KARACHI: Asad Ul Haq — director of upcoming rom-com Dekh Magar Pyaar Say (DMPS) — is keen on pushing boundaries that define cinema. For instance, if you have seen the trailer, there’s a chance you might have asked yourself what is it that the makers are trying to achieve. Well, lucky for you, we have the answer(s).
“It was intentional. There’s this trend nowadays, and even Hollywood is doing it, to show the entire movie in the trailer. You see the promo, you see the full film. I didn’t want to do that so I added an element of intrigue to the DMPS trailer,” Asad said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
“It’s a love story but there is a huge part of the story that you don’t know about. You will go imagining it’s the usual boy-meets-girl rom-com but what’s going to happen in the second half will surprise you. I am hoping that is what will hook the audience on,” he said, when asked if not revealing the story line in the promos has gone against the film.
But why must the audience choose to watch DMPS especially when there are two other films (Shah and Moor) releasing on the same day? “I have got the music. I have got the promos which nobody has. That’s what will bring the audience to the cinemas. Every three days we are releasing a new video,” he said.
“All three films are different and I will go watch both the other films. We are not competing in the strict sense.”
Talking about the feedback he has received so far Asad said that everyone has told him the film is visually appealing. “Although, someone said to me they are concerned that Sikandar doesn’t look like a rickshaw driver and I said even Lahore doesn’t look like Lahore. When was the last time you saw such a pimped up rickshaw? Everyone is wearing Shero’s (Hassan Sheheryar Yasin) clothes. So if I have crossed that line, I might as well go overboard with everything,” he added.
Even though Asad acknowledges that like most rom-coms DMPS is based on a premise familiar to the audience, there’s more to his film not just in terms of storyline but also in the way the story has been told.
“We have done it differently. This is what you should be ready for,” he said, explaining in detail certain elements in the film revealing which at this point would be unjust. But going by his words, be prepared to experience something you haven’t ever before.
“When you see it you might even say ‘why’? But, why not? It’s not a typical film,” he asserted.
Asad, who is one of Pakistan’s top ad makers, took a break from his usual job and what appears to be a big risk by making DMPS. Not financially, but in trying to present to the audience a story in a format they haven’t seen before. And he has gone to great lengths to achieve this. His cinematographer and editor, for example, are both foreigners who don’t understand Urdu.
“I am doing it for the first time and I didn’t make this film because I have to prove something. I have done it in a certain way because that’s what I wanted. A lot of people said ‘why don’t you have a desi editor?’ and I would tell them if a foreign cinematographer can shoot my film why can’t a foreign editor edit it. That’s why it isn’t a typical film,” he explained.
Even in terms of casting, he picked Sikandar — a newcomer — as his male lead and chose Humaima as the female lead despite the failure of her last movie Raja Natwarlal — her debut Bollywood film starring Emraan Hashmi. “I wanted the male character to be low-key so it made more sense to cast someone who doesn’t already have an on-screen persona. And I always had Humaima in mind for the female character. She sizzles everytime she comes on screen,” he said, adding her film’s unsuccessful run at the box office didn’t bother him.
Talking about music, Asad disclosed there are seven songs in the film. However, out of the seven songs only two are original with the rest being new versions of classics including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s popular qawwali Tumhain Dillagi Bhool Jani Paray Gi. “I am a big fan of covers. I didn’t follow the norm by going to a sound producer and asking him to pick music for me. Instead I picked the tunes that I like.”
Another unique aspect of the movie is that it doesn’t have any lip-sync songs. “My distributor complained about the short length of the songs but even with the best songs, after a minute or a minute-and-a-half, the audience starts to get bored.”
His version of an item song, Kala Doriya, looks nothing like the usual item songs the audience has probably become used to of watching. So does he think people are ready for his kind of cinema?
“Ready for what? If you look at our film industry at this point, what is it that we have to be ready for? To compete with Bollywood? We can’t compete with them. They have reached a point where Hollywood is knocking on their door. We need to build our own identity,” he answered.
“Who tells you get 50 people to dance to a song? You speak to a choreographer and they would be like ‘yeah let’s take that song from that film and use a sequence from it’. Why haven’t done that.”
Asad says he took up filmmaking — in spite of having a successful business making commercials — because he wanted to re-energise himself. And in order to do that that he had make the film exactly how he wanted it to be. “I am not giving you something that you don’t want to watch. You will have your paisa vasool but you will have it in a different light.”
And he has his own set of questions. “What does the audience want? What works? What doesn’t? I want to show people Pakistan can make a different kind of film.”
Asad says he doesn’t know if his film will work or not but what’s certain is that he has learnt a lot from this experience. “I was in London recently and I wrote to the London Film School asking what courses they are offering in fall because I want to take some time off and take a few film courses.
“I also sent them some trailers from DMPS because they wanted to see some of my work. They wrote back to me saying why don’t I bring my film and do a Q&A with students there. Or better still, why don’t I teach a course myself and they offered to pay me for it. This is what I want to achieve with this film.”
He is confident that when people walk out of the theatres they’d say they enjoyed themselves and had a good time. “So far, whoever has watched the film has loved it. It’s made with pure love. I have given my blood, my soul to this film.”
And he is hopeful that after watching the film, somewhere someone will ask why more such films aren’t being made in Pakistan.
It’s refreshing to know that instead of following the usual route of storytelling, Asad has set out to raise the bar and set his own standards. Whether or not his risk will pay off is yet to be seen but he deserves applause for this bold attempt.
He too seems to be pleased with himself or rather proud. “Why won’t I push boundaries? This is how I am.”.
Here’s the trailer: