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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The revival (or re-birth) of Pakistani cinema

Will Pakistani cinema see a revival, or does it need to be built from scratch? This question was debated by prominent personalities associated with the craft of film-making at The Second Floor (T2F) cafe on Friday evening.
At the interactive discussion titled ‘The Revival of Pakistani Cinema’, the big names were Nadeem Mandviwalla, the visionary behind Atrium Cinemas; Asim Raza, a music video director and film-maker and actor-cum-film-maker Zeba Bakhtiar, the first female Pakistani actor to cross the border and appear in the  Bollywood film Henna. The questions tossed around by Meher Jaffri — producer of the filmSeedlings, which recently bagged two awards at the New York City International Film Festival — focused on three things: content, money and professionalism.
In a time when the local audience is eager to watch every Bollywood movie that is screened in Pakistani movie theatres, Zeba Bakhtiar suggested that the focus should remain at home.“We should readily and eagerly collaborate with people in our own country,” she said. “It’s high time that we stop looking at India and focus on ourselves. We have good actors, good poetry and good music on hand, we can make as many films as we like.” She also noted that unlike India, Pakistan’s rich history of the Sufi tradition is a gold mine of inspiring ideas.
Bakhtiar also hinted at her upcoming directorial ventures, describing it as a “film that is going to be all about Pakistan.”
“We are always looking at the negatives surrounding us — the positives also need to be highlighted,” Bakhtiar asserted.
In the same spirit of patriotism, Asim Raza agreed that negativity does not work in the long run. “There should be a balance in the story line. I am certainly not talking in terms of escapism, that won’t work! But I am looking at positive stories and those will certainly make all the difference.”
Raza then delved into the issue that film-makers do not take their work as seriously as they should. He pointed out that more people need to make films as professionals, instead of merely pursuing a hobby or passion. “When I tell people that I am a film-maker, the follow-up question is usually ‘lekin aap aur kya karte hain (what else do you do)?” joked Raza, explaining that people do not consider movie making a serious profession.
What works
“Before 2007, we were catering to another audience,” said Nadeem Mandviwalla. “Earlier, the gandasa culture was popular; it was because there were people in the audience that enjoyed viewing it. Now we have moved away from those times.”
He explained how the cinema-going culture in Pakistan has developed over the years. Now movie-watchers go more for the atmosphere rather than the film itself. “Atrium Cinemas cater to a crowd with more evolved tastes and idea of entertainment and fun.” He feels that instead of reviving it, Pakistan is in the process of rebuilding cinema.
Mandviwalla explained that the process cannot take place overnight and that Pakistani film-makers need to be realistic and make films within their budgets. “Many dream of making heavy budget films to garner big business, which rather than benefiting them, will add to their growing financial concerns,” he said.
Mandviwalla also asserted that the most popular genre amongst the audience remains to be romance. To this, Bakhtiar added, “Everybody wants to hear a love story, with the story line based on emotions and conflict about people breaking up — something which people can connect to globally.”
Giving advice to young film-makers in the field, Raza said, “To take film-making as a profession, not just a hobby and passion, you must have a business plan in mind. What we should now cater to is what I call ‘substantial cinema’ — a thought provoking, reason-to-believe and intelligent film, which will keep people glued to their seats throughout.”
At the end, Mandviwalla surprised the crowd with the announcement that Seedlings will be screened at Atrium Cinemas soon — a move that serves as a good boost to film-makers in the country who are aiming to revive and rebuild Pakistani cinema.

Jehangir Aziz: Pakistan’s first grunge musician

Born to furniture designer Nilofar Aziz and former Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Khalid Aziz, 23-year-old Jehangir Aziz Hayat has always been a passionate music buff. The release of his debut track “Between the Lines” in 2005 made Jehangir the first ever grunge musician in Pakistan.
He shot to widespread fame and his track “Pretend to Be” then led him to win three awards at the Indie Music Channels Awards in 2012 — Best Male Alternative Artist, Best Alternative Record and Best Alternative Video Under $5,000.
Lined with influences of Nirvana, Pantera and Megadeth, another track “Never Change” was released in 2005 and left many dazzled in Pakistan. In the first week of its release, the National Music Chart got a feel of Jehangir’s melody and nominated him for the Best Debut Award at the MTV Pakistan awards.
Jehangir is currently in Pakistan for his upcoming new releases, and in an interview with The Express Tribune he shared insights on his work and future plans.
What inspired you to turn to music?
Music is a medium of self-expression where I am able to voice and reflect on some of the apprehensions instilled in me. It allowed me to recognise the discernible differences between my perception and actuality.
What led you to play guitar? Why not any other local string instrument, such as the rabab?
I think the versatility of the overall genre and its main instrument, the guitar, made it all the more appealing. In my opinion, the composition that I had to deliver was better suited to a low-tuned guitar. However, I’d love to have the rabab incorporated into one of my tracks someday.
How do you feel about your experience of fame after the release of “Never Change”?
In hindsight, I believe I was not fully prepared for the release. Abruptly being in the spotlight after total obscurity did not help me get a better perspective on things. However, I am grateful for the opportunity.
What about remixing your compositions to fuse with your native tunes?
It would be interesting to combine the elements of grunge with Pashto folk music. I will probably end up making some tracks fusing the two genres once I get a better understanding of their integration.
How do you see the local Pashto music scene?
Our music scene is full of incredible talent. People like Sarmad Ghafoor, Sajid Ghafoor and Zeeshan Parwez have come up with some amazing work despite the limitations faced by local musicians due to the unavailability of opportunities and proper institutions.
You are completing your Bachelors degree at the moment, what career path do you hope to follow thereafter?
I’d love to continue the family furniture business of M. Hayat and Brothers (PVT) Ltd. if circumstances permit. Recently, I have been very interested in the development aspect of economics. Hopefully I’ll have a better perspective on things once I have completed my degree.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am currently working on the drums for the new album. The sound of the new album is influenced by some of the grunge and alternative bands I used to listen to back in the day. If I compare this record to the previous one, I’d say this one has a better sense of direction as far as songwriting is concerned. The album will have twelve tracks altogether and will be released sometime during this year. Hopefully, it will more aptly capture my identity and individuality.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.

Congratulations! Ali Azmat welcomes his first baby

Pakistan’s very own grungy rockstar Ali Azmat and his wife television producer Fariha Khan have been blessed with a baby girl.
Late on Thusrday night, the couple welcomed their daughter who has been named Ella, which means torch or bright light.
The singer tweeted, “Ella is here” late on Thursday night. He married his long-time girlfriend in September last year. The news of his wedding came as a surprise to his fans who had presumed that the rockstar would never settle for something as serious as a full-time commitment. The rumours that Azmat vowed to stay a bachelor all his life, told female fans to keep no hopes.
But Azmat surprised us all when he finally tied the knot! The “Garaj Baras” singer is known for his sardonic wit and his politically charged comments and recently was seen tweeting for the release of Rimsha Masih. “Free Rimsha you dimwits,” the singer had posted last week, regarding a Christian girl who was jailed after being accused of blasphemy. Azmat’s friend, singer-cum-actor Ali Zafar congratulated Azmat on Twitter. “Beautiful name. Wonderful news. May the family have the most fantastic life ever” to which Azmat replied, “Thanks bro, it’s a brand new feeling altogether.” Congratulations to the couple!
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.         

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

12 September 2012 :::: Showbiz news from Today's NewsPaper

Showbiz news from
Today's NewsPaper
12 September 2012

Ishq Khuda all set for Eid release

Several rumours have been making the rounds regarding the release of the upcoming film Ishq Khuda.  This week however, director Shehzad Rafique has disclosed to the media that the film is set to release around the same time as Eidul Azha in Pakistan and other countries.
Rafique, who has directed several other films which have made it to film festivals overseas such as Rukhsati and Mohabbatan Sachiyaan, says that it is important for the improvement of the sluggish Pakistani film industry to ensure that local films are released internationally as well.
“There were no issues with actors not showing up in time or anything of that sort, production takes time but now we are all set for an Eid release,” says Rafique, who is involved in the post-production process of the film in India. “I have always tried to make sure that Pakistani films should have a market outside the country. My films have been released abroad in the past as well — so hopefully we are looking to release Ishq Khuda in Canada, Dubai and other markets.”
Rafique elaborates that the market in Canada is very promising, as there are many Punjabi-speaking people who have settled there. Ishq Khuda is described as a spiritual love-story that stars Ahsan Khan, Meera, and Wiam Dhamani along with appearances by Shaan and Saima.
“Compared to my other films, I think what stands out [in Ishq Khuda] is the fact that there has never been a film done on Sufism here,” says Rafique, adding that Islam was spread by way of the Sufi tradition in Pakistan. When asked about the spiritual outlook of the film and whether he believes that it could connect with the religiously divided Pakistani society, Rafique says he is quite hopeful.
“If you study Sufi tradition, you will see that it talks about peace, tolerance and harmony,” explains Rafique. Apart from the spiritual outlook of the film, other things to look out for include the impressive cast and the myriad of beautiful locations where the film was shot, including Mianwali and Khoora village of the breathtaking Soon Valley in Punjab.
“Personally, I see Pakistan as a very beautiful place. So whenever I make a film, I try to show the country for the beauty it embodies,” says Rafique.
Reflections on the film industry
Speaking about the condition of the Pakistani film industry, Rafique explains that the initial delay in releasing the film was deliberate, to avoid a clash with any other major film in the industry. He adds that when such few films are being made, it is unnecessary to have them compete with one another.
“You have to have a positive outlook … space should be given to each other. Right now, the circumstances are such that we cannot have such competition between films because there are so few,” says Rafique.
Talking about the local market, Rafique says that in smaller cities and towns, cinemas seem to be closing down, while in big cities several multiplexes are opening. He adds that the benefit of these multiplexes can only be maximised if films of a ‘certain standard’ are produced.
“Local films are being made on a certain level but for film-makers who want to touch an international standard, they have to do post-production abroad, so naturally the budget increases,” says Rafique.
However, recognising that budgetary constraints cannot always be solved effortlessly, he further adds, “The bigger the market for films becomes, the easier these issues of budget and so on will be solved.”

Sobia Khan recovering from injury

Lahore — Famous Actress, Model, Dancer Sobia Khan says she’s still on res after suffering injury while doing rehearsal for a stage play in Lahore. While talking with Lollywood Café Sobia Khan said that I m Thankful to Allah that I m feeling much better now and soon I will start my shooting activities and pending projects.

صلہ حسین کو سولو ہیروئن کے طو ر پر کاسٹ کر لیا گیا

لاہور ۔ہدایتکار اقبال کاشمیری نے اپنی نئی فلم ’’ ڈیرے دار ‘‘ کیلئے اداکارہ صلہ حسین کو مرکزی ہیروئن کے طور پر کاسٹ کر لیا،اداکارہ صلہ حسین اپنے فلمی کیرئیر میں پہلی مرتبہ سولو ہیروئن کا کردار نبھائیں گی ،انکے مد مقابل اداکار شان کو کاسٹ کئے جانے کا امکان ہے ،کہا گیا ہے کہ دیگر کاسٹ کا چناؤ بھی شروع کر دیا گیا ہے اور یہ مرحلہ مکمل ہوتے ہی اسکی شوٹنگ کا آغاز کر دیا جائیگا۔