The film might be titled 'Na Maloom Afraad' but its trailer definitely isn’t — within hours of being released online it spread like wildfire on social media websites and people began hailing the arrival of a new potential blockbuster in the budding Pakistani film scene.
With catchy dialogues like “Kehtay hain hartalon mein sab ka burra hota hai, humara bhalla honay wala tha” (People say everyone loses in a strike, we were about to benefit) and “Namaloom afraad… woh kahan say ayengay? Who hum hain!” (Unidentified persons… where are they going to come from? We are them!) the film uses socio-political unrest as the main pun of the film which is absolutely awesome.
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The official synopsis of the film reads: “Na Maloom Afraad is one such crazy story of three reckless, poor, struggling souls, running after their individual ambitions and desires, brought together by one incident which makes their not-so-simple life into a thrilling roller coaster ride of numerous ironic twist and turns. The three characters run around in the chaotic city of Karachi bringing out the craziest plan to save their love, life and asses.”
Those three characters are played by Fahad Mustafa, Mohsin Abbas Haider, Jawed Sheikh and Salman Shahid in what appears to be a villainous role. Urwa Tul Wusqa plays the female lead and Mehwish Hayat makes a special appearance as ‘herself’ in the film. 'Na Maloom Afraad' has been directed by Nabeel Qureshi and produced by Fizza Ali Meerza and her brother Mehdi Ali under the banner, Filmwala Pictures.
The production is slick and edgy, the sets are large, the humour is off-handed and relatable and, there is even a hint of a potential item number in the film. Overall, it looks like a well-shot commercial film and has neither the ‘telefilm’ or ‘independent, art film’ feel that Pakistani films have so far veered between.
“I’m glad you think so,” said the producer of the film, Fizza Ali Meerza. “We wanted this film to look like it was made for the cinema and our objective was to entertain audiences. That it should look like a big-budget commercial film.”
“Also, the fact is that we’ve seen all the films that have come out before and they’ve all been made on similar lines — terrorism, violence, extremism etc. and have been very serious.”
“Our idea wasn’t to give any kind of bhasan or ‘lesson’ to the audience. We just want to entertain them. So when they buy their ticket, they get that paisa wasool feeling.”
‘Na Maloom Afraad’ (unidentified persons) are often blamed by the government when it doesn’t seem to have a clue as to whom, or what group, is responsible for creating havoc in the city. The storyline is completely centered around and dependent on the numerous ‘strike/shutdown calls’ that take place in Karachi — the financial and trade capital of the country.
“We’ve used our own local ingredients in the film — how we cope with strikes, how some people take advantage of them and how everything goes back to normal the next day and yet, despite everything that’s happening, we stay happy,” said Fizza, “Things aren’t all well, but you can’t stop living!”
When did you start working on the film? “We started working on this sometime last year,” responded Fizza, “Nabeel (the director) and I wrote the script ourselves right before Ramzan and we started filming in January this year.”
That’s impressive considering how most other film projects have taken years to complete.
“This movie began and ended filming in the same year,” said Fizza with a hint of pride, “Everything was properly planned and scheduled. We marked our dates, shot it in time, edited in time and now we’re hoping to release it in time.”
Nabeel and Fizza's experience as ad-film makers was a huge advantage that came into play.
“Because Nabeel and I have both had experience on the ad film side, we were sorted about the team we wanted,” said Fizza, “We didn’t want to work with a team who were used to work in television serials. We wanted crew members who had worked in commercials because they would understand deadlines and the need to get everything done on a large scale and in time.”
The buzz surrounding the film started roughly a week ago and then suddenly, they released the promo online and it went viral! How did they manage to keep the film under wraps until now? “What actually happens here is that you make a promo and by showing that you get the finances to make a film,” said Fizza, “Our idea was to make a promo after we finished filming — to give the commitment of a film when we were ready to give that commitment.”
Na Maloom Afraad looks like a big-budget film. How difficult is it to find funding for a film? “It’s extremely difficult,” responded Fizza, “I am lucky I have family who is willing to support me. It’s been years since I’ve been wanting to produce a film.” Fizza registered Filmwala Pictures in 2004 with the idea of making a film.
“Our initial idea was to make a film without thinking about the ‘technicalities’ — we thought we could shoot the whole film on a Cannon 5D and we started off with a budget of Rs 5 million,” she related. “Over time, we realised if we were to do this properly, we were going to need more. In the end we ended this ended up becoming one of the biggest-budgeted films made in Pakistan.”
So how much did they end up spending? “Around Rs9crore,” said Fizza.
Now that the trailer is out, when are they planning to release the film?
“We’re targeting early September but don’t want to give out a date until we have one confirmed,” she responded, “A couple of Pakistani films are coming out before us and we don’t want to clash with them.”