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Firstperson: The flip side of Noor

June 24, 2012

Syed Ghulam Moheyuddin Noor popularly known as Syed Noor is a celebrated film director, writer, actor and producer today. He is considered one of the most successful film directors of Pakistan and has given some of the biggest silver screen hits such as Choorian, Jeeva and Deewane Tere Pyar Ke in the mid-90s. Although he has often been credited for revitalising the film industry, he received severe criticism last year for directing an Indian film despite his furious and fiery speeches against the screening of Indian films in Pakistan.

In his interview to Images on Sunday, Syed Noor not only tries to bail out of the allegations levelled against him but also attempts to explain why he repeatedly casts actress-wife Saima as the female lead in his films, and after going public with his strong anti-India stance, why he took on an Indian project. He also discusses in detail his present projects and future vision for Pakistan’s film industry.

After being party to a resolution passed against the screening of Indian films in Pakistan at the Alhamra Arts Centre, Lahore, at an event organised by like-minded filmmakers, Syed Noor went ahead and directed an Indian film, “I was approached repeatedly by Indian rap artiste Daler Mehdi to direct a Punjabi Indian flick, Meri Shadi Karao. It’s a comedy which has Mehdi’s son making his big screen debut as an actor. It’s a co-production between Pakistan and India as some 10 technicians from Pakistan are involved in the project.

“Earlier, I did take a stand against the screening of Indian films in Pakistan because the practice has damaged our film industry to a great extent. But keeping in view the woes of cinema owners who do not find much stock in the pipeline from our  film industry, I now say that till the time our industry manages to get back on its feet, we should allow the screening of Indian films in Pakistan.”

Doesn’t he think that’s a complete U-turn? “No, I don’t. I have softened my stance so that more cinemas don’t shut down in the absence of films that can be screened. However, I would like to mention here that we have to formulate a policy when it comes to the screening of Indian films in Pakistan. The government should reserve a quota for Indian films and a tax should be imposed on their import. The funds thus generated can be spent on the development of our film industry.

“We can also collaborate with our Iranian and Chinese counterparts to support our industry by introducing exchange visits between the two countries and co-productions.”

Does he think that co-productions with India should also come under the tax net?

“No, I think co-productions should be given leverage. Only Indian films which are being screened in our cinemas should be taxed.”

There is a lot of hype surrounding Noor’s current project, a Punjabi film titled Sharika on the sets at Shabab Studios. “Sharika is a story of two families who can’t bear to see each other prosper. There are jealousies and attempts to overpower each other in terms of money, ego, lifestyle, etc. It borrows a common theme from present-day society. The treatment given to the story and the film makes it extra-special. I hope it clicks at the box-office. One salient feature of the film is seven wooden homes were specially built at Shabab Studios to meet the demands of the script at a cost of Rs2.5 million! Sharika has been written and directed by me, music is by Tafu and the main cast includes Shaan, Saima, Mustafa Qureshi and Bahar Begum.”

Syed Noor has long faced scalding criticism on casting Saima in all his films as the lead actress.

“Honestly! I don’t see the harm in it. Saima is an extremely good performer. She is in demand, her success ratio is high and she is focused on her work. I don’t agree with what people say and I think she deserves the lead heroine’s slot every time. If you say that I don’t introduce new talent then I don’t agree because I have introduced a number of artistes such as Resham, Gia Ali, Irum Hasan and many others.”

Why not venture forth into Urdu films?

“Honestly, Urdu films require heavy budgets and when we talk of them we should keep in mind that Indian films are there in competition and we don’t have those kinds of budgets or resources. Such standards cannot be met without support from the government and a coordinated effort by the industry.

What about his parallel cinema venture, Price of Honour?

“It’s a two-hour film on the subject of honour killings and it will be released soon and then sent to various international film festivals.

Shedding further light on Price of Honour, Noor said, “The dubbing phase is complete and the film will hopefully be released by the end of this year. The cast comprises fresh, young faces who make their cinematic debut through it. Asim Mehmood, Naveed and Rakhshi were selcted through the TV talent hunt show, Hero Bannay ki Tarang. The film has no songs and it has been made with a budget of one-and-a-half crore rupees. Price of Honour has been shot in the southern areas of Punjab including Rahim Yar Khan, and it is written and directed by me.”

To a question, he added that he has plans to focus more on parallel cinema in future and that in his films he would take on various social issues.

How is his Paragon Academy of Arts contributing to the promotion of the performing arts?

“It is an initiative towards the promotion of the performing arts. We have held workshops from time to time and now that the syllabus has been designed, we are going to commence a six-month diploma course in acting within the next few months.”