KARACHI : While the recently reborn film industry is growing in Karachi, one wouldn’t have expected other cities to follow up too. But, as reported back in April, we are set to see the first international bilingual film come out of the city of Peshawar. Titled Project Peshawar, the telefilm is directed by the debutant Irshu Bangash and produced by Junaid Kamran.
Bangash, a Peshawar-based film-maker has been directing music videos and documentaries locally for the past 15 years. Talking to The Express Tribune about his first feature length film, he shared Project Peshawar was shot about one and a half years ago in three countries, UK, Holland and Pakistan and that 70% of it is shot in Peshawar.
According to the director, the story revolves around a Pakistani-British who falls in love with a Peshawar-based girl through the internet and travels back to Pakistan for her only to realise that it was merely a trap to capture him. He shared they wanted to do something to support youth and the artists in Peshawar.
“Initially, quite a few ideas were floating and we thought of approaching ISPR too. And then, more ideas came and we thought of a commercial film,” he said. “But I believe Peshawar shouldn’t make mainstream, commercial films with item songs now, because that would mean we’re not different than others.”
Therefore, the team decided to produce a film about social media usage. “So, we decided to do something related to social media and how it’s misused. We see it all around us and even Mashal Khan’s case was elevated due to social media and its power,” said Bangash, adding that the story of Project Peshawar was based on a true incident.
The script of the over 50-minute-long telefilm was written in Urdu, but Bangash mentioned, they made it multilingual, incorporating Pashto and English to “not just target one culture but encapsulate all.” He noted that there are songs in the film but they are situational. Popular local band Khumariyaan, and the duo of Naseer and Shahab each have produced a track for Project Peshawar.
Besides, the film also required extensive research for its content as well as production. The producer knew an Afghan-Dutch actor Shoaib Lodin, who studied in Birmingham, had graduated from Anupam Kher’s acting school and appeared in several Bollywood films. Lodin came on board as the lead actor and co-producer.
The trailer of the telefilm was released online and it garnered huge praise on the production quality and the interesting storyline. “Telefilm was a new beast for me,” admitted Bangash. “I didn’t expect the response we would receive. Frankly, I was afraid of not meeting expectations but we got a brilliant response, and trailer has been critically admired. So, now we are more confident in showcasing the film.”
The team intends to showcase Project Peshawar not in the cinemas, at least for now. “We are negotiating with several parties and also in talks for a TV premiere but firstly, it will be premiered in Peshawar in August because it’s the first multilingual international film to come out of the city. We want to start in areas where there are no cinemas. So, we will start with private venue screenings. We want to hit the target and cover Charsada, Abbottabad etc,” stated producer Kamran, adding that after the August premiere, they will be planning a theatrical and festival release.
Talking about his journey, Bangash talked about how he gained experience by making music videos for local artists for as low as Rs20, 000 and Rs30, 000. “We also had no one to guide in terms of filmmaking as it’s new in our country. We were just doing things and learning along the way. I hope to continue to make better films.”
Other than Shoaib, the cast of Project Peshawar comprises Navishta Sahar, Sally Ingry, Moiez Mohmand, Mihela Bursc, Arbab Izhar Ahmad, James Ryan, Mustafa Khan and Mariyam Dilawar Jan. Its soundtrack includes songs by Sajid and Zeeshan, and Khumariyaan the band, amongst others.
Have something to add in the story? Share it in the comments below.