Hold the dream (Saqib Malik)

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MR NICE

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My first Urdu feature film will go on floors next month in Karachi,” Saqib Malik says as he starts the conversation while taking a sip of his coffee in a noisy coffee shop at Zamzama.

Spilling some more beans about the movie, the creative genius behind Khamaaj says: “There is no foreigner or Indian involved in any of the artistic or technical departments. I want to prove that we can (independently) make good films here, too. All we need to do is to scratch a little further into our sensibilities and utilize our full creative and intellectual potentials.”

Saqib Malik had returned from Mumbai, India, on the very day this interview took place. Before he could start talking about his trip, Images quizzed him on losing the recent Lux Style Award in the best music video category to another ace director, Asim Raza. “Some awards are judged by the jury and some by the public. Mine was judged by the public. It could be that people liked Asim’s Mahi Ve more. Chances are that Khamaaj might have somewhat faded from their memories as it was quite old at the time the awards took place, which was later than usual. You see, I released Khamaaj in January 2004 while Mahi Ve was released in December 2004, so obviously it was fresher in people’s minds. You can’t always argue with how people think.”

As for the rising concern being expressed about the credibility and transparency of the LSA awards, specially the criticism it has garnered over the years, he says, “I think the LSA is trying very hard to raise the bar for such events and I respect that. As they evolve they will eventually get better but some of the acting awards that have been given over the years are absolutely ridiculous because some well-deserved work from television has been totally ignored whereas mediocre work has won. I firmly believe that if you want these awards to have some kind of prestige then it should be made sure that the people who win should be seen as those who should have won.

‘Ajnabee Shehr Mein is a commercial Urdu film with lots of songs and dances to cater to the mass appeal. It’s something I am extremely excited about. The film is a suspense thriller set in Karachi, a city which is perfectly suited for this theme because it has a dark edge of mystery and uncertainty to it,’ says Saqib Malik

And does Saqib have any suggestions? You bet. “The LSA awards were left completely at the mercy of the public votes and at times people can’t choose the best piece of work for a number of reasons. I don’t say this because people did not vote for Khamaaj. I think 60 per cent of the evaluation should be done by the committee or the jury and the rest should be left to public opinion. It should also be made sure that there are no alliances in the jury that favour certain groups. That’s the only way to achieve excellence in these awards.”

But award or no award, Saqib is now all charged up to take on newer challenges in the very near future. He will be directing Fuzon’s next video in 2007 and at the moment is focusing solely on his dream project — a full-length feature film. Although visibly hesitant to disclose any information about it at this point in time, he says, “It’s called Ajnabee Shehr Mein and stars Shaan, Ali Zafar, Tooba (model), Ali Saleem and Samina Peerzada in pivotal roles. It’s a commercial Urdu film with lots of songs and dances to cater to the mass appeal. The story is very well scripted by Sarmat Khoosat and the music is composed by Shanee. It’s something I am extremely excited about and want to experiment with.”

He is even more tightlipped about the plot of the movie. “All I can say now is that it’s a suspense thriller set in Karachi, a city which is perfectly suited for this theme because it has a dark edge of mystery and uncertainty to it.”

So why did he choose to direct a commercial suspense thriller when the masses are more drawn towards romantic films? “I chose a thriller because the characterization can be very detailed and intense, and I love to extract layers of hidden personalities and transport them to the big screen.”

At a time when the investment climate in Pakistan’s film industry is anything but fertile, Saqib is brave enough to make a debut as a film director. Moreover, he also wants his film to be appreciated by the public at large and not just by a handful of critics. “When somebody gives you a lot of money to spend on a film, you have a responsibility to return it with impressive dividends,” he says.

Considering the dismal state that our film industry is in for quite some time now, does he think that it is the right time to make a film with such ideals? “Why not? I think people in Pakistan love cinema as much as anywhere else in the world. It’s only that they don’t actually go to the cinema houses but they watch it at their homes. I think if they are provided an opportunity to watch something that they really like they will start returning to these theatres.”

As a director, Saqib has already made a name in ads and music videos. And now, after chartering into film territory, how differently does he see these three departments of film-making? “Although there is a certain level of creativity involved in making ad films, but you are bound by the idea that you have to get the message across in the best way possible and sell the product. I make ad films for money. On the other hand, I make music videos solely for my creative contentment. I have never made a penny making music videos, in fact I have spent a fortune making them most of the times. As far as feature film is concerned, it is a real challenge because it’s not something that is one minute or five minutes long, it’s something that is three hours long and people have to actually pay for it and come to the cinema by taking time out for it. Making a feature film is an ultimate challenge for any film-maker.”

Mumbai, says Saqib, left him totally fascinated. He went there to learn about post-production facilities and lab processing and to meet up with friends. He sings praises of the Indian people and how they have used their culture as a tool to enter global markets. “When I went there and saw how much they have achieved, I was like wow, they have got it. I really believe the Indians are going to conquer the world through Bollywood. Believe me, we can learn a lot from them because these people are more or less like us.”

So is he for Indian movies being screened in Pakistan? “I think they are already in Pakistan. I will definitely support the import of films from India but in a very controlled and limited way. We have very few cinemas left but we still have an industry in Pakistan that produces about 50 films in a year and that’s not less. If we allow all the Indian movies to come here, we will lose whatever small market is left for us here. We need to open doors for them so that we can learn from them. The Indians are technological very sound and they have already taken a lot from us. It’s time that we, too, should start ‘officially’ taking from them.

When asked whether our media has the potential to promote our culture, Saqib takes the last sip of his coffee before answering, “Media is a new religion in our country and people are obsessed by it.” And where does he think we will stand in say about next five years? “The media in Pakistan is going to stay for years to come although growth in this sector is very haphazard. But as we mature we will learn from our mistakes. But I also hope we don’t get too commercialized because when I look back at the old days of PTV I find it as an institution that valued a certain amount of integrity and a certain amount of craftsmanship, which is simply missing
Posted 19 Mar 2006

MR NICE says
Ajnabi Shehr Main and Khuda Kay Liye are two films which will take Lollywood to new horizons. I just hope that the public supports the efforts of Saqib Malik and Shoaib Mansoor.
Posted 19 Mar 2006

STANDARD says
excellent thought!
I think syed noor and other director who are making a noise should change their attitude and learn something from others.
Posted 20 Mar 2006

lets see
Posted 20 Mar 2006

valandrian says
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