It might have taken our law-enforcement quite a while before the notorious Chottu gang of Rajanpur was rounded up but it did not take our film-makers long to agree that the episode merits a feature film presentation.
The versatile Irrfan Khan may have played the protagonist in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Indian version of a very similar story, Paan Singh Tomar, which follows the transition of an athlete into a gang leader, Lollywood’s quintessential villain Shafqat Cheema has been roped in to play the character of Ghulam Rasool alias Chottu.
A project of the Cheema family, Jiyo Sar Utha Kay is currently being filmed and if all goes well it will hit theatres by Eidul Fitr. Shafqat’s son Shehryar is playing the hero while his brother Ahmed is bankrolling the project. The Nadeem Cheema directorial will give an insight into the circumstances that led Chottu and co to become outlaws.
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To add authenticity to the film, different locations across Bahawalpur, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Murree and Lahore have been earmarked for shooting. Jiyo Sar Utha Kay will mark Shehryar’s film debut alongside actor Areeba Khan who is playing the female lead similar to the ways of typical Pakistani gangster films, Jiyo Sar Utha Kay also has an item song featuring stage actor Mahnoor that has already been shot at Evernew Studios.
Ahmed is of the view that the family has long been working on the Chottu gang story and it is a mere coincidence that the military operation against the band happened. “We have been on it for four months and have wrapped up almost 70% of the work,” he said. Recent events, he added, only helped them revise the storyline and give it a logical conclusion.
The producer said Jiyo Sar Utha Kay pays tribute to police and security officials who put their lives on the line to bring criminals such as Chottu to justice. “The film is wholly based on real events and aims to highlight social evils,” he said, adding, “We also talk about other such gangs that are actually supported by certain sections of the government.”
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He is hopeful that the film will contribute to the revival of cinema and inspire other film-makers to also focus on local stories. “The Punjabi film industry is still in crisis. A major chunk of our dialogues is in Punjabi because we want those audiences to also relate to the film,” he maintained. He said they are leaving no stone unturned to ensure Jiyo Sar Utha Kay turns into a state-of-the-art production. “We will send it to the US for post-production.”
It is pertinent to mention that this isn’t the first time a movie based on the life of criminals and gangsters is being made in Pakistan; the tales of Humayon Gujjar, Bhola Sunyara, Babu Khan, Kalu Shah Puriya and Atif Chaudhry have already been narrated through successful Lollywood productions.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2016.
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