KARACHI: Model, musician, painter and now actor: the trailer for Ali Zafar’s first film, the Indian production Tere Bin Laden is set to release in a few months and given the response to the film’s trailer, Zafar may just have found a brilliant alternative career.
Years after al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden (OBL) disappeared from public view, he is still furiously debated over. Is he alive? Is he dead? Is he in Pakistan? Every few months or so, he manages to reignite the debate by releasing an audiotape or a video. The videos, which are authenticated by intelligence agencies, have become the world’s only link with the fugitive who has a $25 million bounty on his head.
But for journalists, OBL has been a ‘star maker’. The few journalists who have interviewed him have become stars in their own right, such as The Independent’s Robert Fisk, New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen, Geo TV’s Hamid Mir or The News’ Rahimullah Yusufzai. But apart from these select few, journalists worldwide have scrambled to find the elusive leader.
This basic desire to become a star forms the story of Tere Bin Laden. Ali Zafar plays a reporter called Ali Hassan, who is rejected for a US visa and produces a fake video of Osama Bin Laden. The trailer for the film depicts a worldwide panic at the video OBL has apparently released, peppered with anguished soundbytes from Indian news anchors and US military officials. It cuts to a studio where a frustrated Zafar tries to get a bumbling actor to deliver fiery rhetoric in Arabic, who curses and stammers his way through his speech.
“Mood mai aa!” Zafar yells at the fake Osama. “Character mai aake properly kar!” A shorter teaser, released on May 4 on Facebook, has the fake OBL asking people to help ‘uncover his real face’. The film marks a new career move for Ali Zafar, who made his debut in 2003 with the smash hit single, “Channo”. The singer has come a long way since his disco days. His music has become more socially conscious, with videos that have highlighted politics, gang violence and the state of Pakistani society.
Zafar, who is still instantly identified with “Channo” and his song-anddance campaigns for Telenor, went into a more mystical direction in 2009 at Coke Studio. His song selections, culled from Sufi poetry, were a huge hit in Pakistan. Zafar has been promoting his film for the past few months. When the trailer was posted online, he wrote on Twitter: “Really excited about the movie and ecstatic to read great feedback on the trailer. Hoping I won’t disappoint you all and the movie will rock.”
While the trailer is rather funny, it is an issue that has received a celluloid treatment before. The ‘fake’ video concept was shown in the erudite comedy Wag the Dog, starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Anne Heche. The 1997 film portrayed a political spin doctor constructing a fake war in Albania, replete with fake videos, to distract the American public from a scandal involving the president.
Video rentals of the film went through the roof when US President Bill Clinton authorised bombing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as the Monica Lewinsky scandal raged in 1998. Tere Bin Laden releases on July 16, 2010.