If we consider themes of the mainstream feature films of 2013 — cricketing story Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, counter-terrorism inspired Waar and political Chambaili — it becomes clear that film-makers are adamant on telling some version of a feel-good ‘patriotic’ story.
Pakistani nationalism is trending and if Waar’s success is anything to go by, cinema halls and box office stats are at an all-time peak.
Another person to join the pride-wagon is former doctor of the Pakistani cricket team, Dr Tauseef Razzaq. In his debut project, Razzaq is all set to bring his own version of a patriotic film to the big screen.
The idea, he says, is to “recreate a spirit of national pride.” In an interview with The Express Tribune, he says, “When a generation loses the ‘spirit of this nation’, the country’s soul passes away.”
Like many, Razzaq feels Indian content on TV is a threat to Pakistani culture. For this reason, he feels that advertisements, films and songs should remind the current generations of Pakistan’s history and values. “My film will have a trickle-down effect. Kids today, who are watching Indian advertisements, do not have the same spirit as our generation,” says Razzaq.
Titled Saya-e-Khuda-e-Zuljalal (Protection of Magnificent God) — the last line of Pakistan’s national anthem — the film is more or less a timeline of the country’s historical moments, such as partition and the 1965 war, narrated through national figures and heroes. The cast includes Umair Sultan, Nayyer Ijaz, Arbaaz Khan, Nauman Ijaz, Shaan, Shafqat Cheema, Rambo and many more. The film is written and produced by Razzaq himself and directed by Umair Fazli.
Currently in the production stage, the film has been supported by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) and Air Force — an endorsement, film-makers are often reluctant to publicly admit to. Razzaq is quite frank about his film’s association with the ISPR.
“I told them I had a script that focused on our national heroes, especially those who fought in war. I went to the headquarters and read my script to them. They were happy with what I had done,” shares Razzaq. “However, they did want to make a few changes and after that the script was approved,” he says.
“Parts of the script, which were army-related have been looked over by ISPR. All the events have been verified first and then shot,” he adds.
As far as funding is concerned, Razzaq says the ISPR had, at the time, allocated its production budget to Samjhota Express but they still managed to help him by granting access to certain areas in terms of shooting locations. For example, a scene that shows Shaheed Major Aziz Bhatti’s battle has been shot only a kilometer away from where he was actually killed — an area near the Indian border. The teaser trailer of the film also highlights extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), which means that the film is likely to have high visual effects.
Razzaq hopes to refresh the image of national and military heroes such as fighter-pilot MM Alam. He says he contacted MM Alam before he passed away to get his opinion on the script. “I sent him a copy. He was one of those who really supported and encouraged me to make this film,” he says.
At the end, Razzaq asserts that he is a patriot, who wants the film to be a reflection of how Pakistanis, and not Indians or the world, see history.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2013.