The growing Pakistani film industry faced a setback, just like other entertainment industries around the globe, when COVID-19 struck. But two years later, they are back on their feet and leading the revival movement is top actors Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa.
Gulf News spoke to the stars ahead of the release of their movie ‘Quaid-E-Azam Zindabad’ and here are 10 things we gleaned about the film and the status of their film industry:
1. For the first time in their careers, Pakistani A-listers Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa — who have immense box-office clout as actors — will unite for a glossy action drama in the Urdu language as lead actors. Khan had a cameo in Mustafa's 'Actor-in-law' in 2014.
“Fahad is one of the sweetest and the most professional actors that I have worked with. He’s a very giving colleague and is a pleasure to work with. He’s become such a dear co-star to me now,” said Khan at a press conference in Dubai. She clasped his hand and made a victory sign, alluding to their growing bond. The actors were in the UAE last week to showcase their new film before its Eid release in this region.
2. It’s a story of a cheeky cop Gulab, played by the boyish leading man Mustafa. The roguish cop Gulab meets the woman of his dream Jia (played by Khan) and decides to mend his ways. His father’s sudden death and Jia’s winsome presence was that much-needed sobering effect on his meandering life. He decides to take control of his morally ambivalent ways and turn over a good leaf. These two figures act like a catalyst in him having a change of heart in life, adds Mustafa.
“It’s a complete entertainer in every sense. It’s a completely ‘paisa wasool’ film. There’s action, comedy, drama, and a good message at the end of it all,” said Khan.
3. Mustafa claims he did not look to Bollywood actors such as Ranveer Singh of ‘Simmba’ fame or Salman Khan — who played the irreverent corrupt cop in the ‘Dabbangg’ series to perfection — for inspiration.
“My inspiration was more towards [South Indian star] Rajinikanth sir. I saw a cop film of his and loved him entirely. I loved his humour in that film and his nuanced performance. In my eyes, he’s like a God on screen and I am deeply inspired by him,” said Mustafa in an interview with Gulf News.
4. While he looked to Rajinikanth for inspiration and idol worship, Mustafa and its makers claim their film is not similar to the cop films that have already been rolled out in Bollywood. Their new film ‘Quaid-E-Azam Zindabad’ has ‘a different story to tell’, promises Mustafa and its director Nabeel Qureshi.
“The plot of our film is so different … It takes a swipe at corruption and is unique. It’s the story that shines through,” said Mustafa.
5. Both Khan and Mustafa are keenly aware that this film is a significant movie that will help in reviving the nascent Pakistani film industry. According to them, their industry is slowing limping back to normalcy after the global COVID-19 pandemic. Just like Bollywood and Hollywood, their films and their entertainment industry also took a severe beating.
“It’s been a couple of years since any big film has released from Pakistani cinema. But we know that we have our own audience for Pakistani cinema. And those who have missed us will come out and watch this film,” said Mustafa. Apparently, the progress that they had made was undone when COVID-19 struck. But director Qureshi is confident that their film will help bring back the audience footfall back into the cinemas.
“We were on the road to revival a few years back, but unfortunately COVID-19 happened and because of that we are back to square one now. We are hoping that our film will bring people back into the cinemas. It’s a big responsibility. But we had a screening in Lahore and everyone loved this film,” said Qureshi.
6. One of the best parts about his film is its riveting storyline, apart from its stellar cast. Produced and written by Fizaa Ali Meerza, this Qureshi directorial is info-tainment at its best.
“We address issues like why someone becomes a corrupt person in Pakistant. There must be sort of a back story and we have explored it in an entertaining manner,” said Mustafa.
7. Qureshi is convinced that it’s unfair to compare the growing Pakistani film industry to Bollywood since they have decades of experience and resources backing them.
“Bollywood has been making good movies and they have been around for over 100 years … While it’s not the first time that a film is having a cop as its protagonist who’s muscular and macho, we want to introduce our own brand of character to Pakistani cinema,” said Qureshi.
8. Mustafa believes that Pakistani filmmakers and actors are superb hustlers. With limited resources, they can spin gold.
“We are street-smart and we can do stuff on our own. We are brought up in such a way that we know a thing or two about getting things done no matter what. We apply that to our filmmaking too,” said Mustafa.
“Compared to Bollywood or Hollywood, we don’t have the kind of facilities in our hands. So we have to be good at ‘jugaad’ [hustling]. As long as our jugaads don’t show on screen, it’s our jeet [victory],” said Mustafa.
9. ‘Quaid-E-Azam Zindabad’ is Mustafa and Qureshi’s fifth film together.
“I love Fahad’s professionalism and his sense of team work. He’s an actor who puts an equal effort in a movie like I do. For us, films are not about making money. It’s our collective passion and goal,” said Qureshi. He adds that most actors in Pakistani film industry are in for the love of their craft, rather than earning a quick buck. They remember a time when their 2014 film ‘Na Maloom Afraad’ had shown in just 60 screens in Pakistan, but now their new film is showing in over 150 screens today.
“This is the kind of progress that we wish to see,” said Mustafa.
10. Khan and Mustafa want to be the agents of change in Pakistani cinema.
“The effort is always on. We are already doing so well on the global stage. COVID-19 affected us all. Before that, our cinema was booming. But what’s interesting is that we have our actor doing all these wonderful Hollywood projects. Look at ‘Joyland’ winning at Cannes! We are on a roll. The eyeballs have shifted and all eyes are on us now,” said Khan.
Don’t miss it!
‘Quaid-E-Azam Zindabad’ is out in UAE cinemas now.