The late summer of 2008 found Mehreen Jabbar on a seemingly endless world tour, wherein the director promoted her debut feature film, Ramchand Pakistani, from one festival to another. While the film received plaudits from critics worldwide, it ironically was unable to capture the same sentiments back home in Pakistan.
Perhaps this was why Mehreen had to think long and hard regarding her next cinematic venture. She did begin scripting a possible follow-up to Ramchand but eventually shelved the project, thinking that Pakistani cinema, at that point in time, was not stable enough for her to forego a thriving television career.
But now, the 44-year-old film-maker is gearing up for another cinematic venture, Dobara Phir Se. Principal photography for the film is already close to completion and Mehreen is all set to end her near decade-long hiatus from the silver-screen. She spoke with The Express Tribune about what made her return to films. “At that time , there were not many cinemas in the country and most of the releases happening were mainly independent, such as Ramchand and Khuda Ke Liye,” explained Mehreen. Incidentally, the eight years following her debut saw the Pakistani film industry undergo a complete overhaul. According to Mehreen, this time-period may have helped improve her own sense and sensibilities as a film-maker as well. “Even though I have been directing since 2004, I hope that my latest cinematic outing is an improvement upon my previous film,” she added. “But everything aside, I feel that, at this stage of my career, I have become more experimental.”
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In the first half of her career, Mehreen undertook different projects but restricted herself to drama serials mostly. The years following Ramchand, however, have stirred renewed vigour within the film-maker. She is now veering towards multiple genres, as evidenced by her recent projects like the family-drama Coke Kahani and Jackson Heights. Jabbar also divulged a few details regarding Dobara Phir Se, which depicts the story of two soul-mates who meet each other at different junctures in their lives and are unable to start their relationship due to various complications.
Hoping to learn from the lukewarm reception of Ramchand at the local box office, Mehreen has made sure that the upcoming love story has a “more commercial appeal.” The strategy is apparent in its ensemble cast, comprising Adeel Hussain, Sanam Saeed and Hareem Farooq. Mehreen will also be reuniting with frequent collaborators like Shaz Khan and Ali Kazmi.
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Although she is full of praise for her entire team, one person she singled out was the leading man, Adeel Hussain. “I decided to cast him because of the intensity and seriousness he brings to the set,” shared Mehreen. In fact, she will be presenting the actor – who appears to be stuck in an endless loop of angry and conflicted, young male characters – in a whole new avatar. “This is unlike any of the other roles Adeel has played on screen,” she added.
A large part of the filming has been done in outdoor locations around New York and Connecticut. The director laughingly said that this is a “trend” she has been following for a long time. “I do one project in America and one in Pakistan. Before Jackson Heights (USA), I did Coke Kahani in Pakistan and so on,” said Mehreen, adding that residing in New York makes filming in America much easier for her.
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Dobara Phir Se has been produced by ARY Films and is expected to release later this year. The background score for the film has been composed by Haniya Aslam of Zeb and Haniya fame, with multiple singers like Jimmy Khan, Shiraz Uppal and Indian vocalist Rekha Bhardwaj contributing to the soundtrack.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2016.
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