KARACHI, April 23: “Sheer belief has pushed me to make this film, which is the first political movie made in Pakistan over the past 65 years,” said filmmaker Shahzad Nawaz about his upcoming film, Chambaili, while speaking at the South Asian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday.
Mr Nawaz’s previous films include an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s book, Mothsmoke, into a feature called Daira (2003) and Botal Gali (2005), a film set against the backdrop of a conflict between bootleggers and bonded warehouses, resulting in a dearth of alcohol in Karachi.
Responding to the suggestion that Botal Gali couldn’t find a cinematic release due to a lack of avenues, Mr Nawaz said, “You open avenues yourself. I decided not to. You have to demand your right — especially in a country where your rights are taken away every day. I will release it the day I feel like it. And it will find a release.”
Fully titled, Chambaili: the fragrance of freedom, the film has been written and co-produced by Shahzad Nawaz and directed by Ismail Jilani. Set against a political backdrop, the film purports itself to be a ‘saga of courage, romance and sacrifice of a group of friends who are led by circumstances and incidents to find themselves at the crossroads of fate’. Some of the actors starring in the film include Salman Peerzada, Khalid Ahmed, Maira Khan, Shafqat Cheema, Omair Rana, Sadia Hayat, Saiqa Khayyam, Ali Tahir, Ehtisham, Khalid Qureshi, Fatima, Ali Fateh, Humayun Bin Rathor and Shahzad Nawaz with a special guest appearance by Ghulam Mohiuddin.
“This is a 100 per cent Pakistani film and we take great pride in saying that,” said the director while introducing the film. “The revival of cinema doesn’t take place with one film or by corporate-sponsored projects on TV. How is the corporate sector going to bring about a revival? They’re here to sell products.”
“What does a film have anything to do with TV?” he questioned, “There will be a revival of cinema when we start treating films like films.”
“When I made this film I only had Rs7,000 with me,” the filmmaker said hinting at the struggle involved in making the film. “Yet I believe it’s the biggest film ever produced in the country,” he said. “Every intelligent person told me that this would sink. But when you connect with your soul, you lose the fear of losing. Every time the film ran out of money, it came in from somewhere,” he provided.
Asked about his decision to cast relative newcomers in the film, Mr Nawaz responded, “What’s the point of picking up established stars to ensure the success of the film? Where is my input then? I haven’t cast actors – I have cast characters. And the characters need to be bigger than the film.”
During the talk, he showed videos of two songs from a film, Bahar, which showed the making of the film and is dedicated to his cast and crew, and Azadi — a song inspired by the freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh.
Talking about the potential impact of films as a medium through which to communicate ideas and educate audiences, he said, “There is always hope. I realised I have a bigger platform than that of our President, Prime Minister, Army chief and a two-hour press conference put together. This will become a part of our cultural archive and people will give references to it 50 years from now.” He related that a roundabout in Lahore where a part of the film had been shot was now officially called Chambeli Chowk.
As a word of advice to the film students, he said, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart. Even if the world tells you you’re wrong. We weren’t born to spend the rest of our lives trying to prove to people that we’re right.”