‘Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher’ launched at Neuplex cinemas

Zohaib Kazi launches debut graphic novel accompanied by a music video at neuplex cinemas

Zohaib Kazi poses with Zoe Viccaji, who features as a revel fighter in the music video. PHOTOS: KOHI MARRI


In 2006, Keanu Reeves starred in the partially animated film, A Scanner Darkly. While the movie became notable for its theme of near-future dystopia and an ensemble cast, it was its animation style that particularly riveted the audience’s attention. Shot digitally, the film was then animated frame by frame using the technique of interpolated rotoscoping, which eventually unfolded into a more distinctive animated look. A first glance at Zohaib Kazi’s latest music video is bound to bring back memories or images of the film.

Having dedicated ample time to making the animated feature that accompanies the second single Wake Up/Jaago from his soundtrack, Kazi finally gave its preview to a full house at his album release at Nueplex Cinemas. Made over a span of four years, the single is part of Kazi’s graphic novel-plus-music album, Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher.

Pakistan's first music book-album set to release

Featuring Kazi’s frequent collaborators Omran Shafique and Zoe Viccaji, the music video depicts a dystopian future where a rebel fighter (Viccaji) attempts to sabotage the efforts of an evil organisation. Kazi had earlier explained that each track in the album depicts a chapter from the 100-page Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher. Although his efforts to release such an interactive project may be deemed ambitious, bearing in mind album releases are becoming a thing of the past, the quality of animation seemed to be underdone.

Although there were no striking issues with the animation style, the line art in the drawings made them appear more like storyboard sketches than moving images, capturing the dark and gritty flair of animes and graphic novels, such as Watchmen, From Hell and Sandman.

Omran Shafique playing live at the launch

Addressing the crowd after the screening of the music video, Kazi spoke about the years of hard work that have gone into making Wake Up/Jaago a reality. The musician sang praises of the efforts of director Kamal Khan, post-production in-charge Aamir Riffat, and illustrator Akber Ahmed, adding the video wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Described as a concept album that draws heavily from the science-fiction genre, the plot for the graphic novel revolves around a Large Hadron Collider experiment conducted on Earth and its repercussions for the universe. A scientist from a distant planet, Ismail Alset, hopes to find a solution to this crisis. Sharing his vision behind the project, Kazi said he was always keen on developing a product that would combine the storytelling and music-listening experiences. “We were trying to do things a little differently. We wanted to take the art of music releases and storytelling forward,” he shared.

The confluence of comics and music

Kazi had initially planned on creating an application for the project but he eventually had to rule out the idea. “We might develop an application for the sequel of Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher. May be this is the first [instalment] in a trilogy. Who knows?”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.

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