KARACHI: Just the fact that Pakistani cinema is not burdened with exceedingly high expectations gives the perfect window of opportunity to film-makers to experiment with genres other than rom-com. In most parts of the world — including the US, India and Japan — horror films are quite popular with movie-goers. Recently, a fan breathed her last after watching The Conjuring 2 in India. Pakistan’s first found footage film, Aksbandh, too came out a few weeks ago, but unlike foreign horror movies, it did not achieve much.
“Horror is a good genre to break into the market. A lot of indie film-makers are making horror because it doesn’t require a big budget,” director Emraan Hussain told The Express Tribune. When asked about his inspiration to make a horror film, Hussain quipped, “I loved horror movies as a kid. I grew up watching movies such as The Exorcist, Blair Witch Project and others.”
According to Hussain the film did enough on the box office to recover its costs and that he himself learnt a great deal in the process. “Aksbandh neither made a profit nor a loss and it taught me a lot about each stage of film-making,” added Hussain. Explaining the reason for taking the film to India for its sound production, he said, “I didn’t think we could have the detailed meticulous sound required for the story and the genre, produced in Pakistan.”
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Hussain thinks the film could have fared better if horror was an established genre in the country. “Horror is always considered a niche genre,” remarks Hussain, “I think the film could have fared better if the promotion had been better. The fact is that the exhibitors didn’t expect much from the movie, and that’s because the horror genre does not have an established market here yet.”
But even then, unlike some of the previous successful Pakistani films, Aksbandh had one advantage: the use of Urdu instead of English. Comparing it to The Conjuring 2, which will soon hit screens in Pakistan, Hussain commented, “I still believe The Conjuring 2 will fare slightly better. I think one disadvantage it has is that it is in English, but then it is an already established franchise.”
When asked about the idea of redefining the genre for a Pakistani audience and stepping away from conventional tried and tested formulas, Hussain suggested the use of culturally relevant entities. “To make a truly Pakistani horror film, we must make it culturally and historically relatable to our audience,” he mentioned. “One idea I can think of is using djinns because our audience relates to them, just like in Japan and India, they use spirits and entities that are culturally relevant to their audience.”
Despite Aksbandh not proving to be a huge success, Hussain said he will continue making horror films and pushing the boundaries. “The genre definitely has a future in Pakistan,” concluded Hussain.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2016.
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