When Pakistani producers Naveed Arshad and his wife, Seemeen Naveed, commissioned filmmaker Nabeel Qureshi to direct a horror short last year, they hadn’t the foggiest idea that it would land in theatres.
When they saw the rushes, they were so impressed by the visual quality that they wanted Qureshi to expand it to feature length.
But Qureshi wasn’t keen on reworking it, which prompted the Naveeds, credited for reviving short film on their YouTube channel, SeePrime, to take the path no Pakistani film producer before has — the anthology film.
They brought on board two other directors, Nadeem Baig and Marina Khan, and the result was a three-film anthology, titled 'Teri Meri Kahaniyaan', billed as a first in Pakistani cinema.
It opened in cinemas across UAE on Eid Al Adha.
By design, an anthology film can tell multiple stories in a variety of styles and formats. But conventionally, the stories in an anthology are offbeat and the format is indie. Besides, the stories may or may not be connected to each other. Also, an ensemble is a rarity.
A different kind of anthology
In that way, 'Teri Meri Kahaniyaan' stretches the genre a bit. It is very mainstream and the casting lineup is stellar. We have Mehwish Hayat, Sheheryar Munawwar, Ramsha Khan, Hira Mani, Zahid Ahmad, Amna Ilyas, and Pakistan’s current heartthrob, Wahaj Ali, headlining different films in the anthology.
Hayat and Ali play the lead in 'Ek Sau Taeeswaan', a 40-minute ode to love and fidelity, penned by Khalil ur Rehman Qamar and directed by Nadeem Baig. Both Qamar and Baig have an impeccable track record as a team: all their movies have proved to be box office gold and their TV dramas have earned high rating points.
Hayat and Ali are paired for the first time on screen, making the film particularly exciting for fans. Hayat has already been getting praise for her kohl-eyed, sari-clad look, complete with a braid and a handbag. Judging from the trailers, she plays Sadaf, a simple (and, perhaps, conservative) housewife whose spouse (Zahid Ahmed) is cheating on her. On a train journey, she meets Wahaj Ali’s character, a young artist; and it’s obvious that the two strangers will have a lot more in common than just the coach and their destination.
Talking to Gulf News Tabloid about her look in the film, Hayat says, “It was a collaborative effort between my director [Nadeem Baig] and me. We wanted a different look. At the same time, it had to capture the essence of Sadaf. We wanted the look to be a reflection of her personality, her background, and her journey in the film.” Hayat credits chief stylist Rao Ali Khan for pulling off the final look.
About working with Wahaj Ali, she says, “I hadn’t worked with him before, but I had witnessed his rise in the industry and heard a lot about his work ethic. So, I was excited to collaborate with him. Wahaj’s commitment to the craft and his dedication to his role are commendable. We clicked the minute we began working together. I hope it has translated well on screen.”
Hayat, who has been mostly cast opposite Humayun Saeed, says that “a new co-star brings fresh energy to the sets. While working with familiar faces is comforting and has its advantages, having someone new in front of you adds a certain level of excitement to the job which can be refreshing for the actors and audience.”
For Ali, whose phenomenally successful TV show, 'Tere Bin', ended recently, sharing screen with Hayat was “an absolute pleasure.” He calls the Ms Marvel star “an acting powerhouse. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to debut with on the big screen.”
Technically, 'Teri Meri Kahaniyaan' is not Ali’s debut film, though it is his first full-fledged movie role. He had earlier appeared in 'Parey Hut Love' (2019) in a cameo.
'Teri Meri Kahaniyaan' has created a lot of buzz. In its extended opening weekend, it grossed PKR 50 million (more than Dh 668,000), which is a decent number, considering Pakistan’s small cinema industry. Ali says, “I am at a loss for words. I am truly humbled by the love I’m getting from common people as well as the fraternity.”
The other two films in the anthology are the Hira-Mani-fronted Jin Mahal, said to be a dark-comedy-meets-horror; and the breezy romcom, Pasoori, which stars Sheheryar Munawwar and Ramsha Khan in the lead.
While Jin Mahal’s major draw is a taut script and direction, Pasoori is clearly meant to satisfy a desi audience’s craving for song-and-dance routine. It’s about a wedding being planned, a perfect setting for a Bollywood-inspired romantic comedy.
According to Ek Sau Taeeswaan director Nadeem Baig, who is also the executive producer on Pasoori, all the films in the anthology have “their own flavour and impact.”
Sheheryar Munawwar seconds him: “Each film contributes to the total experience. If Pasoori is light and funny, that means it will prepare the audience for the next film [in the anthology] which may be a lot serious. And vice versa.”
Munawwar says that when he was offered the film, he wanted to be a part of it “for the very idea behind it. I wanted to see how the audience would respond to it. In my book, these aren’t three separate films; after all, you’ll be buying one ticket to see all three. And that’s the catch because even if the audience is there for a particular actor or film, the rest of the films and actors will benefit from it.”
Pasoori is helmed by noted actor-turned¬-director Marina Khan. Though Khan has acted in several films, this is the first time she’s directed for cinema.
Baig says that Khan was “the perfect choice for the job, especially because she has a great sense of comedy.”
He calls ‘Teri Meri Kahaniyaan’ a little step forward for filmmaking in Pakistan, but won’t reveal the order of the films, except that there’s “only one intermission during a show!”