Film on Aitezaz Hassan to be out on August 5

Director of ‘Salute’, Shahzad Rafique discusses film’s prospects, gap between Lollywood and new-age film-makers

Rahul Aijaz July 04, 2016
Rafique was indifferent about the box office expectations from Salute. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: As Pakistani film-makers continue to push boundaries and venture into relatively more serious cinema, they are exploring ideas and narratives that the audience can relate to and take away something from. Whereas, on one hand, we’re witnessing the release of dance dramas such as Dance Kahani and action thrillers such as Sawal 700 Crore Dollar Ka, on the other, we have Salute, a film based on a young boy Pakistani hero. Talking to The Express Tribune, director Shahzad Rafique spoke about his vision behind the film, box office expectations and the state of Pakistani cinema.

Salute is based on the story of Aitzaz Hassan, a school boy from Hangu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who, in January 2014, sacrificed his life in an attempt to prevent a suicide bomber from attacking his school. He managed to save the lives of 2,000 children. The film, which is being termed as a tribute to Aitzaz, will release on August 5.

“I think everyone should be as courageous as Aitzaz Hasan. We must be able to help and protect our fellow Pakistanis without hesitation. It is not only the army or politician’s duty to protect us,” Rafique told The Express Tribune.

A common issue with such films is that they end up becoming preachy. They lean more towards delivering the message, and consequently compromise on the art of film. Speaking about this, Rafique said, “There is nothing preachy about the film. We have made it in a natural setting and have showed how the actual events unfolded. There is no exaggeration or over-dramatisation. I just want to tell this story as honestly as I can.”

Saving lives: A teenager’s sacrifice for hundreds of mothers

Rafique shared he met Hasan’s family before filming and has attempted to make the film as authentic as possible. Hasan’s father previously stated, “My son made his mother cry but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children.” He is hailed as a national hero and was posthumously awarded Sitara-e-Shujaat (Star of Bravery) by the government.

Regarding box office expectations from Salute, Rafique seemed indifferent. “I am thinking about that. I am sure people will like the film but I didn’t make the film for money. It’s my passion. I wanted to tell the story and give message of peace and love through Aitzaz’s example. That’s all!”

While Rafique has directed films such as Salakhein, Mohabbatan Sachiyan and Ishq Khuda, Salute seems to be quite different from his previous ventures. “I think it is time we venture into serious cinema. I think we need to make more purposeful films which speak to our audience. We have forgotten that film-makers also have a social role.”

In recent years, local film-makers have moved beyond the Lollywood approach to cinema towards a more modern style of film-making. Sharing that Salakhein was the first film in Pakistan to be edited digitally, Rafique stated, “There is no difference. If you are just calling these regional films Lollywood and thinking they are bad films, then you are wrong. It is just a perception. Everything we produce is Pakistani cinema. And you cannot ignore our contributions to the industry.” He added, “You cannot ignore the veterans who have worked for the industry. People like Javed Shaikh, Syed Noor and I helped pave the way for today’s film-makers.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2016.

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