KARACHI: TV show host-turned-director Murtaza Chaudhry’s cinamatic debut, Quetta — The City of Forgotten Dreams, is set to have its international premiere at the Calgary Film Festival in Canada this year. The event has been held annually since 2000 with over 200 multi-genre films screened from across 40 countries. The director aims to bring the art-house film to Pakistan soon after its international premiere.
“We have been accepted by Calgary Film Festival. After the international premiere, we plan to bring Quetta to Pakistan, hopefully by the end of this year,” Murtaza Chaudhry told The Express Tribune.
Update: However, Laura Carlson, Marketing & Communications Manager of Calgary International Film Festival reached out to The Express Tribune to refute the director’s claims. “We are not programming and have never heard of this film,” she wrote in an email. Chaudhry on the other hand was not available to comment on the matter.
While Quetta is not a mainstream commercial flick, it is an indie art-house film which prioritises storytelling over mass entertainment. Asked whether he feels the movie will mark an impressive run at the box office, Murtaza added “It is hard to say at the moment. We have not produced a commercial film but we hope it entertains our audiences. It has more focus on drama and story. I am hoping that with our audiences connect with it.”
Drawing parallels with Moor, Murtaza hopes his film matches the success of Jami’s directorial. “Moor was one such film where the producers truly stepped up and did something different. We are hoping that Quetta follows that up and succeeds,” he stated. With the entire film shot in natural light and non-actors playing the roles they have actually lived, Quetta seems to have the quintessential indie element to it. The team has been working on the film for two years now and intends to bring it to the audience later this year.
One of the film tracks, Girya, was released in April. The single was sung by former Coke Studio backing vocalist Momin Durrani while another yet-to-be-released track is crooned by a local musician named Atif.
First single from ‘Quetta’ released
The neorealist film, written by Faysal Chaudhry, unravels the story of three children who juggle between career prospects as diverse as coalmining and football. The story is quite personal for the director who truly wanted to depict the lifestyle of citizens residing in one of the most neglected parts of the country. “I just didn’t want to make a commercial film. The film is very personal to me because of my love for indie cinema and Balochisan. I just had to do it the way I did. You will see!”
Pakistani cinema received a push with Khuda Kay Liye in 2007 and since then, only a handful of film-makers have taken steps towards establishing a true Pakistani cinema identity. “What we have been doing is not really Pakistani cinema,” mentioned Murtaza, adding that it will take many years before Pakistani cinema matures and creates its own identity. “We are not there yet but we will be, if we don’t follow the Bollywood formula.”
As Murtaza awaits Quetta’s world premiere in Calgary, he has already started working on his next project. “It’s a full-on family flick. It’s a commercial film. We have already finished the first draft of the screenplay. We will announce it soon,” he noted.
Murtaza has previously entertained TV viewers with hits such as Banana News Network (BNN), The 4 Man Show and Media Azaad Hay. As we await the Filmsaaz and Sana Bucha Productions film’s release, we can’t help but wonder whether Quetta will prove to be Pakistan’s Tokyo Story or The Bicycle Thief and redefine cinema’s essence in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2016.
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