dead, Alien and The Shining. They had a lot of soul in them,” said Pervaiz. “I don’t want the audience to say ‘that’s an amazing effect’. I instead want them flow in a burst of emotions.”
With modern cinema having evolved a great deal, certain aspects of horror films, such as gore and violence, have become staples for success. Pervaiz’s Maya, however, is a departure from the run-of-the-mill model. Deriving from horror classics, Maya does not rely on visual effects to provide the necessary chills and thrills. Instead, it makes full use of a real-life setting and the acting talent of the cast.
Horror, in general, seems to have become a veritable final frontier for Pakistani cinema. On the other hand, it still remains a genre that local directors are yet to fully master.
Aiming to reverse this trend, Pervaiz feels that in order to right this wrong, it is important that Pakistani film-makers tell ‘original’ stories instead of recreating foreign ones. “I think people are always looking elsewhere for inspiration whereas Pakistan itself is rich with stories that only local film-makers can tell,” claimed Pervaiz. “Due to the success of the Hollywood industry and, of course, the impact of Bollywood, our film-makers tend to look out to them rather than looking in. The key is originality.”
Maya follows the story of a young woman who has no recollection of her childhood. Her oldest memory is from her time in an orphanage, where she befriended another girl named Kalika. Attempting to retrace her past, Maya experiences recurring nightmares that affect her health. Desperate to help, Kalika sets off on a journey to locate Maya’s biological sister who is the only one who can shed some light on Maya’s past.
Billed as a horror flick, Pervaiz says the movie touches on a variety of other themes, most notably the fine boundaries that exist between psychological health and supernatural influences. As is the case with most directors, Pervaiz’s passion for film-making and the genre can be traced back to her own childhood abroad and her annual trips to Pakistan, where family members would narrate stories about supernatural events. “When I decided to film my first movie, I knew it had to be made in Pakistan … reprising the multiple stories of djinns that I had heard as a child,” shared Pervaiz. “I wanted to do something likeThe Exorcist but tell the story from a Pakistani perspective because the belief in supernatural beings is still very much alive today.”
Currently making rounds at various film festivals, the director is busy organising screenings of the film. About the response her movie has received so far, Pervaiz said, “Maya gave people something new to look at and showed them a culture they know very little about.” She further added, “Even audiences who were not fans of the genre appreciated the movie for how it deals with themes of society, culture and religion in general. The larger opinion is that it’s a disturbing film but there’s a lot of love for the characters. I enjoyed seeing people cry and get terrified by some of the things that happen in the film.” The director is currently on the lookout for distributors to exhibit the film in Pakistan.