A whistle in the dark
Ever since the critically-acclaimed crime drama series Narcos made it to the TV screen last year, the dark world of drug trafficking came in the spotlight of popular culture, gaining relevance once again in the entertainment consumption market. While hit PTV dramas like Dhuwan and Inkar delved into the subject with full liberty, 2015 film Swaarangi fell on its face as it attempted to peek through the veil of the drug underworld.
However, director Ammad Azhar has reason to believe his big-budget debut cinematic venture, Whistle, is a unique take on the drug industry. The bilingual film is being filmed at different locations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and the director plans on releasing it in both the neighbouring countries simultaneously. Talking to The Express Tribune, he says, “We need to understand that those who control drug sales target specific markets for specific reasons.” In order to bring a realistic feel to the film, Azhar chose locations that are infamous for being hubs of narcotics.
A collaborative project of Mian Brothers and Meditation Productions, Whistle has been written by Naeem Baig, the author of spy thriller Kogon Plan. Coke Studio debutants Bakhshi Brothers have put together the soundtrack while the film’s cast includes the likes of Farhan Ali Agha, Sohail Sameer, Tatmain Ul Qulb and Amir Kazmi.
The film comprises a title track and also an item song that has a very Middle Eastern feel to it. “We have already launched a promo of the film that is doing well on social media. My actors have done brilliantly, especially Tatmain. Her performance in Kandahar Break was very impressive and I am very happy with her role in Whistle,” he said.
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Azhar says the film closely follows the process through which narcotics are grown, smuggled and distributed across Pakistan. “The film also identifies elements that are involved in the trade and has an active stance against the evil.”
The director believes Whistle does touch upon themes of national unity and why they are essential for uprooting a menace like drug trafficking. “Through unity we can help protect the future of this country,” he adds.
Whistle is an all-out action film that has something for every section of the society. Azhar maintains, “I hope that the film attracts a large number of audiences.”
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The director maintains many educated people have ventured into film-making and things are not the same as they once were. “I studied screenwriting in New Zealand and I am aware of the global film culture,” Azhar says.
He maintains a lack of focus on storylines was one of the key reasons why Lollywood films lost their touch in the past. According to Azhar, this was part of a deliberate attempt to remove the role of screenwriters from the industry. “Our senior directors used to develop their own stories with an utter lack of foresight. It is heartening to see the new wave of film-makers going back to the basics and I really hope that my film too contributes in this regard,” he adds.
Drawing a comparison between Hollywood and world cinema, Azhar says American films concentrate on the story the most and that is what attracts the largest number of people. “Naeem and I have worked hard on the script and I am quite satisfied with its visual translation.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2016.