Abdul Mannan in the titular role of Kaptaan Image Credit: Suplied

While Bollywood seems to have been hit by biopic mania, after Sanju’s phenomenal success, there is one such venture in Pakistan that looks all set to roll.

Titled Kaptaan (vernacular for ‘Captain’), the movie is based on the life of cricketer turned philanthropist turned politician, and chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan.

The movie has been in the making for a long time — it was announced in the year 2012, and its UK-based Pakistani producers Farhat Faheem and Asim Khan filmed a major chunk with director Faisal Aman but the project kept getting delayed. Its release was originally planned for 2013, the year Pakistan went to polls; apparently, to influence voters in favour of Khan’s PTI. And it has been revived recently, this being the election year, again.

There are reports that the makers weren’t happy with Aman’s work, and wanted to re-shoot. Model and actor Abdul Mannan, who plays the titular role, confirms that “new people are coming on board; an entire production team, including a new director, is expected to fly in from UK in August.”

Mannan isn’t worried about the endless delays because “hopefully this shall benefit the film,” he tells Gulf News tabloid!. “It [Kaptaan] had a very amateurish, indie-movie look; but now, as more money is pumped into the project, the scale of the film shall be widened.”

Mannan says he got picked for the role primarily on the basis of his resemblance to Khan despite great competition: there were popular models and actors such as Emaad Irfani and Abdullah Ejaz also in the running. Where Irfani had a growing fan base, Ejaz was loved for his flawless mimicry of Khan on different TV shows. But Mannan walked away with the part. “It took me three auditions, including a complete look test, before I was finalised,” he says, gladly.

According to him, Kaptaan chronicles the journey of Imran Khan from his Oxford days through his 1992 World Cup win, the construction of Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, up to the formation of PTI. Scripted by Naveed Akbar, the film steers clear of the controversies that have surrounded Khan’s personal life — be it his linkup with Sita White, among others; the ownership of Tyrian White, their (alleged) love child; or his many marriages. Only Jemima Goldsmith, portrayed by a British-Pakistani model Saeeda Imtiaz, is featured prominently. Sonya Jehan plays Khan’s sister.

“[Imran] Khan sahib was very close to his mother,” Mannan adds. “When he learnt that his mother had cancer at an advanced stage, he was shattered. Playing him I was able to identify with his character completely, having lost my own father to the fatal disease.

“The film has given me some deep insight into his emotional side, his struggles, and how he captained our national cricket team.”

Mannan generously credits his (former) director Aman for helping him prepare for the role: “He groomed me as an actor, and guided me how to copy Khan’s mannerisms, his brooding looks, his furrowed brow, his immense use of hands when he’s talking, and so on. He told me how not to go over the top.”

For Mannan, who is pushing 30s, it wasn’t easy playing the older Khan. This is where the makeup artist Malik Ikhlaq came in. “We didn’t have a fancy [makeup] team to transform me, like they had for Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju,” he says. “But I must say we’ve achieved some great results despite our limitations. I am now eagerly waiting to complete the shoot.”

Kaptaan has music by Farhan Zameer who has also sung Maa, a sad song. Besides, the film’s soundtrack features Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s qawwali Allah Hu and an inspirational title track.