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The System (2014) - Teaser 1

Saturday, June 1, 2013

‘Zinda Bhaag’s music is quintessentially Pakistani’

Apart from the sweltering heat and inescapable load-shedding, June has brought with itself the much-awaited music release of Pakistani film, Zinda Bhaag. Music director Sahir Ali Bagga has given deep thought to the compositions and has asked renowned singers such as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Arif Lohar, to lend their voices to the melodies. The film has been co-directed by Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur aka Farjad and Meenu.

“Both of us are big fans of old film music. We have a collection of music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” says Nabi, adding that classics have inspired him and Gaur every step of the way. “There are seven startlingly different songs in the film.” Produced by Mazhar Zaidi, the film boasts seasoned Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah as a cast member and also features several local theatre artists.

The film’s music is primarily local Lahori pop. “Our stories have been told through songs for centuries,” Nabi adds. “We have adopted a specific form of storytelling in Zinda Bhaag, where the songs are central to the film’s narrative and if you remove any of the songs, you will lose a part of the story as well.”

Talking about how the music has been interlaced with the movie’s script, Gaur says, “It masks a class bias which suggests that films laden with [shallow] songs provide mindless entertainment for the wider audience as opposed to more mindful art cinema liked by the educated elite.” She adds, “It was a deliberate decision to use songs in a traditional and filmy way.” He feels South Asian films provide a platform for expressing emotions.

The original soundtrack (OST) of the film, sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, will also be the first original qawwali he has ever performed. Written by poet Hassan Mujtaba, the song is simple yet haunting. Bagga has a dominant footprint in the recording of this track; it features a cellist and several violinists from the Pakistani film industry.

 “I have worked the hardest [in my life] to produce the music of Zinda Bhaag,” says Bagga, proud of his achievement. “We have a filmy qawwali; this has been missing from the industry for the past 35 years.” He admits it took him 20 days to compose the OST. “Producing qawwali is difficult because you need to have a grip on classical music and the qawwal [singer] as well,” Bagga adds.
“Zinda Bhaag’s music is quintessentially Pakistani — from the musicians to the singers,” says the music director.

Apart from Rahat, the film’s music also features voices such as Abrarul Haq, Arif Lohar and Saleema Jawwad. Lohar and Jawwad have sung a song on love and death while Bagga has contributed his vocals to two tracks, an upbeat dance-bhangra number and a romantic ballad. Famed novelist Mohammed Hanif has also written a song, which is satirical and aimed at the hypocrisy of the elite class. It’s been sung by Jabar Ali. Gaur and Nabi have also co-written a duet which is sung by Iqra Ali and Amanat Ali — the song is filmed as a dialogue between a girl and boy in a classic-film style.

Living on the Edge (S4) (30th May) (Ep 18)

Living on the Edge, S4 - 30th May – Ep 18

Madventures – 31th May (Ep 15)

Madventures – 31th May (Ep 15) (Dailymotion Link)

Pakistan's movie-makers dig deep to revive film industry

On the fifth take, everything appeared to have come together. The script monitors confirmed that the two actors had got their lines right, the woman in charge of the set was pleased with how the crumbling apartment in a Karachi slum had been dressed, and the camera operator was content with the shot.
But the distant screech of a motorbike from the teeming streets outside wrecked the take (barking mutts, the bane of earlier attempts, had been successfully shooed away by the crew's "dog team").
"OK, again," sighed the director, Jami. "Sound is our biggest problem in Pakistan," he said. That, and a lack of cinema houses to show the work of movie makers, chronic DVD piracy and the near-complete collapse of the country's once vibrant film industry.
Given the problems, it is remarkable that any feature films are being made at all. But a recent spate of ambitious productions has raised hopes that the moribund movie industry may be on the verge of a renaissance.
They are all the work of a small band of enthusiastic film-makers, often cobbling together financing from what they have earned directing television commercials for washing powder and soft drinks.
Link to video: The attempt to rebuild Pakistan's cinema culture

"This is guerrilla film-making," said Shahzad Nawaz, director of a recently released film called Chambaili.
"You have to do everything yourself and you have to invest blood and tears to make it happen."
Compared with India's £2bn Bollywood film industry, the dozen or so films produced in Pakistan in recent years represent a tiny output. But there is hope that it will be the start of something big.
"The industry is re-emerging very fast," said Nadeem Mandviwalla, a leading cinema owner, "but after 30 years of decline there is a lot of catching up to do."
The movie business was crushed, he said, by the rise of pirated videos and DVDs . According to a report published last year by the US government, Pakistan is among the 13 worst countries in the world for intellectual property theft. In addition to pirated DVDs and illegal downloading, cable television companies cheerfully pump stolen movies directly into people's homes.
Pakistan's crumbling infrastructure of classic cinema houses, many of which are now dives showing seedy B-movies, is unfit to compete. One film distributor estimates that there are just 150 cinemas in a country of 180 million people, and 130 of those are "in a shambles".
The already small number of screens was further reduced by mobs who torched cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar last year to protest against a YouTube video said to be blasphemous.
Cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan
A cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan Photograph: A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
But big investments in new digital multiplexes have begun luring middle-class youngsters to the cinema for the first time.
All of Pakistan's leading cities now have at least one decent cinema. Even Islamabad, the capital city, which has not had a cinema for more than a decade, will soon get a Mandviwalla multiplex.
In addition to dramatic cuts in entertainment taxes in 2001, the biggest boost to business was the discovery in 2007 of a lucrative loophole that allows cinemas to sidestep a ban on showing movies made in India.
Indian films are hugely popular with Urdu-speaking Pakistanis – whose language is almost the same as Bollywood's Hindi offerings.
But Indian movies, music and even cross-border contact between artists and sportsmen are occasionally squelched when relations between the two feuding neighbours hit a low point. "Importing these films is still illegal under the law, but we get certificates saying this is a British movie, or American if it comes through Disney or Fox," said Rehmat Fazli, a leading film distributor who buys the rights to Indian films via international middlemen.
Indian films, with a smattering of Hollywood blockbusters, dominate the box office at Pakistan's glitzy new multiplexes.
Sceptics say the failure to protect the home market means Pakistani film-makers will never be able to compete. But Fazli and Mandviwalla believe the glut of Indian movies is helping to educate a new generation of filmgoers on the joy of big-screen entertainment, ultimately creating an audience for home-produced films.
"The survival of Pakistani film-making will be determined by Indian films," said Fazli. "The industry depends on cinemas, and people want to come and see Indian films because we share the same language, the same culture."
But film-makers, increasingly located in Karachi rather than Lahore, the traditional home of Pakistan's "Lollywood", still need to work out how to make films, on a fraction of Bollywood's budgets, that can compete in a sea of Indian movies, with their signature mix of spectacle and big song-and-dance numbers.
"There have been directors that have tried simply copying the formula of Bollywood, but that hasn't worked," said Nadeem Paracha, a cultural commentator at Dawn newspaper. "Pakistanis expect something different, something that has their own flavour.
"If they can come up with that perfect formula, then I think there will be people going out and watching these movies."
A huge help is the rapidly declining cost of technology: film-makers now routinely make stunning-looking films with the same high-grade digital cameras used on films such as Prometheus and The Hobbit.
Jami believes Pakistani directors should focus on strong stories rather than trying to compete with India's "masala" style of film making.
His latest, Morqaye, is ostensibly a drama about a family pulled apart by circumstances, although he argues that the real subject matter is corruption, one of the big problems besetting Pakistan.
"I'm not trying to show the negative side; I'm trying to show the people who are fighting back," he said.
A notable recent hit was Bol, an elaborate social drama released in 2011 about a highly religious father who murders his only son, a member of Pakistan's transgender community. "Bol was the first Pakistani film to do $1m in business at the box office," said Mandviwalla, who believes the country is reaching a point where there are so many modern screens – which charge significantly more than the run-down, old cinemas – that Pakistani films can be profitable.
"I've started investing money in producing films because finally the market has increased to an extent where homegrown productions have become feasible."
With barely half a dozen films made each year, Mandviwalla said it would take time for Pakistan's young film-makers to raise their game.
Director Shahzad Nawaz warned that people should not get carried away.
"To truly say we have an industry we need a new film opening every week before we can claim there is a true renaissance," he said.
"This is a great new experiment, but it is going to take time."
• This article was amended on 1 June 2013. In the third paragraph it originally referred to the director as Jamshed Mahmood. He is known in the industry as Jami. This has been corrected.

Published in The Guardian

Monday, May 27, 2013

Star-studded premiere of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The much-awaited screening of The Reluctant Fundamentalist finally took place in Lahore on Thursday evening, amidst amplified curiosity and excitement.
Before the show, cast member singer-actor Meesha Shafi posted, “Can’t wait to watch it with my friends and family,” on Twitter, adding later that she wished her “lovelies” – director Mira Nair and actor Riz Ahmed – were in the walled city to watch the premiere show.

While the foreign cast and crew members could not make it to the Lahore show, Nair was busy promoting the film earlier this month in Mumbai, where celebs including Priyanka Chopra attended. The Cinestar event in Lahore, which was co-hosted by HKC and Encyclomedia PR, was attended by TRF author Mohsin Hamid, Meesha Shafi, Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar, Cybil Chowdhry and many others.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2013.

Pakistan's Next Mega Star - Episode 13 - 25th May 2013

PNMS - Ep 13  - 25th May 2013