At a time when almost every actor in Lollywood is trying to get work in Bollywood, an icon of Indian cinema says he couldn’t be happier that he has crossed borders to work in a Lollywood film.
One of the finest actors of Indian cinema Naseeruddin Shah is in the romantic city of Lahore these days to shoot for his Lollywood project Zinda Bhaag. “I came here a month ago for a week to practice my script and get familiar with the culture of Lahore. I came back to shoot for the film and my part wrapped up in five to six days,” Shah says.
Shah, who was honoured with the Padma Bhushan award in 2003 for his acting prowess, says that his film’s script is very unique but relatable. “Zinda Bhaag is a film based on the subject of illegal immigration. This is a big problem in Pakistan and India because overpopulation and lack of opportunities makes people desperate to flee to supposedly greener pastures. There are people in this business who lure unemployed youth with false promises of money and luxury and send them abroad illegally. The subject of the film is very good and it deals with different issues that stem from the crime of illegal immigration,” the actor explains.
Talking about his role in the film, Shah shares, “I’m portraying the role of an agent who is involved in this crime. He has different illegal businesses and one of them is to give hope of a ‘dream life’ to youth and coaxes youngsters into giving him all their money. This is a film which is tailor-made for the Pakistani audience. It deals with the problems present in their society.”
Though Shah has worked in super hit film Khuda Ke Liye by Shoaib Mansoor in 2007, Zinda Bhaag will be his Pakistani-Punjabi film debut. “The film is both in Urdu and Punjabi but my dialogues are mostly in Punjabi. I came to Pakistan a month ago because I wanted to get a feel of the language before I start speaking it,” he elucidates.
Apart from Shah, all the actors working in Zinda Bhaag are new and have come from different areas surrounding Lahore. However, the experienced Indian actor practiced with his cast and crew and tried his level best to develop a rapport with them. He also gave training sessions to budding Pakistani actors and gave them tips on how to improve their acting during his last visit to Lahore.
When asked whether the film would be a commercial masala flick or a serious art film, Shah replies, “I don’t think it’s wise to divide films into these two broad categories. Every film is a commercial film as money is invested in its making. I consider film to be a mass-medium and I think the only two categories films should be divided in are good and bad. There are a lot of commercial films with a lot of dances and songs but are still considered good films, but on the other hand a lot of serious films leave a bad taste in the mouth so one can’t generalise commercial and art like that.”
Keep on believing
The veteran actor says that Pakistani film-makers are on the road to progress and that he is extremely hopeful about the future of Lollywood. “I am hopeful that’s why I am here. In India, many film-makers make films to earn money but every once in a while when I get approached by young film-makers, who dream big, I help them in whatever way I can,” he adds.
The film is directed by Meenu and Farjad and produced by Mazhar Zaidi. The shooting is in its last phase and will be completed within two weeks. The film is expected to release in 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.