Pakistani cinema is going through a growth spurt. The Eid releases of several new films, Waar, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Ishq Khuda and Josh, are proving infectious and a Norway-based Pakistani distributor has announced that he is gearing up for a big-budget production titled The System.
Shehzad Ghafoor is the son of Ghafoor Butt, a distributor and producer of Pakistani cinema. However, Shehzad does own his own distribution company in Norway. Up until now he has mostly done business in Bollywood and Lollywood fare. The System will be his first film as a director but he does have some experience with smaller projects such as music videos and advertisements.
As its title suggests, The System is an action film that will focus on corruption, a hot favourite with Pakistani audiences. Shehzad’s brother Shiraz, who has helped with the plot, will play the lead and the cast includes big names such as Irfan Khoosat, Shafqat Cheema and Nadeem Baig.
“Our country’s film industry was on its way down,” says Shehzad. But he feels encouraged that it has changed in the last two years. “Last year when I visited, I came across a script which I liked and I thought why wait until times improve. We should start now.”
The System is set in a neighbourhood in Lahore and will telescope out from the everyday lives of a middle-class family to expose local corruption. Shehzad plans to begin shooting in September.
The challenge, now, however, will be to ensure that the production of the film meets a certain standard. Shehzad is in talks with Indian professionals for production support and hopes to shoot with the latest technology cameras. They will be using several names from Bollywood to help with the technical and musical elements.
“We are doing something unique, because we have hired a lot of the technical team from India,” says Shehzad. Four songs on the soundtrack will be produced in India, and will be directed by Shalesh Suwarma, with poetry from Bollywood’s lyricist Irfan Siddiqui. The tracks will include several leading singers such as Javed Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Komal Rizvi, Palak Muchal, Mohit Pathak. Two of the film’s song videos will be shot in Norway.
The System will be a Norwegian film in Urdu, subtitled in English, Tamil and Hindi. While Shehzad believes that the market for Pakistani films in Europe and North America is still limited, he plans to release at an international level.
“The biggest issue for the market of Pakistani films is that there is no distributor for them,” he says. “Indian films have a distribution network, but Pakistanis have not been able to make that yet.” As a result, Pakistani film-makers have to take their film to each international market themselves due to the lack of distribution companies who could do the job for them.
Meanwhile, Shiraz who was also seen in Lollywood’s Khamosh Raho, says that his brother’s idea to undertake a large-scale project in Pakistan had been on their minds for almost a year. He feels that it is important to move beyond Lollywood’s clichéd themes and work towards what he describes as refined work. This does not mean, however, that they should not be accessible to the average movie-goer.
“Our goal is [to do] a project that can improve the value of the industry,” says Shiraz. “We need to move beyond Gujjar-style films otherwise our industry won’t survive.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2013.