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On the sets of Zinda Bhaag - I

Published Jun 15, 2012 04:38pm


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The crew. -Photo by Hassan Ebraheem.

It all started one day on a cozy winter evening when I discovered that I would be part of a roller coaster ride for the next four months.

Working for Zinda Bhaag as a second assistant director has been an amazing experience. Getting to work with so many inspiring people who have been a part of magnanimous ventures before was a great education. Working with the amateurs too, who had the passion and energy and found fun in everything they do, has been simply wonderful.

So, where do I start, it seems as if that was a lifetime, maybe because of the time being given or maybe because of the connections being made – those human connections which will long be cherished.

Zinda Bhaag is a feature film by the Indo-Pak debutant directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, based on the subject of illegal immigration. Millions of immigrants worldwide cross boundaries each year for better prospects – a dangerous journey to flee to supposed lands of opportunities. Bringing such a topic into limelight using the medium of cinema, catering to the local audience is such an intelligent idea and one that excited me; I didn’t hesitate for a single minute to be on board!

The film raises expectations given the star value of Naseeruddin Shah. It was a pleasure meeting him and watching him work on set. The man is an institution in himself; indeed, he is arguably one of the finest actors in the world today. His use of hesitant speech and casual gesture to signify psychological complexity sets him apart.

The film did change me somehow now when I think of it, living in Samnabad for few weeks, I got an opportunity to explore that part of Lahore. Samnabad instantly accepted me, wandering in its streets made me feel part of the cacophony of the bustling streets during the day time, as well as the winter night’s solitude. Some friends used to call it Bombay, I still wonder why. I recall a friend expressing his desire to write about Samnabad entitled “the secular Samnabad”.

I have always felt that Pakistan is a country of contradictions and more so whenever I get back from the realms of a distant land. I remember seeing a woman casually riding a bike in Samnabad, and it totally enamored me. I’ve always been warned to dress cautiously in the inner city, how redundant it seems now.

With films like Zinda Bhaag there springs the discussion about alternative versus mainstream media which greatly centers on the audience it’s going to garner. I personally think it’s about making an intelligent film as people have their fingers on the pulse. The first requirement of an intelligent film is an engaging story and a good story is normally one you can somehow relate to.

Getting our act together with regards to selecting engaging stories for screenplays, there appear complications of technique, logistics and budget; we can’t get away with that at any cost. Directing films is not one’s regular 9 to 5 schlep. One can learn the basics of film-making, but unless you possess that extra fervor, the kind that makes you wake up in the middle of the night and scribble down that incredible fantasy sequence or that camera angle which is sure to make the scene, you’re better off appreciating films from the comfort of your favorite armchair. But that’s not to discourage anyone. Rather, it is my sincere wish that new, young and talented Pakistani directors-in-waiting take up the challenge.

Here I would like to take the opportunity to thank Meenu Gar and Farjad Nabi on taking up this challenge albeit the odds related to the state of Pakistani cinema today; no matter where we arrive it was a worthwhile journey.

After these four months it’s safe for me to say that film-making is not an inexpensive undertaking, nor is it easy. It requires passion, time, money and a lot of hard work. If you’re willing to deal with loads of pressure and accept the challenge, the field is wide open for local independent film-makers. Here’s to hoping a new breed of visionary film-makers take up this challenge and usher in the age of the Pakistani digital feature film.


The author is a student of media studies, passionate and committed toward issues of human rights and social justice.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Anam Gill is a journalist contributing articles to various dailies on different sociopolitical issues.

She works as a columnist for Education for Sustainability, a project of a UK based organization.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (16) Closed

Tanveer Ahmad Jun 15, 2012 03:03pm
Film is a complete institution. Alas! we have lost it. Thought provoking piece of writing. Keep it up.
Siddiqui Jun 15, 2012 03:44pm
I notice the same pessimistic comments by you on every other blog in Dawn. If you have lost all hope why do you bother to read all these blogs/articles about Pakistan and Pakistanis? Just to convince others about your pessimism as well? Its simple... just stop reading and stop caring...
arshy Jun 15, 2012 03:46pm
i love samanabad also
Hariharan.S Jun 15, 2012 03:22pm
Noone is discriminating Pakistanis,my friend. As an Indian,I actually want an socially and economically stable pakistan as noone wants to rejoice seeing others suffer. Of course,I'm a bit selfish too because when the neighbors house is on fire,it could spread to my house too if I dont help to extinguish it... The truth is that its Pakistan who are discriminating others directly or indirectly. You cannot give safe haven for breeding international terrorists and expect others to forgive you. You cannot complain the immigration checks when many bombers seem to be linked to Pakistan at any point of their time I hope that people of Pakistan wake up and stop supporting the terrorists and hatemongers and start building good business relationship with other countries
Hasanalirana Jun 15, 2012 10:12am
your notion of Samnabad, Lahore touched the heart, Well done !!!
Zafar Malik Jun 16, 2012 03:54pm
Signs are very clear: demise of Pakistan's movie industry could be a blessing in disguise. Out of the ashes of that old and rotten to core film industry of Pakistan, a new industry is emerging, lead by dynamic, educated, progressive and talented people, who are more in tune with the modern world. As for the India-Pakistan collaboration in this filed, no one can stop it. it will continue and reach new heights. No boundaries can divide a thousand years of common heritage and cultural identity between the people of Subcontinent. We sing the same songs and dance to the same beat.
Ahmed Jun 15, 2012 02:26pm
Pakistan and Pakistanis have soul too, even with all the contradictions it is still a viable Nation, the Pakistani Nation. its citizens and people are not less than anyone else, it has just gotten a little bit sick right now, inshaALLAH with right therapy and conviction in a better tomorrow will bring this jewel its lost luster.
Garib Manus Jun 16, 2012 02:33pm
The Indian film industry is fortunate to have been blessed with many fine actors including Mr. Naseeruddin Shah. His is a special case, since he is not blessed with the "Chocolate Hero" looks. In his early fims and theatre, he used to be quite a show-off--a "look at me, how I am acting" kind of an attitude was often visible. However, he has been mostly able to overcome the narcissism over the years. BTW, it would have helped to know a bit more about the story and other participants.
GAUTAM Jun 17, 2012 01:24pm
BRR Jun 15, 2012 01:57pm
Generalizing on anecdotes can be as misleading as biased media reports the writer alludes to. One swallow does not a summer make.
sharma Jun 17, 2012 04:49pm
Good Mr Malik, then the United States of South Asia are not far.
Rao Jun 17, 2012 04:24pm
Hi Siddiqui, There are optimists, pessimists & terrorists on both sides. Leave these negative people to wallow in their world. The positive thinking people are the key to any change that happens. So think positive, read positive and see positive
Raana &Irfann Jun 17, 2012 10:25am
Anam thank you for sharing this ,we are looking forward to watch this film.
Anam Gill Jun 15, 2012 03:13pm
Just a correction here, the photo is taken by Hassan Ebraheem.
MKB Jun 16, 2012 04:06am
This is the view of many Indians.
Umar Najeeb Aug 02, 2012 07:30pm
Great work ! Looking forward to the film... :)