Copies of the book which the late Kamal Ahmed Rizvi wrote will be given out at the premiere
Copies of the book which the late Kamal Ahmed Rizvi wrote will be given out at the premiere

“You know how there are some things in life you feel are exactly what you’ve been waiting for? This felt like that.” Those words were spoken by Shehzad Roy as he talked about his upcoming project: a film adaptation of the 1960s television series, Alif Noon.

Shehzad is playing the character of Allan, a con man bent on breaking the rules and engaging in shady affairs to move forward in life. His unsuspecting partner-in-crime, Nanha, will be played by comedian and actor Faisal Qureshi. Turns out that not only has the latter penned the script, but he’ll also direct the film as well.

“I was offered movies earlier, but didn’t do those,” says Shehzad. “We had been trying other projects, but those didn’t work out. Anwar Sahib’s project [Shehzad announced in 2015 that he was going to act in a film whose script was being penned by Anwar Maqsood] was something that we have to do. It’s a great script. But this [Alif Noon] is something we want to do right now.”

Shehzad Roy and Faisal Qureshi are working on an Alif Noon feature film

Once they decided to work on this, they also approached PTV and got the rights to do the film adaptation. They also spent time with the wife of the scriptwriter and Allan of the original series, the late Kamal Ahmed Rizvi. “Her name is Ishrat Jahan,” relates Shehzad. “She gave us many copies of a book which Kamal Sahib wrote. It’s not available in the market. We’re planning to give them out at the premiere so people can have access to it. She’s also writing a book herself.”

Faisal Qureshi
Faisal Qureshi

Are they planning on recreating a particular episode from the series or will this be a whole new story? “Whole new story, but the chemistry between the characters, the content is going to be similar,” says Shehzad. “Because our issues have changed [since the original Alif Noon series was on air], there’s [advancements in] technology, the world has changed etc. The same way earlier instalments of Mission Impossible were different vs now.”

The character that Shehzad plans to portray in the film, the sleazy con artist Allan, is a bit different than the social justice warrior image he’s cultivated — through his music videos, Shehzad has always tried to shed light on the issues in Pakistani society and is quite active in charity work with a focus on education. Considering this is also his first major acting project, apart from music videos, how does he feel about portraying Allan? “If you see my music video Apney Ulloo, I’m playing multiple characters in it,” responds Shehzad. “Faisal also felt that I am [best suited for] Allan. There’s a chance I might have a little moustache. We did a screen test to check as well.”

It’s a whole new story, but the chemistry between the characters, the content is going to be similar,” says Shehzad Roy

So, will he be changing his look for this character? “Yes,” he confirmed. “My look will be changed. Totally. It won’t be the purana Alif Noon look, this will be completely different. This is the 2019 version of Allan, so he’ll be a little fit. You’ll see a few tattoos on Nanha as well. For Nanha (originally essayed by the portly Rafi Khawar), Faisal is planning to gain some weight as well.”

A part of the film will be shot in Bangkok. Why have they chosen that location? “It’s being filmed in Pakistan as well but most of the filming is in Bangkok because there’s a lot of action in the film,” he explained. “We don’t have the environment to film the action, here. This was Faisal’s decision. But it’ll look like the whole film is set in Pakistan.” They’re currently in the process of finalising an action director for the project.

Shehzad Roy - Photo courtesy: Shehzad Roy
Shehzad Roy - Photo courtesy: Shehzad Roy

One would expect, with his background as an artist and producer, Shehzad might be heavily involved in the soundtrack as well. Apparently, that’s not the case. “I’m not doing it,” he clarified. “There are multiple producers involved in this, including Shani. But I might sing one song.”

They’re aiming for a release on Eidul Azha which is falling in August next year. Considering the time-frame, it’s a bit ambitious. “We’re aiming for that,” says Shehzad. “But you know how it is with films, there might be delays, but hopefully not.”

How does he feel now that they’ve started work on the new Alif Noon? “I’m very nervous but a little relaxed as well because it feels like a natural alliance,” says Shehzad. “The way I think and Faisal writes, we’re on the same wavelength. And to make that commercial for us is very easy. The comfort level is there. But darr bohat hai keh hum ne apna best deyna hai kyonke pehli dafa ek film kar rahe hain [But there’s also a lot of fear that we have to give our best because this is our first film].”

Published in Dawn, ICON, November 4th, 2018