The audience at the recently concluded FiLUMS Festival in Lahore was treated to an exclusive screening of the teaser of ‘Laal Kabootar’, real-life siblings Hania Chima and Kamil Chima’s debut production, due for release early next year.
The event was attended by the young producer duo as well as the award-winning music video director turned first-time filmmaker Kamal Khan, together with lead actors Ahmad Ali Akber and Mansha Pasha. While Ali Kazmi, who is also part of the cast, was conspicuous by his absence, the star of the night proved to be what Khan called the “sneak preview.”
The teaser of ‘Laal Kabootar’ that runs barely over a few seconds hits you right in your face as a high-octane crime thriller that scratches the underbelly of Karachi’s gangster mafia. It appears dark and gritty, and also gory at places, quite like the gangster movies of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, and might ruffle a few feathers too.
Akber and Pasha, known for their TV drama, are in perfect form — Akber as “a hustling cab driver who has a trick up his sleeve” but his back is against the wall, and Pasha as the emboldened city girl who has accidentally put her life on the line. The background score, composed by Shahrukh Hyat, son of noted musician and former producer of Coke Studio Rohail Hyat, is evocative and complements the mood of the film.
In an exclusive chat with Gulf News Tabloid! the Chima siblings explained that the idea behind the screening was to “test the audience reaction.”
Both are Harvard alums — Hania has an undergrad degree in Sociology, while Kamil studied Political Theory — but they share a passion for filmmaking. To her credit, Hania even had the chance to work as a production assistant on the Irrfan Khan-led ‘The Lunchbox’ (2013). Earlier, she featured in Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘Bol’ (2011) — as Mahira Khan’s screen sister — and also acted with Ajoka Theatre. But she says she’d “rather be behind the camera, penning the story, instead of being in front of it and only interpreting it.”
Kamil, on the other hand, has dabbled in creative writing, but says developing a script for film is “a different ballgame altogether.” Excerpts from the interview follow:
Q: It’s your as well as [director] Kamal Khan’s first feature. What was the atmosphere like, on the sets — was it, like, ‘growing up together’ and experiencing similar highs and lows?
Kamil Chima: On the very first day, there was definitely a lot of nervousness around the room. It felt like the first day of exams. But that changed the moment the camera started rolling. And ours was a pretty ambitious shoot; we used 20 locations in 36 days, so there was not a single moment’s rest.
Being first-timers meant that there were no set patterns that anyone was bound to, so we were unafraid to do things differently. From writing our script to conceiving the shot-list, we discovered magic that wasn’t written in the rule books.
Q: Hania, you have a credible acting experience. Didn’t you feel tempted to grab a meaty part in your own production?
Hania Chima: Being an actor is exhilarating, and certainly glamorous, but through my experience I always found that it lacked ‘control.’ As a profession it is too focused on the self. It was when I worked on ‘The Lunchbox’ during its pre-production that I realised I would rather be behind the camera, penning the story, instead of being in front of it and only interpreting it.
In ‘Laal Kabootar’, I had a small acting part but that got cut in the editing room. To stand a chance next time, maybe I need to brush up on my acting. (Laughs)
Q: Why, in your opinion, are most new filmmakers, especially in our part of the world, attracted to dark themes, especially the gangster movies of Ruben Fleischer, Guy Ritchie, and Tarantino? Is it fair to say that ‘Laal Kabootar’ is in the same genre?
Kamil: In ‘Laal Kabootar’ we get a ‘street-view’ of city life, so you’re not wrong in clubbing us with these esteemed auteurs. But I think more than dark themes, there is a desire to break from tradition.
A great front-runner for South Asian cinema in this regard is Anurag Kashyap. His films have empowered younger filmmakers to show the beauty of life as it is.
Q: Tell us what does ‘Laal Kabootar’ [Red Pigeon] signify? Also, what should the audience expect from a film with a title as strange as this one?
Hania: Yes, it’s a strange title. I think everyone on our team has a different interpretation of what it means. But to us it’s about taking flight and becoming free. You’ll have to watch the film to give your own take.
The audience should expect a complete cinematic experience, with twists and turns that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The experience has been designed with care, using songs and dialogue, action and drama, to tell the story. We are confident viewers will be gripped by it.