Makers of ‘Zinda Bhaag’ return with dark media satire in ‘Jeewan Hathi’

Makers of ‘Zinda Bhaag’ return with dark media satire in ‘Jeewan Hathi’

Rahul Aijaz October 02, 2016
Co-directors Farjad and Meenu (front row) with producer Mazhar Zaidi sitting at the back. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: The makers of the 2013 film Zinda Bhaag are back, this time to address the elephant in the room, Jeewan Hathi. Whether the hour-long dark comedy about the race for ratings in the media will manage to win the race on the box office is yet to be seen, the director duo behind the film is confident that audiences will have a ball.

“The race for higher ratings is universal for TV channels across the world,” Farjad Nabi co-director of the film told The Express Tribune. “As you know, anchors in Pakistan go to some dangerous lengths to achieve higher ratings. We wanted to do a spoof on this and so, the idea of a black comedy was born.”

The film has been written by Fasih Bari Khan and produced by Mazhar Zaidi and stars powerhouse performers like Samiya Mumtaz, Hina Dilpazeer and Naseeruddin Shah.

For Meenu Gaur, the other half of the duo, Jeewan Hathi is about the manufactured realities of the media and people who make and consume them. “While the film is a satire, I would like to believe it is an empathetic take on those hungry for ratings and also the gullible audience who aspires for the make-believe media world.”

Judging from the title of the film, one can tell the director duo loves word play. Asked about it, Gaur explained the game show in the film is called Jeewan Sathi and asks couples to prove their love for each other. “The use of the word ‘Hathi’ is for the TV set, as the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. So we all know that the box in front of us is distorting our reality but nobody acknowledges it,” she shared.

It’s interesting to note that both Zinda Bhaag and Jeewan Hathi hold a mirror up to society. Nabi and Gaur both agree that parallels can be drawn between their two films. “Both deal with injustices but are framed within a story that makes you laugh and cry at the same time,” said Nabi.

The film-maker went on to praise Bulbulay star Dilpazeer, who he claims, caught the pulse of her character perfectly. “Whereas in Zinda Bhaag, Naseeruddin took the role of Puhlwan to another level, in Jeewan Hathi, Hina has been an inspiration,” he stated. “Her character of an aging hostess required a fine balance between pathos and comedy. We wanted someone who could play it without overdoing or sentimentalising it. The role is perhaps the most memorable characterisation of a media person in Pakistani cinema.”

As far as the visual treatment goes, the directors analogise the media to a circus. “The media world is very close to a circus in terms of creating spectacles on a daily basis. Everything from posters, colours, sets and clothes are meant to enhance that feeling,” explained Nabi.

Gaur added that they are interested in things that have gone out of fashion. “In Zinda Bhaag, we used a very 1980s style, with loud colours, flashbacks, enhanced use of non-diegetic sound. This time, it’s the circus. I think we are drawn to all that which has been discarded.”

Both directors seems to be well in sync with their work ethics. Asked how they complement each other as co-directors, Nabi shared that it all comes organically. “Ideas grow and mature as we bounce it off each other. Also, we have a team that is familiar with our working process and enriches the process with their ideas and contributions too.” Gaur added, “I think that just happens when you work on a project together for a long time.”

Jeewan Hathi has already been screened at the Zeal for Unity festival in Amritsar, India and the London Indian Film Festival earlier this year. It is set to release in Pakistan on November 4.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2016.

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