Many believe that Pakistan’s film industry is breathing its last breath. While there have been a few movies, such as Bol, that have kept us holding on, the bad news is that they are not enough to revive Pakistani cinema. Now here’s the good news: a group of young people have got together to create a movie from scratch; and it isn’t your average boy-meets-girl love story; nor does it have anything to do with terrorism or religious extremism. It’s a horror film, which (ironically) may be a light that brightens the imminent doom and gloom of the film industry.
Siyaah revolves around the use of black magic that is prevalent in our society, and the intricate web of conspiracies that stem from this practice. Produced by Imran Raza Kazmi, the film is scheduled to release this October and has many waiting in anticipation.
The Islamabad-based cast consists of Hareem Farooq, Qazi Jabbar, Mahnoor Usman, Ahmed Ali Akbar, Aslam Rana, Sofia Wanchoo Mir, Rizwana, Sarwar Salimi, and Amy Saleh — aspiring young actors that are aiming to make a mark with the release of this film.
Siyaah has been directed by Asfar Jafri and written by Islamabad’s local celebrity, comedian Osman Khalid Butt. “When I sat down to write the script, my aim was to stay away from the usual Hollywood clichés of horror films and to breathe life into the characters that would in turn make them more relatable,” says Butt. “The process was very organic and Kazmi gave me ample space to create the script instead of bogging me down with a deadline,” he said, adding that the script was written in six months.
Kazmi points out that it was hard work that made this project a reality. “It took me three years to make this film,” he said. “I was let down and disappointed, and even cheated by many in the process, but when the team started coming together, things started falling into place,” said Kazmi, calling Siyaah “the whole team’s baby”.
Depicting black magic in a realistic, believable manner was perhaps the most difficult aspect for Kazmi.
He dedicated a whole year solely to researching the topic as he met with various pirs and faqirs and witnessed some very “believable” exorcism cases. “I met a family that lived in Jugiya; they were extremely poor and illiterate and their 5-year-old son was said to be possessed by jinns,” related Kazmi.
“I witnessed the 5-year-old speak fluent English when he was possessed — it was extremely believable. I myself, a cynic for years, slowly became a believer with the course of my research,” he added.
Siyaah is director Jafri’s first feature film. Having previously created a number of short films and videos, Jafri feels he made the right choice by taking on the project. “I’ll admit, when I first read the script I liked it, but as we started working on it and began adding to it, I fell completely in love with the movie,” he said.
He said that every aspect of the movie was discussed, questioned and argued over, especially the music. “A horror film works well if the music background and sound effects work with it,” he added.
Jafri also commends the efforts of the film’s music director, Ahmed Ali who is new to the industry. According to Jafri, “Everyone did justice to their job — right down to our 11-year-old actor, Mahnoor Usman, who was a complete professional,” said the satisfied director.
Amongst the slew of talented people attached to the film, the producer and director are all praises for the two lead actors. Hareem Farooq ,who can be seen in the new Mobilink ads being aired on TV, and Qazi Jabbar, who has done a few stints in the local drama scene. “This has been an experience of a lifetime. Even though Hareem is a seasoned theatre actor, we would continuously critique each other’s acting. Everyone on the set gelled so well with each other that, given the opportunity, I’d work with them again any day,” said Jabbar, who plays a 30-something working man struggling to keep his marriage together while he tries to find answers to the unexplainable situations that arise in the movie.
While the project’s success is yet to be determined, it is clear that a team with big dreams has put effort and enthusiasm into it. Here’s to hoping that Siyaah manages to garner the much needed attention towards our local film industry.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.