Lately, there has been a lot of talk in Pakistan on collaborating with its friendly neighbour China on motion pictures, besides streamlining the process of exhibition. Whereas the same was reiterated by a delegation of top movie producers and actors at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Film Festival in Qingdao earlier this year, and more recently when Ali Zafar screened his mega blockbuster Teefa In Trouble at the 5th Silk Road International Film Festival (SRIFF), held in Fuzhou, no concrete word on co-productions came out.
Enter Jamal Shah, the veteran artist with diverse experience as an actor, musician, painter, screenwriter and director.
Sources reveal that Shah, who is also heading the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), has been working on three different films under his home banner, Hunerkada, which are Chinese collaborations. One of these, I Love China, is a Chinese production. Its entire technical and creative unit flew in from China to shoot the film in Islamabad and other locations. The unit recently returned home where they are required to shoot the remaining portions.
No well-known Pakistani faces are said to be part of I Love China, which mainly stars Chinese actors. The low-budget feature is being readied for the Chinese market mainly.
The second project, titled Silk Road, is a collaborative venture with Xi’an University. It’s about a common man who embarks on a heroic journey on the historical trade route that connects the East with the West. A Chinese director and cinematographer recently finished filming in northern Pakistan.
Another joint production, The Cut, tells the story of a desolate film studio which is up for sale, and how a well-oiled, ageing Begum Sahiba attempts to save it. Scripted by Shah, the movie is a light comedy. Shah is currently casting for the film.
It may be mentioned here that despite being great friends with China, Pakistan has never exhibited a feature film there on a commercial level. In early 1960s, Ashfaq Malik’s Baaghi (’56) had a premiere in China, which was attended by Lala Sudhir and Musarrat Nazir also. Later, Babra Sharif and Ghulam Mohyuddin’s Mera Naam Hai Mohabbat (‘75) was gifted by (the late) producer-director Shabab Kairanvi to a Chinese film distributor. It had a limited release, but the film managed to win critical appreciation. There was a gap of many decades before 2017’s Chalay Thay Saath, starring Sino-Canadian actor Kent S. Leung, was released in Hong Kong but not mainland China.
China boasts 50,000-plus screens, the largest count anywhere in the world. It has a strict quota system that allows the release of a very small number of foreign films. Recently, Bollywood biggies such as Dangal, Hindi Medium and Secret Superstar found huge success there. No wonder Pakistan’s burgeoning film industry is also looking to tap China’s huge market.