Lahore to Delhi: A story in filmmaking

Film time

When three young and popular Pakistani filmmakers visit India to promote their film, curiosity is obvious, more so when one of them happens to be an Indian by birth and Pakistani only by marriage. 

Meet Farjad Nabi, Mazhar Zaidi and his wife Meenu Gaur - the filmmaker trio who have created quite a buzz in Pak with their first commercial feature film Zinda Bhaag (Escape alive).

Mazhar has a standing of over 20 years as a journalist and filmmaker. He headed the documentaries and current affairs division at Pakistan’s leading Dawn News, and his films Nar Narman and Awazay have collected some prestigious film awards. 

It was during his stint with BBC at UK when he met Meenu- a student of Film and Media Studies at University of London. Love blossomed and Meenu, originally from Kolkata, moved to Pak with Mazhar three years later.

Farjad, who has made a few well-acclaimed documentaries on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s global tour, Lahore film industry’s last poster artist, music in interior Sindh etc., joined them along the way. And now, the three are ready to take contemporary Pakistani cinema by storm.

“Zinda Bhaag,” Meenu informs us, “is about young Lahori men trying to escape Pakistan and its everyday realities - love, drugs, money, power and more. Naseeruddin Shah, who plays a local toughie in the film, helps these boys flee to different countries.”

“We auditioned about 2000 acting enthusiasts and recruited around 400. Also, we requested Naseer sahib to conduct a few acting workshops for these kids, half expecting that he would turn it down. To our surprise, he agreed; and these actors, who had never acted in anything before, were now training under Naseeruddin Shah. It instilled a lot of confidence in them.”

“Shooting, though tough, also came as a pleasant surprise,” adds Farjad. “Our technical crew was Indian and they were amazed to see how cooperative Lahoris were. We even inconvenienced people by asking them to keep quiet in their own houses while we did sync sound; but they went along with us. The crew was fantastic and it was only their passion which kept us going on even the really bad days.”

The Indo-Pak cooperation didn’t end here though. The trio are now finishing post-production work in Delhi. Mazhar informs us, “Lollywood (Lahore’s film industry) is in a bad shape. The old infrastructure, studios, equipment are crumbling. There is dependency on technical tools, crew from Thailand, Malaysia etc.. The reason we chose India is because of the shared language and cinema. All of us can relate better.”

“These are strange times for Pakistani cinema,” he continues, “On one hand, the demise of the Lahore based film industry (Lollywood) has been announced which is disconcerting for fans like us; but on the other hand there is talk of the revival of Pakistani cinema with many exciting projects in different stages of production and post-production.

“Many informal Indo-Pak collaborations with respect to films are functional already. For example, Pakistani musicians are part of every other Bollywood film nowadays and actors also keep venturing cross-border- like Ali Zafar in Tere Bin Laden. 

“If there is anything more that India can provide- it is interest. If there is an interest in Pakistani cinema and exhibiting it in India, that by itself will go a long way in strengthening the future of Pakistani film industry.”   

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