It’s obvious that something incredible is cooking when a seasoned actor like Zeba Bakhtiar collaborates with Jamshed Mahmood Ansari (Jami) – one of the finest music directors in Pakistan. Add young Azan Sami Khan to lead the production front and Pakistan-based Australian Summer Nicks as the director, and it will get people talking.
According to Khan, their project, a film which was initially titled The Extortionist, remains untitled. The story revolves around international espionage, set in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Serbia, Egypt and America. It is partly based on real life events that took place in Sangam (Afghanistan), when Nato tankers were bombed a few years back. The film highlights the role of a Norwegian mining company that is after lithium reserves in Afghanistan; it also touches on the life of Cash Siddiqui (Shaan), a decommissioned CIA agent who is all set to rescue his family.
At the set of this untitled project, The Express Tribune meets Nicks — writer of the international award-winning Seedlings, for an insight into the film. He compares his new directorial venture to Seedlings and says: “This is another baby of mine; it’s almost in the ending phase and is turning out to be something really amazing.”
Nicks says it’s important to consider the type of audience the film will have. “In terms of the story and treatment, the film is a cross between Syriana and the Bourne series,” says Nicks. “You have to make films by keeping foreign audiences and foreign films in mind.”
“The film has to be on the same level as that of the Bourne series or any other mainstream Hollywood film to compete in an international market or else the film won’t work at all,” he adds.
The film stars Shaan as the protagonist and Shamoon Abbasi as Romano Jillani. Aaminah Sheikh has the role of Shaan’s wife and apart from the stunning Iman Ali and the veteran Ayub Khoso, a number of American actors are also part of the cast.
On the sets, the handsome Shaan appears in a pair of cargo pants as a CIA agent. As he aimed a gun into the camera, we caught him with a candid question: how does it feel to play a CIA agent and do action sequences at this point of your career?
“If you’re saying that I am getting old, you’re wrong,” says Shaan, as he glances at Nicks and laughs. “I am certainly not getting old.”
“It’s all a matter of getting the hook of the character,” shares Shaan. “If I am able to do that (in a typical Lollywood film or something like this), the director’s satisfaction is all that matters at the end of the day.”
He was impressed by the way Nicks works and the professionalism that was maintained throughout the shoots. “I have worked with so many people around the word but this guy has a totally different approach to direction altogether,” says Shaan. “There is a fine line between behaving on the set and off the set and he makes sure that the actors are comfortable in both the places.”
The new kid on the block Azan, who hails from a multi-talented family, believes that it is the change in attitude towards the cinema industry that is needed for the rebirth of cinema in Pakistan.
“The main goal was to get specialised people to do their jobs,” says Azan “As my mother says ‘it’s a plague that Pakistanis can do anything’. I completely agree [with her] because everyone in Pakistan wants to become a director; no one wants to do anything else. This needs to change and we have tried to accomplish that on our sets.”
For the yet untitled project, CIA headquarters were replicated and Pakistani roads were converted into European roads. From the teaser and talk, the big budget film seems like a high-octane, action-thriller complemented with intellect. Let’s hope it makes it to the cinemas.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2013.
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