In Christopher Nolan’s science fiction film Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio essays the role of a thief who infiltrates the subconscious of his targets by implanting ideas into their minds. Ashir Azeem aims to do just that with his upcoming movie Maalik, as the writer and actor of 1992 drama serial Dhuwan aims at inculcating in people a “sense of ownership” of their country.
Azeem, who is a civil servant and has been posted across Pakistan, said that the nature of his job gave him the exposure that reflects in his story writing. “As a nation, we’ve somehow lost pride and faith in ourselves.” And this is exactly what helped him cultivate the bedrock of Maalik, which he described as a “bit of a vigilante film” that shares its premise with Bollywood political thriller Sarkar. Maalik is a film that draws heavily from Azeem’s TV serial itself – a retired commando setting up his own security agency to set things right in his country.
Azeem features as the protagonist (Major Asad) himself. The film’s script was ready almost 15 years ago but Azeem’s professional commitments keep him tied up all along. “When I finally decided to get going, I had to make a few changes in the draft but then again, not much has changed in the country ever since.” Marking Azeem’s return to the visual medium after a long gap, Maalik sees him involved in multiple capacities as writer, producer and director aside from acting.
The movie will comprise the same hallmark features that made Dhuwan a resounding success. In order to retain the same element of realism, Azeem has adopted a similar strategy for casting. Instead of roping in tried and tested actors, he went for those who in his view were closer to the characters in real life. “I asked them to speak their lines in a natural flow and not follow the script methodically.”
He said the film builds up on Dhuwan’s plot setting. “The canvas of Maalik is much bigger than that of Dhuwan. In the TV series, we explored the world of drug trafficking. Here, we’re talking about politics, mafias and corruption.”
When it comes to military narratives in TV shows and film, a cloud of larger than life action sequences and grotesque imagery overshadows the storyline itself, which Azeem admits is a major concern. “It’s all about money these days and that’s the reason why the script becomes a secondary part of the film.” He has ensured Maalik does not venture into the clichéd territory. “Maalik is not designed to look visually pretty,” he exclaimed, “Action only constitutes about 10 to 12 minutes of the film. The movie has a very raw feel to it.”
Azeem is in no way concerned about the box office performance of the film. He said what’s more important is that it translates well with audiences. “For me, making a film is like contesting elections. You need the thumbs up of the masses.”
Currently in the post-production phase, the movie was shot on a 93-day schedule. Featuring an ensemble cast including Adnan Shah Tipu, Hassan Niazi, Farhan Ali Agha and Azeem himself, the film is expected to be out by February 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.