Bilal Lashari’s major directorial effort Waar has been much-awaited since its trailer release on the New Year weekend. Starring big names like Shaan Shahid, Aisha Khan, Shamoon Abbasi, Meesha Shafi, Ali Azmat and Hamza Abbasi, the project seems fated for blockbuster success.
The charismatic director speaks to The Express Tribune about his latest venture, working with writer and producer Hassan Waqas Rana and the film’s impact on the Pakistani film industry.
How was your overall experience of making Waar? When is the film expected to be released?
Making a quality feature film is a huge undertaking — a good producer is essential for such a project. I was lucky to find a producer who shared my goals. While he brought the script and resources for the venture, I added my creativity and a vision for execution.
We were able to put a passionate crew and stellar cast together. Although we have just released a trailer recently, the reaction and feedback we received have been overwhelming. A release date will be announced as soon as post-production process is complete and a distribution deal is finalised.
Please share how the story relates to Pakistan and what it is based on?
Waar uses some actual events and characters as an occasional backdrop but is stylised. Counterterrorism is a good sub-genre for an action/thriller as well as critical and relevant to Pakistan’s current situation.
Some reports say the funding for the film has come from Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR)?
The ISPR has no involvement in Waar. Hassan Waqas Rana, the writer and executive producer has funded this film. MindWorks Media did a project in the middle of Waar for the ISPR called the Glorious Resolve. There has been some confusion as some people thought the shoot for Glorious Resolve was actually for Waar.
Can you comment on the technology used in Waar?
Modern digital technology has been used in the production and post-production process. The cinematography is one of the main reasons it looks different from previous Pakistani films.
The cast includes some new faces to the film genre like Meesha Shafi and Ali Azmat as well as some veteran film actors like Shaan. Was it difficult working with such a diverse group of performers?
We wanted the best and we got the best. Shaan is absolutely brilliant and his fans are going to love him in Waar. Casting celebrities, who are primarily known for their work in other mediums, brought production value to the film. Ali Azmat is an icon and a true entertainer while Meesha Shafi is a multitalented, gifted artist. Both were perfect choices.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt through the production process?
The most challenging part of the process has been facing delays. The process of film-making is dependent on numerous variables. Even if a single component is missing, the production comes to a halt. This happens mostly in Pakistan as there is limited infrastructure to support film-making. I’m glad I have a very resourceful producer; otherwise it would have taken forever to complete the project.
In the past, you have commented on Pakistani film-makers and how they need to get away from typical Bollywood concepts. Do you see Waar raising the bar and setting a new standard?
Bollywood is brilliant at what it does and its formula seems to work for its intended audience. However, the problem occurs when Pakistani film-makers follow their style. We don’t realise that Bollywood’s biggest strength lies in their production value. When we try to emulate their aesthetics without the same production value to back it up, we come up with a below-average film in comparison. This is why, with Waar, I wanted to make a film which was not influenced by Bollywood at all.
We need to explore and capitalise on our own strength and find our own identity in cinema. In my opinion, due to Pakistan’s important position in the global arena, people from all over the world are more receptive to stories from Pakistan than ever before.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2012.