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Challenging convention one frame at a time

April 28, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: One of the words repeatedly used to describe the film Zinda Bhaag is ‘authentic’.

On the third day of the Islamabad Literature Festival, filmmakers Meena Gaur and Farjad Nabi described how this need for authenticity pervaded every aspect of their film.

Meena Gaur explained how stories like the one shown in Zinda Bhaag, could be found “on every street corner of Lahore”.

The session, entitled ‘Popular Cinema and Realism: In Conversation with the Makers of Zinda Bhaag’, was moderated by filmmaker Samar Minallah.

Gaur described how the film inverted typical movie tropes regarding heroes and heroines. “The heroes in our film are inverted,” she said, explaining how the three male leads, Khaldi (Khurram Patras), Chitta (Salman Ahmad Khan) and Tambi (Zohaib Asghar) challenge the idea of the classic macho Punjabi hero. “We wanted to change the idea of what it means to be masculine,” she added.

Similarly, the lead actress Rubina (Amna Ilyas) subverts the idea of the typical heroine found in mainstream cinema. Described by Farjad Nabi as “resilient, positive, and hardworking”, Rubina not only works as a counter to the cinematic expectations from a female lead character, but also the personalities of the male leads.

Nabi explained how the characters of the three boys were based on several young men the filmmakers met during the course of their research, many of whom were “looking for shortcuts”.

As a character willing to work hard and pay her dues, Rubina stands out.

The session also featured three short videos – one of an acting workshop organised by the filmmakers to train the actors, as well as music videos for the songs Pani Da Bulbula and Paar Channah.

Samar Minallah called the music ‘unconventional’ and noted how it helped weave the film’s narrative.

“We really worked hard on Zinda Bhaag’s music – it is close to our hearts,” said Nabi. This can be seen in how the song ‘Paar Channah’ complements the film’s theme of illegal immigration.

The filmmakers also discussed the inspiration for the film. The film focuses on illegal immigration and was inspired by a news story about a Greek ship that capsized and resulted in the deaths of almost 200 Pakistanis.

Gaur specifically noted a piece by producer Mazhar Zaidi on the topic, entitled ‘A Greek Tragedy’. When asked why the filmmakers chose not to shoot any action scenes based around such stories, Nabi said: “We wanted to show the story on this side of the sea.”

Gaur said that despite also being about struggle and misfortune, the film is mainly about “aspiration and resilience”. Instead of focusing on telling ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ stories, she said: “We must show our own stories and break out of what we are getting from Hollywood and Bollywood.”