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Zinda Bhaag: Revival of Pakistan Film Industry

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New film "Zinda Bhaag" has officially been sent for nomination to Oscar Awards. It has already received “4 awards” in Canada’s MISAFF 2013. Lead song has been admitted by “Apple i-tunes” as top 69th popular tune in the world. Zinda Bhaag will help revive Pakistani Film Industry ..

By Rohail Khan

Recently, unlike film pundits, I predicted "Main Hoon Shahid Afridi" will break new grounds and cause revival of Lollywood - Pakistan's film Industry. Bingo. The movie broke records and proved a box office hit.

Now it is the turn of “Zinda Bhaag” to further consolidate the industry’s revival.

Travelling to Karachi for Zinda Bhaag’s premiere, I was quite optimistic about the outcome.

An eye witness of its pre-screening at the Canadian Film Festival (Mississauga South Asian Film Festival – MISAFF 2013), I had fondly observed the over-whelming response this low-budget movie received from the Western critics.

I am proud to share: Zinda Bhaag has received “four awards” in its pre-screening in Canada, including the best movie, best lead actress, best soundtrack, and best supporting actor.This recognition was won amid stuff competition from movies made by renowned European and North American production houses. Indeed, extraordinary testimonials by all standards !

Karachiites would recall Ayesha Manzil on the M.A. Jinnah Road. This neighbourhood served as a centre of mercantile activity right from independence in 1947 until the late 1980s when things slowed down and made the area congested and shabby. Well not any more. The construction of a new five-star Cineplex has “face lifted” the area and added new ambiance and hustle bustle to the ever-green artery of Karachi city.

Watching the premiere at this new Cineplex, I was enamoured with the beauty of both the movie and the movie house. Outside the Cineplex, the well-decorated M.A. Jinnah Road brought back old memories.

I may not be an accomplished film critic but, as a talent promoter, am genuinely inspired with Zinda Bhaag. The new movie definitely stands out as a creative picturisation of the peculiar attitudes adopted by middle-class youth as a result of daily life aspirations.

Zinda Bhaag effectively portrays how the new generation wants to succeed but prefers to adopt a short cut to achieve wealth and fame. The movie has depicted how most youngsters nowadays are on the spree to change their life by winning a jackpot !

Joint venture of ARY TV and Footprints Production, Zinda Bhaag appears to be the story of every household. The young writer and the two directors, born and raised in delightful Lahore, have in a genuine manner shown the “Lahori commoners acting the Lahori way”.

The story hovers around a middle-class neighbourhood in Lahore, where three youngsters Khaldi (Khurram Patras), Taambi (Zoheb) and Chitta (Salman Ahmed) are waiting to achieve their “Pakistani Dream” to enjoy life to its fullest. College drop-outs and poverty-struck, the blokes are adamant to flee to the West to try out their luck. Mesmerised with green pastures across the seven seas, they are adamant to adopt all tactics regardless of consequences. In the hope to win a "jack pot", they team-up and indulge into a frenzy of efforts to leave Pakistan.

Rest assured, I will not disclose the story any further. However, you will thoroughly enjoy the taunt and the comedy that is well-entrenched in the script. Watching this new movie, you will be enriched with an entire range of slangs - so rampant in Lahore's jargon nowadays.

International celebrity and Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah has played the amusing role of “Phulwan” - a self-acclaimed don of the Lahore streets. We are told, Shah was so excited to review the script, he volunteered to become a "mentor" to the newcomer directors.

"Star value" of Naseeruddin Shah has added weight so has veteran Pakistani actress Madam Naghma, who received “best supporting actor award” at the Canadian festival.

The music has been composed by Sahir Ali Bagga, already established in Pakistan as a progressive music director. His masterful use of live orchestra was duly acknowledged when he was awarded "best music director" at the Canadian film festival.

I must advise my readers that Zinda Bhaag's lead song has last week been admitted by “Apple i-tunes” as top 69th popular tune in the world.

Sahir Bhagga was instrumental in persuading Music Maestro Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to render his famous Qawwali. Pakistan's well-known singer and social activist, Abrar ul Haq has renderred "Pani Ka Bulbula" and added new life to this ever-popular Lahori folk song.

Amna Ilyas, heart-throb young model from Karachi, has shown a promising performance as the “lead heroine”. Meenu Gaur, Farjad Nabi, and Mazhar Zaidi are the movie’s co-directors and co-producers.

Having experimented with various documentaries since 2010, the “genius trio” built their own homogenous team of semi-skilled actors, crew, cameramen, and technical staff. The team has worked on the movie consistently since 24 months. Many cross roads of uncertainty and frustration came, but the team improvised and overcame the hurdles successfully.

You will be surprised that the art and animation team consists of “teenaged students” from Lahore's National College of Arts and the Beacon house School. The jury of the Canadian film festival gave “special citation” to these budding artists.

At the premiere I had the honour of sipping tea with Syed Noor, Pakistani film Industry's legendary director. He declared: “the young and talented directors have not compromised over any technical matter”. He showed the desire to emulate the movie and propagate it among the industry’s financiers and producers.

Super star Nadeem Baig, confessed: “the movie is a bold step to break the monotony that was caused by stereo-typed movies being produced at Lollywood”.

Super actress Sangeeta, most well-dressed socialite at the Premiere, commented: ”we are confident this movie will caste out a solid footprint in the international scenario”.

Umer Sharif, Indo-Pak’s top sitcom artist and film producer, vehemently said: “we must promote our heritage, our talent, and our industry. If we don’t promote our own people then who will ?”

Zia Mohiuddin, veteran actor and art critic, was as usual eloquent. “Zinda Bhaag is the young chic that has come out and broken the shell. Hopefully, the trend to set new trends will continue”.

During the three-day stay in Karachi, it was heart-warming to be told that millions of exuberant movie-goers across Pakistan faithfully watched the movie. The producers would not want the tax authorities to know, but the fact remains, Zinda Bhaag has comfortably made a business of Rupees 10 million within a week of its release.

Given the limited budget in which the movie was made, it is expected to earn Rs 30 million as it is planned to be released in the United States, Canada and India. Lollywood seniors and conventional critics, desire the movie to be commercially successful, thus providing a “jump start” to other wannabe producers and directors in Lahore and Karachi.

Pakistani Film Industry, appears set to experience a revival. Upcoming movies in-the-offing will certainly reinvigorate the industry in many dimensions. Entry of talented new comers and educated urbanites will cause the industry's transfusion. Hopefully the "fresh blood" will, in near future, place the industry head-to-head with Bollywood and Hollywood.

Zinda Bhaag has officially been sent for nomination to the Oscar Awards. I do expect the movie will surprise many a giants. As for now, box office experts have declared it a hit. We do hope Zinda Bhaag makes it to the Oscars.

Hollywood. Here we come !

[Rohail Khan, Canadian-Pakistani, is a senior banker, media advisor, social activist, and philanthropist. He can be reached at: rohailkhan00@gmail.com]
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