KARACHI: Zinda Bhaag, a comedy thriller with debut performances by non-actors and featuring one of India’s finest actors Naseeruddin Shah, premiered at the Ocean Tower mall on Wednesday evening.
The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee has selected it as the first Pakistani film in over 50 years to be submitted for Oscar consideration in the Foreign Language Film Award category at the 86th Academy Awards.
Mazhar Zaidi, the film’s producer, said: “We are releasing our film on Sept 20 all over the country including cities such as Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Multan. Later, we plan to also release the film in Sialkot and Sargodha among other cities."
“Prior to the film’s release we did test screening with 50 viewers and we received a fantastic response. Hence, our expectations are quite high and some people have even said that Zinda Bhaag may set a new trend in film making.
“We are lucky that we made the film at a time when Pakistani cinema is coming of age,” said award-winning documentary filmmaker Farjad Nabi, the co-director of the film.
When asked if at any point the film had to be stalled due to lack of finances, Mr Nabi said: “It is interesting that I am being asked this question because I learnt while making the film that sometimes your writing can be determined by funding and vice-versa. Ours was a low-budget movie and the only way we did cost-cutting was by having the actors rehearse the script thoroughly before we shot their scenes.”
About choosing non-actors for his debut movie, Mr Nabi said the choice was deliberate as he and his co-director Meenu Gaur wanted actors who the audience could relate to.
All the three non-actors Salman Ahmed Khan, Zohaib Asghar and Khurram Patras were quite thrilled to be part of the movie and especially the fact that they got to work and interact with Mr Shah.
“It was a surprise for us for we had no idea that he was a part of the film. We were just so happy to be selected for the movie. The acting workshop that he conducted was a wonderful experience as he taught us acting tips in an affectionate manner,” said the three excited young actors.
Mr Patras, a salesman, and Mr Asghar, a mobile accessories dealer, said that they intended to continue acting after Zinda Bhaag.
According to Gaur, casting the female lead for the film was a challenge. “For male leads we were able to get at least 100 boys for auditions but for girls we barely got three. Our casting team even went as far as Multan to find girls for the role. Luckily, we found Amna Ilyas who we auditioned over Skype. She was just the kind of spunky female we were looking for.”
Ms Ilyas, a well-known model, said that initially she was hesitant to sign the movie but when Mr Zaidi, the film producer, said that he was going to tell her a secret which she could tell no one and that secret was that Mr Shah was going to be a part of the film.
“That was a clincher for me and I immediately agreed to do the movie,” said Ms Ilyas, who looked striking in a funky Fahad Hussayn sari.
About her future movie plans she said that she had already acted in another movie Good Morning Karachi, formerly known as Rafina, directed by Sabiha Sumar and awaiting its release in early 2014.
The movie’s music that has also won Best Music award at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival in Mississauga, Canada, has been generating a lot of buzz.
“Sahir Ali Bagga [of Cocktail fame], the film’s music composer, has created music that is warm and real. Mohammed Hanif, journalist and author of ‘A case of exploding mangoes’, has written the lyrics of song Dekhaingay and journalist Hasan Mujtaba has penned a qawwali that has been sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan,” said Ms Gaur.
The filmmakers said plans were under way to release the film internationally. “Zinda Bhaag’s release plans for the US and UK markets are at an advanced stage. In fact, by October the film will be released in the UK,” said Mr Nabi. “We have already spoken to a couple of distributors in India, so hopefully we shall release the film in India as well,” said Mr Zaidi.