The year 2013 has been an eventful one for the Pakistani film industry — it underwent a complete metamorphosis and outgrew the phase of Punjabi-centric cinema. With upcoming projects constantly being revealed, one cannot help but be excited about what the new year has in store for local cinema.
A recent announcement reveals that two veterans of the Pakistani entertainment industry — Khurram Rana and Badar Ikram — have come together to make an art film, titled Poora Chand.
Being produced under the banner of MiRaqsam Media, Poora Chand’s shooting is reported to conclude by January 2014 and concurrently start its round of post-production. The film’s cast boasts big names from the entertainment industry. TV actors Fahad Mustafa and Sanam Saeed will be making their film debuts, alongside model and actor Iman Ali, who has previously worked in Shoaib Mansoor’s films Khuda Kay Liye and Bol. Mustafa and Ali will be seen playing double roles in the film.
Defying the current trend of commercial cinema, the makers of Poora Chand have roped in famous playwright Sarmad Sehbai as script writer for the venture. “We have always looked up to Sarmad Sahib,” says Rana. For producers Ikram and Rana, the current state of cinema culture is one that is conducive for those seeking to experiment with film genres, hence their decision to make an art film. “The debate on commercial film versus art film does not really matter. Everything depends on the audience’s response — they either like a film or they don’t,” says Rana, former chairman of the United Producers Association.
A year ago, Rana along with Ikram, who was previously a senior executive with a major television channel, forayed into the cinema from the television industry. “I pushed Badar, saying that we should come up with an idea which is new and big. It was about time we formed our own production company, which catered to the kind of work we are interested in,” he explains. The film, which includes five songs, is currently being shot in Karachi where Poora Chand’s team has constructed large studio sets in order to streamline the shooting process.
The film is directed by two-time Lux Style Award winner, Anjum Shehzad, known for making stellar television dramas before this. The film, which Sarmad wrote five years ago, draws inspiration from an 18th century poet but is set in the contemporary world. Sarmad’s brother, Manzar Sehbai, who was last seen in Bol, plays the antagonist in the film.
Ikram says that contemporary film audiences demand more complex themes and stories. “The film assumes that the audience is smarter than what is assumed in the industry generally. This film is brought forward with the belief that the audience will be able to digest its complex theme,” says Ikram. “Despite being an offbeat film, everyone participated in the project with the spirit of creating something very unique. As for the audience, they should be expecting a brave film.”
Although Pakistani cinema industry has been flourishing in recent years, Rana feels its identity is yet to be defined. He adds that there is still a massive divide between quality production teams and local talent, and that is the reason why he thought it was important to make something which can be considered a truly original Pakistani effort. “Any actor, designer or producer who is involved with cinema is looking at this as a long-term business investment. Right now it’s too early what genre or style will constitute Pakistan’s narrative.”
Seconding Rana’s statement, Ikram says, “The decision to produce a film like this was long overdue. I can’t say that India or Iran cannot make a film like Poora Chand, given that there are some extremely intelligent people in their respective film industries. But this is a film, we believe, that they will not [be able to] make, because it’s not their style, per se.”
Currently, the makers of the film are in talks with local distributors. Meanwhile, they are also deliberating to launch an official website and Facebook page for the film.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2013.