The life of a waning superstar holds tremendous allure and Pakistani director Saqib Malik will tap into the steamy side of entertainment business and its glamorous players with his directorial debut ‘Baaji’.
Starring Meera as the volatile diva, ‘Baaji’ explores the struggles of an ageing matinee idol desperate to remain relevant. Her insecurities and her fight against an age-obsessed industry is the crux of this wart-and-mole melodrama.
As the tell-all ‘Baaji’ gears up for its UAE release on June 27, Gulf News tabloid! caught up with the stars including Meera, Amna Ilyas and Osman Khalid Butt in Dubai last week and gleaned several fun facts.
Here are ten things to know about ‘Baaji’:
1. Actress Meera, who has acted in over 100 films, makes her comeback with Baaji as the fading movie icon Shameera:
“This role is very close to my heart... When you are a working woman in this field, there’s a high price we pay. The price is more if you are a strong woman. This movie explores that... We have all worked very hard for this film and my only request is that before you judge the film, go watch it.”
2. Meera was inspired by the likes of Aamir Khan and Julia Roberts while sinking her teeth into Shameera’s idiosyncrasies:
“I have always wondered about the level of perfection in actors like Aamir Khan. I was keen to see what was beneath that perfectionist tag... I wanted to understand his depth just like a student who was looking to improve her craft,” said Meera, adding that actors like Julia Roberts try more than 100 shots for a scene. “Earlier, I used to take pride in being called a ‘one-take-artist’, but after meeting Julia who told me she takes 114 to 120 takes, I began relating to her.”
3. Director Saqib Malik is out to prove that the women in Pakistani cinema are top box office draw:
“I felt there’s a huge audience out there — both men and women — who want to see stories about women. Back in the fifties, females were bigger stars than the women. But it wasn’t my conscious decision to make a movie about women per se. I had a great story to tell and I made it with all my heart,” said director Malik.
4. The talents of ‘Baaji’ believe their film will go a long way in reviving Pakistani cinema:
“There was a time when our cinema was reflecting only sex and violence. It became male-centric, and we started objectifying women, but now there is a passion for reviving cinema,” said Bhatt, adding that films like ‘Cake’ and ‘Manto’ are helping their cause. It won’t glorify the sexist and ageist tropes that exists in films either, he added.
Director Malik — who was a prolific ad maker — believes that the foundation for Pakistani cinea revival is already in place, and films like Baaji are the bricks that will strengthen that foundation.
5. Model and actress Amna Ilyas’ ambitious character will inspire young women:
“Her character represents the struggle of so many working women in our society, especially in Pakistan. My character Neha is a small town girl who dares to dream big. She works in a salon and her life. She’s a true survivor … In our society, there are certain restrictions and women are looked down up for being ambitious. We want to show that being ambitious is not a bad thing.”
6. Actor Osman Khalid Butt had no qualms about not playing the central role:
“It’s a matter of great pride for me to be associated with cinema that lifts our female stars. I am a huge of Meera. And in my eyes, there is no concept of an actor being a lead actor or a supporting actor. All I care for is impact whether it’s a two minute or a twenty minute role. Your character is important and that propels the narrative forward. My character in Baaji is interesting and he’s the reason why Shameera’s insecurities come to the fore. I had a lot of fun playing this character.”
7. Director Malik’s brief was simple: ‘bare you soul for Baaji’:
“You have to be fearless when you play a role like the one Meera did. You just can’t hold back. Once Meera came onto the sets, I didn’t have to tell her where to stop. She often warned me that I was holding back. Meera revelled in her role,” he said.
8. ‘Baaji’ is not an imitation of Bollywood films ‘Heroine’ or ‘The Dirty Picture’, claims Malik:
“Our film is based on the cultural moment that we are facing in Pakistani cinema right now. The old order in cinema is dying and the new order is being brought in. In this moment of transition stands our character of Shameera, played by Meera. In ‘Baaji’, she’s at the precipice of losing it all. When you are an artist and your work is everything that feeds your soul, you get slightly unhinged when you stand to lose it.” said Malik.
9. Actor Osman Khalid Butt claims the actors lived like a big, bickering family during Baaji’s filming:
“It may sound like a cliche. But we were truly like a big family. We loved each other, but we hated each other at time. We fought, we bickered and we had huge respect for each other.”
10. Method acting, a process where the actors don’t step out of their character in the films for days, was a popular tool for Bhaaji talents:
“We all stayed in the zone. There was a lot of method acting involved. While the process of playing a troubling character is enriching, it can be incredibly frustrating being in a demented frame of mind all the time... We did acting workshops too,” said Butt.
Don’t miss it!
‘Baaji’ is out in the UAE cinemas now.