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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pakistan's First Super Heroine Cartoon "Burka Avenger"

Catwoman, Wonderwoman, Black Widow — all of them can just back off as Pakistan’s very own super heroine, the Burka Avenger, is all set to save the day. The desi superwoman is a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial art skills, who uses her flowing black burqa to hide her identity and fight thugs seeking to shut down the girls’ school, where she works.

Burka Avenger Trailer (Urdu)
The action-based cartoon, Burka Avenger, is a brainchild of pop singer and former band member of Awaz, Haroon Rashid, and will make its debut on Geo TV in early August. The cartoon is definitely a mirror to our society which suffers at the hands of extremists — those blowing up schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to oppose girls’ education. But limitations only give birth to heroes like Malala Yousafzai and, now, the Burka Avenger.

Lady In Black by Haroon and Adil Omar
Haroon asserts that the purpose behind the cartoon is to emphasise the importance of educating girls and also highlight other major issues within the country. “Each one of our episodes is centred on a moral, which sends out strong social messages to kids,” Rashid toldThe Associated Press in his first interview about the show. “But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure.”

While the West may raise eyebrows over the burka of the Burka Avenger considering it a symbol of oppression, Haroon explicitly states that by no means does it signify a dictatorial custom. Rather the dress was chosen in order to give a more local feel to the show. “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes,” said Rashid. “Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”

Burka Avenger Trailer (English)
The Burka Avenger’s true identity is Jiya, whose adopted father, Kabbadi Jan, taught her the karate moves she uses to defeat her enemies. In addition to Jiya, three young kids, twins Immu and Ashu and their best friend Mooli, serve as the show’s other stars. Each of the 13 episodes contains original music by Rashid as well as other popular Pakistani singers including Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat and Josh.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Zomcom Waking Dead to hit theatres soon

The trend of horror movies seems to be picking up in the subcontinent. Following SiyaahZibahkhana and Zinda Laash, it’s now time for Pakistan’s first zombie comedy movie — Waking Dead by independent short film-maker Usman Mukhtar. He feels this production will be different and a “movie of its kind.”
Mukhtar’s first film Aasia, a story of child abuse, was released in 2006, followed by a short comedy Whattay Scary in 2008, Black Coffee in 2010 and I Dream a Day last year.
For this production, the film-maker has roped in international actors and admits that the experience has broadened his horizon as a director.
Shot in Dubai, the short film was produced in less than three days and stars UAE-based actors Nitin Mirani, Nadia Williams and Nidhi Jha.
“No doubt that there is talent in this country [Pakistan], but there are no proper institutions of support,” he said, adding that Pakistan has a long way to go in order to be at par with international standards. Mukhtar, a horror movie fanatic, has used professional prosthetic, make-up artist Nouf Al Jhadhami’s expertise to make the characters look “wonderfully scary.”
Waking Dead is PR and talent management agency Muse Dubai’s first zomcom production.
“A zomcom in particular, hasn’t been shot on this scale locally, making it a great collaboration between South Asia and the Middle East, based on talent,” says Roha Daud, co-founder Muse Dubai.
“And this ultimately is Muse’s forte and vision to bring together talent from across the countries to work on such projects.”
“Although the film industry in UAE is steadily growing, I haven’t heard of any [movies] being made in this genre,” says Rehaab Daud, CEO Muse Dubai.
She added that when Mukhtar came up with the concept of a short zomcom, it sounded like a fun movie to be involved in and turned out to be exactly that.
“It turned out to be a great learning experience and a step towards Muse Dubai’s goal of representing and working with talent from different countries,” she said.
The dialogues have been penned by Shahana Khan and the movie is in its post-production stage at the moment. It is scheduled to release in the next two months in Dubai — the exact date of release is still not final — and then Pakistan. Mukhtar also hopes to showcase Waking Dead at the upcoming Dubai Film Festival this year.
He is also working on a feature film whose script has been written by Pakistan’s versatile urdu legend, Anwar Maqsood.
Cast speaks up
The film’s lead actor Mirani said that he was ecstatic when he was first approached for the project. “The movie kept me up for a few days. But it is a zombie movie so the character came naturally to me,” he joked over a telephonic interview. “Mukhtar is a supreme talent and Pakistan has definitely made a mark when it comes to quality short films, globally.”
Nadia feels that there just aren’t enough short movies being produced in Dubai. “They should become more popular as they are fun to watch and even more fun to participate in,” she exclaimed. Jha, who has made her debut with this film, hopes that such projects are taken up more often in UAE as they are a source of inspiration and people get to showcase their talent and ideas. “We all need to come out of hiding and create more [movies],” she says.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.

Rabia Butt’s ‘Hijrat’ to the big screen

Two-time winner of the Lux Style Award for Best Model, dusky beauty Rabia Butt is now gearing up for the big screen. After stints in commercials and music videos, Rabia is set to star in Farooq Mengal’s debut film Hijrat.

“Good things come to those who wait for the right time and opportunity,” says the model. “I accept a project when it seems right to me. I did have an idea that this might happen at some point, but I was not hunting for a role in a big film.”

Hijrat, which marks Mengal’s directorial debut in Lollywood, is said to be a romantic drama that is placed in the backdrop of the Afghan War, where millions were rendered homeless. Rabia plays an Indian doctor named Jia, who works for rehabilitation centres set up for IDPs. She is happy that she’s debuting in the industry with a lead role. “The passion is fiery and we [the team of Hijrat] are determined to captivate the audience. No stones are being left unturned; now the success of the film depends on fate,” says the model-turned-actor. “Things solidified once I was ready to switch from the fashion industry to the mesmerising silver screen and the director was convinced that I would dazzle the audience,” she adds.

Rabia admits that Hijrat is one of the most demanding projects she has been a part of. “All this hard work is a demand of my role, but I am sure it will pay off. I am really excited about all the upcoming projects in the industry and foresee a sparkling revival of Lollywood.”

She is optimistic about the Pakistani film industry’s future. “You know Lollywood is no more. I don’t know what I should call this rebirth [of cinema] yet, but it seems good things are in the making,” she says.
Mengal, a well-known name in the Pakistani television industry, has gone all out to make his film debut with a perfect mix of fresh faces and seasoned actors. Apart from Rabia, the film stars model Asad Zaman and actors Noman Ejaz, Ayub Khoso and Wiam Dahmani.

“The first spell has been shot — what an enlightening experience it has been!” exclaims Rabia. “The silver screen is hungry for blood and sweat — it demands serious hard work, which means there was no slacking at all on our part.”

When asked if she will take up offers from India, she says, “I will not bend over backwards to earn a role in Bollywood. I am staying true to my ideology and my craft. If things are meant to be in my favour, I will be handed whatever I deserve on a silver platter.”

When asked why he chose Rabia, Mengal says that the unusual love story will show her in a different light. “I felt Rabia was perfect for the role and after auditioning her, it was clear in my mind that she suits the character well,” he adds.
The director also expressed that he was committed to promoting new talent and that Zaman, who plays the lead role opposite Butt, was also making his debut. “We [film-makers] have to promote new talent in the industry. I think the two [Rabia and Zaman] will have strong on-screen chemistry and give powerful performances in the film.”

The film, which is touted as a big-budget project, is expected to release between October and November, adding to the array of Pakistani films slated for this year. The teaser will be out this Eid.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.

Main Hoon Shahid Afridi’s soundtrack is on air

Three tracks from the much-awaited movie Main Hoon Shahid Afridi have been released back to back this week. The producers have predicted that Jera Vi Aaan Dey, Beautiful Night and Engreeza Tere will be chartbusters.

“The music is brilliant. Even if all songs are not hits, I am 110% sure that at least two songs will be very successful,” actor and producer Humayun Saeed said in an interview earlier.

Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is a story which centres on cricket. Jera Vi Aaan Dey is more of a motivational track and serves the purpose of boosting the players’ self esteem. Beautiful Night features young boys and girls dancing and having a good time at a club but the lyrics don’t seem to go beyond “Everybody’s gotten closer, it’s a beautiful night.”

There’s good news for all the bhangra fans out there — Engreeza Tere is an upbeat Punjabi number and might just be one of the tracks to be played at mehendis.

The cast of the film includes Javed Sheikh, Nadeem Baig, Shafqat Cheema, Noman Habib (lead), Mahnoor Baloch and a host of others, including Saeed himself. It is scheduled to release on Eidul Fitr this year.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.

Minimal’s the word for Josh soundtrack

It has taken quite a struggle for the small-budget, internationally-acclaimed film Josh to finally make it to Pakistani theatres alongside big releases like Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Zinda Bhaag and Ishq-e-Khuda this Eid.

From the film’s soundtrack, the only video track that has been released is probably not getting as much air time on music channels as other pop songs due to Ramazan and its ‘different’ sound. However, the remaining three songs from Josh’s soundtrack are rather simple and basic, with only a few striking moments. Shahi Hasan and his studio Indus World Music have produced three songs for the film while the remaining one has only been mixed by him. After a disappointing season of Cornetto Music Icons, where none of the songs succeeded in making a great impact despite having big names in the line-up, Shahi applies his age-old approach to music in Josh. While the music does sound catchy at some instances, it appears to be repetitive and overdone. Having said that, the overall mood of the music does manage to create a raw appeal, which is needed for an independent film like Josh. However, the real impact will only be felt once it’s played in the cinemas

Tu Nach
This one is a typical Punjabi techno number with a catchy tune that is bound to make you shake a leg! The song is produced by Manesh Judge, Noor Lodhi and Michael Anand and is written by Barinder Judge.

The sound mixing has been done by Shahi Hasan. Tu Nach is by far the most captivating song in the film. However, it isn’t really an extraordinary composition – you are likely to find hundreds of Punjabi tracks with a similar melody. Nevertheless, it’s the groovy, engaging beat of the tabla that makes this song so powerful. The rap does not appear out of place within the song, but it does seem slightly exaggerated at places.

Mohabbat Ka Junoon
One of the major issues with composing Allama Iqbal’s poetry is that it has been done so fashionably by the band Junoon that anything different feels like abuse, whereas anything similar seems to be a complete rip-off. Mohabbat Ka Junoon, a poem by Allama Iqbal, is featured as the thematic soundtrack for the film and has been composed by Noor Lodhi and Asim Khan. The vocals are by Noor Lodhi, music is given by Shahi Hasan, Manesh Judge & Noor Lodhi, whereas the song has been produced by Shahi Hasan. The clich├ęd use of guitars and the tabla makes the sound appear weary. While Iqbal’s lyrics hold a deep, philosophical and interesting meaning to them, an avid music listener will hardly be able to contain a yawn. Innovation is what’s lacking here and not content.

The Time Has Come/Yeh Dil Kyun Mera
The third song of the film has two versions to it and is the original soundtrack (OST) for the movie. Both versions of the song have been composed by Shahi Hasan and Zoe Viccaji, who has also given the vocals.  It’s a slow and mellow number with a soft and somewhat grey feel to it. The sound of the guitar sets an ideal background for the film, which highlights stories inspired by Indo-Pak partition. The melody is powerful and flows smoothly, at least in the English version of the song called The Time Has Come. However, in the Urdu version, one can notice Zoe trying to make an extra effort that does not suit her vocal texture.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.

Humaima Malik will act with Emraan Hashmi in “Shatir”

After the much lauded Bol, the pretty actor will star opposite the serial kisser in Shaatir 

Well, it’s not Vidya Balan, nor is it any actress from Bollywood that Emraan Hasmi has worked with in the past who has been chosen as his co-star in his new film, Shaatir. The serial kisser, as he is known in B-town, will soon be sharing screen-space with Pakistani actress Humaima Malick, who was seen in the hugely acclaimed Urdu film Bol opposite Atif Aslam. But this, we are told, is conditional – the pretty lady has to get the right kind of visa first, the story goes.
And for those of you who are wondering if Kunal Deshmukh’s latest starring Emraan will be the actress’ debut in B-town, let us tell you that Humaima has forayed into Bollywood already with Soham Shah’s Sher featuring Sanjay Dutt. She will also be seen opposite Sharman Joshi in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s next. As for Emmi, after debacles at the box-office with films like Rush, Ek Thi Dayan and Ghanchakkar, our man certainly must be hoping that Jannat hit-maker Deshmukh will give him his lucky streak back.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to seeing this new pairing on the big screen…

Living on the Edge, S4 - 11th July – Ep 24

Living on the Edge, S4 - 11th July – Ep 24