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The year 2017 hasn’t taken the Pakistan film industry forward with multiple flops and mediocre productions. But actors Danish Taimoor and Sana Javed believe that the trend is all set to change with their upcoming film Mehrunisa V Lub U (MVLU). Yes, you read it right — ‘Lub U’ instead of ‘Love You.’

“It is a deliberate attempt on our part to use these words in the title because it gives the impression of unconditional and unlimited love,” Danish Taimoor starts the conversation, explaining the unusual title of the flick. “It gives you the feeling of too much love, just as the word Janu or Jaan.”

“It has been inserted so that the audience would know that they are in for a romantic film where the hero loves the heroine a lot, and uses ‘Lub U’ as a way to express his feelings,” Sana Javed joins in with her logic which seems … well, logical! “It removes the seriousness that would have been associated with ‘Love You’ and trust me, when you leave the theatre, you will agree with the innovation in the title.”

Innovative the title may be but the Saqib Sumeer-written flick landed into controversy as soon as the teaser was released — a famous scene featuring South Indian superstar Rajinikanth was recreated with Nayyar Ejaz doing the Laka Laka Laka routine — they were all taken aback with the criticism. “We didn’t know that the sequence was taken from an Indian flick otherwise we would have objected. Yasir (Nawaz) bhai also wasn’t aware of the inspiration. It is a small part of the film which is going to surprise you on many aspects.”

It remains to be seen whether innovation extends beyond the title in Mehrunisa V Lub U

The biggest surprise MVLU brings out before its release is the induction of veteran Bollywood poet Gulzar as the lyricist. The man behind countless classics including Musafir Hoon Yaroon (Parichay), Tujh Se Naraaz Nahi (Masoom) and Chhayya Chhayya (Dil Se) finally makes his debut in a Pakistani film. “One of our producers, Hassan Zia, is friends with Gulzar sahib and it was an honour for us to have performed on songs that have been written by the maestro. The music has been composed by Seemab Sen. Indian playback singers including Sukhwinder Singh and Armaan Malik have lent their voices for the numbers which will give us an edge over the other Eid releases.”

Veteran Bollywood playback singer and the voice behind Chhayya Chhayya Sukhwinder Singh and Danish Taimoor go back to 2007 when Danish performed on a jingle by the Indian singer and made his mark as a potential star. “It was a long time back when I saw Dard-i-Disco in a cinema in Thailand and wished to perform on Sukhwinder’s vocals — the next thing I knew, Asim Raza was shooting for a commercial and I was performing on the vocals of Sukhwinder.”

Gulzar isn’t the only one making his film debut in Pakistan with MVLU. TV actress Sana Javed also will be seen for the first time on the silver screen and she isn’t nervous about it at all. “This was the first film I agreed to do from the few offers I had because the character had margin to perform. I am sick of the monotonous roles being offered to women on TV and it’s time we stood up and made a difference. Instead of playing the clichéd ‘chai le ke aati hoon’ [I’ll bring the tea] girl on TV, I am seen standing beside my love interest (pointing to Danish) and being part of a story that revolves around me. I have confidence over the project and that’s why we aren’t bothered about the competition. It is a masala family film that will take the industry forward.” The dazzling actress claims with a smile that is likely to attract audience to cinemas.

The industry will surely move forward with Hassan Waqas Rana’s Yalghaar also slated for an Eid release. There is also a chance that Sohail Khan’s Shor Sharaba might also push for a release during the long weekend. However, Danish claims that Yasir Nawaz and his team are reviving cinema, not competing with others. “The film that will make a connection with the masses will succeed and our movie has all the ingredients required from a hit. It is about a small community that changes with the advent of one of their own who has seen the world and vows to bring change for the better. There is action, romance, comedy followed by first-rate music and above all, a message for the audience. During the Eid weekend, people like to be entertained and our film will provide them just that.”

First-timer Saqib Sumeer — an upcoming writer/actor on TV and theatre — has co-written the screenplay with Yasir Nawaz and penned the dialogues, his first for a film. Wasn’t opting for a newcomer a big risk considering films are failing at the box office right, left and centre, I ask. “Saqib may be a new writer for films but he has an ‘old way of thinking.’  He has done a lot of theatre and TV, while also provides comic relief in not one but two roles in the film. You will find his style of writing and acting a breath of fresh air and he will surprise you with his antics.”

The biggest surprise MVLU brings out before its release is the induction of veteran Bollywood poet Gulzar as the lyricist.

Danish also dismissed the similarity between his characters in Wrong No. and Mehrunisa V Lub U. “One of the two roles I played in Yasir bhai’s last film was that of an educated guy but in this film, it’s quite different and not the extension of that guy. My character belongs to a Burnes Road-type place that is stuck in the past. I take steps to take it to the modern times especially after marriage. How he manages to do that despite opposition from all quarters forms the crux of the story. Some people argued that the film had Bollywood touch but trust me, the issues and their resolution is Pakistani, with a strong message for the audience.”

The film cast comprises veteran Jawed Sheikh as father of Danish’s character, Qavi Khan as the grandfather (in a comic role) and Adnan Saeed as the brother. Sana Javed’s father is played by music composer and actor Arshad Mehmood while Laila Zuberi makes her return to films after last year’s Teri Meri Love Story. “I play the childhood sweetheart of Danish’s character in the film,” Sana Javed says, explaining her character. “The titular character of Mehrunisa is a very loving, caring and sensitive girl who moves into a locality that is exactly the opposite of the place where she comes from. She is a shy individual who is very close to her father and the change of environment makes things difficult for her.”

How difficult was it shooting the songs considering the heroine was clad in a sari in subzero temperature. “Everybody is talking about the Yash Raj effect and I am glad that people noticed it,” Sana Javed takes a pause before completing her sentence. “Everyone on the location fell on the ice and nobody noticed, but when I did during the shoot, it was captured on video and will be made available in the BTS.” (Laughs)

“Actually it was my fault that she fell down and injured herself,” Danish Taimoor interrupts, explaining the details of the accident. “I was supposed to jump from one point to another — both covered with snow — and my leg got tangled in her sari pallu and we both fell down. Her injury was major as she was wearing chiffon on ice and the temperature was minus-eight. But we were determined to go for the shoot and that’s why we didn’t mind shooting for 18 hours straight, for six days — I would say that we were acting like superhuman beings and survived due to the heaters and the constant flow of strong black coffee.”

And then there was the support act by the guest star — the snow. “You will not believe that during one shot, when Yasir bhai called ‘Action!’ it started to snow and when he said ‘Cut’ it stopped. Even the snow was having a good time and we used that shot in the teaser,”’ Sana Javed says as she illuminates the awkward moment. “The biggest task of the snow sequence was giving full expressions while being dead from the inside and that will surely impress the audience.”

Danish Taimoor is currently busy shooting for Jawed Sheikh’s Wujood whereas he has signed Zulfikar Sheikh’s directorial debut Sacch – The Truth. He says that he is happy doing leading roles in Pakistan, than running after second leads in India. “If Karan (Johar) casts me in a film where I am playing the main lead, that’s the only time I will agree, otherwise I am happy with whatever offers I have in Pakistan. I find the love of my people — who throng our shoot on location as early as 6am — more rewarding than working abroad in a supporting role.”

For Sana, filmdom is the new home and she hopes to push TV into second position. “Working in films was a refreshing experience as it was the mirror image of what we do on TV. I was able to laugh for a change and do something meaningful at the same time. I am now clear about my goals — I will either do comedy on TV or roles that help in making people aware of social issues such as women empowerment. I will consider before accepting more films offer but yes, films is the future and I intend to be a part of that industry.”

Published in Dawn, ICON, June 18th, 2017