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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sim Sim Hamara: Breaking into films

It has been less than a year that the ‘Sim Sim Hamara’ project by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development(USAID) went on air. However, plans of expanding the series into a feature film and radio show are already in place.
Given the show’s immense popularity and the desperate need for entertainment catering to children, why wouldn’t it be expanded? It has already provided young audiences with unforgettable characters such as Rani, Munna, Baily, Baji and Haseen-o-Jameel.
“Everything is finally falling into place, we started with television, now we’re branching into other areas,” said the Head of Party at Rafi Peer Theatre workshop, Faizan Peerzada who intends on making a film before the project’s four-year contract runs out. “Using different mediums like radio, television and films together actually helps in terms of raising awareness, this development is not surprising for us as we never set out to only do television.”
Peerzada, who has been a central figure in bringing the revised Pakistani edition of the 1969 classic educational television show “Sesame Street” to Pakistan, has focussed on connecting with as many children as possible.
Talking about its response, Peerzada said, “Since it’s an original Pakistani program, children can relate to the characters more. Normally children have seen the show with a foreign backdrop but with this localised instalment they find it even easier to learn.”
The TV show is proving to be instrumental in providing education by exploring different themes related to the Pakistani culture and history. The theme of every episode revolves around a certain word that people can easily relate to. For instance, in the first episode, the content revolves around the word ‘saath’ or cooperation and all the skits incorporate the theme of cooperation in some way or another.
The popularity of the show has led to it being dubbed in multiple languages as well as tours being arranged where characters from the show go on the road and connect with the audience. This programme also includes puppet shows and video screenings at communal gatherings and village festivals which can attract families with young children. Additionally, the team also aims to offer interactive computer programs to better engage with children.
As part of this outreach process, the radio component could be ready as early as this year while the film would be done by the end of two years before the USAID contract runs out.
When it comes to the plan for Sim Sim Radio, some of the characters will be voiced by famous Pakistani personalities. This may not be such a difficult task as leading artists such as Ali Azmat, Annie Khalid and Jimmy Khan have already been part of the TV show. There are several songs related to life skills, health and hygiene which have been sung by different artists.
The film based upon the show will carry on the characters seen on the big screen and will aim to sustain the educational goals of the four-year USAID project which ends in 2014. “The concept has to continue in other mediums, and the most sustainable medium is cinema. By using various creative ways, we can make sure it reaches the maximum number of schools in Pakistan,” stated Peerzada.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2012.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

05 February 2012 :::: Showbiz news from Today's NewsPaper :::

Showbiz news from
Today's NewsPaper
 05 February  2012

Patching things up

 LAHORE:  What was once considered the hub of all film-related activity, regularly visited by film folks and biggies of the industry, the Pakistan Film Producers Association’s (PFPA) office is now nothing more than a deserted, dusty, termite-ridden room. Unfortunately, the PFPA which used to be the most influential association made by the Pakistani film fraternity, has been inactive ever since it was disbanded in 2006 due to internal disagreement. With the Pakistan film industry in tatters, the country’s film producers have now decided to bury the hatchet and revive the association.
Inside Lahore’s film district Royal Par, a pensive-looking Chaudhry Kamran sits with a legal file containing details of the screenings of Indian films in Pakistan. Kamran, the producer of the Lollywood-hit film Bhai Log, has been one of the central figures contributing to the revival of the producers association. According to him, the association played a major role in helping the industry thrive in the 1960s and 1970s. “The Producers Association is the mother of all associations in the film industry,” says Kamran. “It played a vital role in getting rid of personal differences in the industry and also in giving the industry a proper structure in terms of its functions.”
Main functions
The organisation, which functioned as a backbone and platform for the entire film industry, facilitating the needs of other branches, maintaining discipline, had split up primarily due to disparity over the screening of Indian films in the Pakistani market. Kamran informs that the PFPA functions included selection of film titles, self-regulation on vulgar content and organisation of film releases. Additionally, a member from the association was, at the time, authorised to sit on both the censor board and the chamber of commerce which allowed for funding. These functions proved invaluable in making the industry function efficiently, adds Kamran.
Therefore, keeping in mind the past usefulness of the association, producers have decided to restart the process. The plan is to first appoint a board and a chairman, who will run the association, and this will be followed by elections for the association, which will be held after the first year. According to industry insiders, it is widely speculated that Ghafoor Butt, another integral member of the team striving to revive the board, will head the association. When contacted, Butt refused to divulge details and said his lips are sealed till the official public launch, which is expected sometime next week at a press conference.
What can be done?
There is also a divide regarding what has led to the decline of the film industry.
Some producers like Kamran contend that Indian films have led to its decline and a ban of all films from India is imperative to resuscitate faith in producers.
Meanwhile, Mustafa Qureshi, popularly known for playing the iconic role of ‘Noori Natt’ in Maula Jatt, feels that more fundamental issues such investor confidence in the industry must be restored. He also advocates the formulation of a set of standards which are in line with international markets. “The issue is that India is willing to screen our films and their market is far bigger than Pakistan’s,” says Qureshi. “The association will provide a platform through which producers can interact in a united fashion with government. However, for it to be effective, producers should also change their current mindset, they should embrace the challenge of participating in the global market.”
Nadeem Mandviwala, owner of Atrium Cinemas, explains that the organisation’s biggest concern should be disciplining the industry, essentially by releasing films on time and being more regular with film releases. “If there is a collective body through which all producers can address issues, it will certainly be a positive move,” adds Mandviwala.
Hence, all things said and done, it’s imperative to ask whether producers will actually start producing films more regularly once the association is fully functional, and Kamran seems optimistic. “We will advocate for the ban of Indian films will serve to protect producers’ interest; the association will not only restore the faith of investors, it will also provide some discipline in the industry.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.