Eid Al Fitr is that time of the year for the cinema industry in Pakistan when the biggest production houses engage in a ferocious fight for maximum mileage at the box office.
It’s one festive occasion that audiences will turn out for: even the least commercially viable films are known to fare better than if they were released on any random Friday. Eid 2018 isn’t going to be any different, despite the fact that this time the Ministry of Information has placed a ban on the exhibition of Bollywood movies for the entire Eid week, so as to allow local releases to have an unchallenged run. As for the films that are due out, it’s an interesting mix.
7 Din Mohabbat In
Genre: Romantic comedy, with elements of fantasy.
The stars: Mahira Khan, Sheheryar Munawwar, Jawed Shaikh, Mira Sethi, Amna Ilyas, Hina Dilpazir, Beo Rana Zafar, Ayesha Omar, and Amir Qureshi.
The pitch: The film is loosely based on an urban legend about a man who died of heartbreak and whose spirit haunted Dwarka Mansion in Karachi. His spell on every eligible bachelor who came to stay at the building meant that none of them would ever be able to marry.
Noted playwright Fasih Bari Khan developed it into a script, together with the director duo Meenu-Farjad, in which Jawed Shsikh’s villainous djinn with a funny streak dares Sheheryar Munawwar’s clumsy and gullible Tipu to win over a lady in seven days flat, or he’ll be condemned to a life of a loser. Desperate to break the jinx, Tipu embarks on the big ‘hunt’ in an almost picaresque plot, meeting several interesting characters on the way — the inconceivably ‘filmi’ Neeli (played by Mahira Khan), the street-wise Ghazala (Amna Ilyas), and the British-born-desi-with-a-layered-Punjabi-accent Princess Sonu (Mira Sethi), and others.
What to expect: 7 Din… is riding high on the star power of Mahira Khan, who appears onscreen for the first time in a full-fledged comic avatar. But there’s a lot more that the film promises: it’s a feel-good ‘romedy,’ peppered with some competent CGI; a brilliant soundtrack — be it Ali Sethi and Aima Baig’s love ballad, Yunhi, Fareed Ayaz’s evocative qawwali, Kahe Ko Biyahi Bides, or Shani Arshad’s danceable track, Ishq Lara. There’s also an array of funny characterisations; veteran musician Arshad Mehmood’s first composition for a film in a long time; and, last but not the least, a special appearance by Rimmel Ali, Pakistan’s only transwoman to dance in a feature film. Those who have seen the trailers are already raving about her scintillating performance, which is choreographed by Wahab Shah. Of course, Khan and Munawwar dominate the show, insofar as the promotional videos are concerned. Add to this Hina Diplazir’s funny gags, and you have a winner already.
Directors’ take: “It’s a complete family entertainer,” says Meenu Gaur, while Farjad Nabi is all praise for his lead stars, chiefly Sheheryar Munawwar who “shall prove to be the first proper romantic hero of Pakistani cinema in a long, long time. He has given an exceptional performance. Also, Mahira’s comic timing surprised both Meenu and me, and we wondered why no one had ever thought of exploiting it before. Rimmel too is a revelation. She has an emotional journey with the hero [in the film].”
The big release: 7 Din… is the only Pakistani film to have a simultaneous world release on Eid, distributed by B4U Motion Pictures. The other three films chose to stay out of competition with Bollywood’s Race 3 in the international arena.
Na Band Na Baraati
Genre: Family drama told in a lighter vein.
The stars: Mikaal Zulfiqar, Shayan Khan, Nayab Khan, Anzhelika Tahir, Ali Kazmi, Qavi Khan, Atiqa Odho, Azra Mohiyuddin, and Mehmood Akhtar.
The pitch: Mikaal and Shayan reboot the old-school Bollywood siblings story, where the elder brother is typically the suave, nice guy who fends for the entire family, while the younger one is impudent and reckless. Conflicts and comic situations arise when the latter finds out that the girl he is dying to hook up with is the object of someone else’s (Ali Kazmi) affection. The film sheds light on the lives of Pakistani families settled in Canada.
What to expect: Na Band… is the first Pakistani film to have been shot entirely in Canada. Besides, it boasts a fresh lead cast — from Canadian model and YouTuber Nayab Khan to Pakistani-Ukrainian actress Anzhelika Tahir and American entrepreneur Shayan Khan. They are pitched against established actors such as Mikaal Zulfiqar, Ali Kazmi, and Atiqa Odho, which should make for an interesting match of histrionics. Veteran TV actor turned first-time film director Mehmood Akhtar also features in an important role. The songs are catching on fast, especially Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Sajan Bin Raina, and Pyar Vyar, which is rendered by Sahir Ali Bagga and Aima Baig. Nimra Rafique’s Wikileaks is another highlight of the film’s soundtrack.
Director’s take: “Working with newcomers was a challenge, but it’s brought a lot of freshness to the film.”
The big release: Na Band… has been dubbed in English for a pending international release.
The stars: Moammar Rana, Sonya Hussyn, Nadeem Baig, and Jawed Shaikh.
The pitch: The film tells the tale of an old man (Nadeem Baig) who has dedicated his life fighting for the Kashmir cause, and how his mission is carried forward by a young freedom fighter (Moammar Rana). The romance angle is provided by a British journalist (Sonya Hussyn).
What to expect: The film has been shot extensively in the beautiful northern areas of Pakistan including Shogran and Mansehra. Director Imran Malik wanted a realistic look for the film; hence he got hold of Australian cinematographer Benjamin Jasper to shoot it. Watch out for Sonya Hussyn; she not only looks beautiful, she also performs well.
Director’s take: “[In Azaadi] I used the Hollywood school of acting. None of the actors is guilty of going over-the-top, despite the [film’s] patriotic subject.”
The big release: The makers have put the international release of Azaadi on hold for now. They say it is due to the sensitive subject matter of the film.
The stars: Danish Taimoor, Aditi Singh, Saeeda Imtiaz, Jawed Shaikh, Shahid, and Ali Saleem.
The pitch: A Pakistani airline pilot (Danish Taimoor) from Greece returns home for holidays, only to fall for a girl who is committed to someone else. But he isn’t willing to let go of her.
What to expect: The first-time pairing of Taimoor and Imtiaz is as fresh as the beautiful locales of Turkey that have never been exposed on celluloid in Pakistan before. A suspense thriller hasn’t been attempted by a Pakistani filmmaker in a long time. So, this one calls for a viewing. Aditi Singh, a model from Mumbai, makes a bold debut in a Pakistani feature. Ali Saleem (famed for his alter ego Begum Nawazish Ali) provides comic relief. The songs, composed by Sahir Ali Bagga, are a listener’s delight. The film has been shot on ARRI Alexa, while the DoP is from Malaysia. Actor-director Jawed Shaikh is expected to live up to his reputation as a trendsetter.
Director’s take: “Two years ago, while shooting for Happy Bhaag Jayegi in India, I was simultaneously looking for a non-Pakistani girl who could play this very important role in my home production. That’s when I came across Aditi [Singh]. She fit the part perfectly. We flew her to Turkey twice, for the shoot.”
The big release: Jawed Shaikh has big plans for his film. But for now, he is releasing Wajood on home turf only.