Adeel Hashmi: ‘We’ve lost out on 40 years of branding Pakistan’
BY Ayesha Babar
Pakistani cinema is back with a bang – and this time it has so much more to offer. From raw, hard-hitting features like Manto to romantic comedies like Bachaana. Producers are well-aware of this new market and after the tremendous success, in Pakistan and overseas, of Jawaani Phir Naheen Aani and Karachi se Lahore among others, are keen to deliver wholesome, fun entertainment to audiences.
Bachaana is the latest Pakistani film to hit UK screens last weekend and stars popular actors Mohib Mirza, Sanam Saeed and Adeel Hashmi in the lead roles. Bachaana is the story of Vicky, a Pakistani cab driver in Mauritius meets and eventually saves Sanam Saeed’s character, Aalia, a young girl from India, from her evil husband, played by Adeel Hashmi.
Shot in idyllic locations, with state of the art cameras and technology, the film feels like a visual treat for viewers. The acting of the leads has also received rave reviews from critics. Since its release in Pakistan in February of this year, Bachaana has delivered solid box office numbers.
One of the highlights has been to see Addel Hashmi in his first ever serious role. The actor, marketer and activist has become somewhat of a TV icon over the last two decades with his portrayal of various comic roles, and is best remembered for his character of ‘Lucy’ from the sitcom ‘Teen Bata Teen’.
Asian Style Magazine caught up with Adeel while he was in London to promote Bachaana and asked him about the film, his career and the Pakistani cinema industry.
Ayesha: So you have finally made your film debut – after years of working on TV. How important was it for you to act in Bachaana?
Adeel: It was very important personally for me to do a film. Pakistani cinema is coming up in a big way and we wanted to form a team and make a film. There was a personal journey for me as an actor too. I had not done any films before. I had done television for 15 years but mostly comic roles. Then the director of Bachaana, Nasir Khan, came along and offered me to do the baddie in the film and I looked at him and said: you want me – the only person in the country who people don’t wanna see as a baddie? you want me to do the negative role in your film?
And he said: Sir mein aapko jaanta houn aur aap ander se bahut evil aadmi hain (I know you and you are mischievously evil inside) – and I am sure you will do it and do it well! (laughs). And I thought to myself that this would be a real challenge – one that I would love to take up
Ayesha: It was definitely one of the things that people were most surprised to see in the trailer – you in a negative avatar.
Adeel: Since I do not have too many dialogues, I remember discussing with Nasir, the director, that I want to play this character as a psychological villain – where you do very little but the audience can still see that something evil is going on inside this guy’s head.
And I remember, discussing this with Nasir and trying to profile the character and to see what was the best way to approach it. And finally we nailed down one and said this is the guy I wanted to play. And I think that kind of worked – when I watched the film with an audience, I could see that they were reacting to him – which is a success.
Ayesha: The film was released in Pakistan in February. What has been the reaction so far?
Adeel: The response has been tremendously positive and I was just looking at the poster that has been put up in the UK cinema; it features five quotes from five different newspapers in Pakistan, all saying good things about the film. And that’s a very rare thing when everyone comes together and has the same thing to say about a film.
Ayesha: Especially in Pakistan!
Adeel: Especially in Pakistan! You know, you can’t bribe all of them (laughs).
Ayesha: Are there any plans to release Bachaana in India too, especially since Sanam Saeed has garnered a huge fan following there after Zindagi Gulzar Hai?
Adeel: Generally, it is very difficult to release a Pakistani film in India. They have their own films, and those are so much bigger budget-wise that it might be a challenge to make our mark there. Give it a couple of years and we will definitely get there. Not yet, but we are well on our way!
Ayesha: Pakistani cinema has had a renaissance moment in the last couple of years. Where before we had hardly a release or two in a year, we had about 15 good films coming out of the country last year and even more are lined up for this year. I would like to get your reaction on this resurgence.
Adeel: I think this is absolutely fantastic. In fact I feel like we have missed out on 30-40 years of cinema. And being a marketing person, I feel we have more importantly lost out on 40 years of branding Pakistan. I mean, look at what India has done through its films – they have branded India all over the world.
And we haven’t done that because we just didn’t realise the power of the film. Now the good thing is that the new age filmmakers have woken up and in the last five years, the number of screens has mushroomed – we now have over a 100 in Pakistan. And about 50-70 cinemas are coming up in the next 4-5 years. So I definitely believe that the Pakistani film industry is going to go places. Already films are being released in key centres like the UK, US, and Dubai and I think in the years to come there will be much more positive growth.
And the most heartening thing is that thankfully, our young filmmakers have not gone the Bollywood route. Instead, they have told their own stories. Films like Waar, Bol, Shah, Jawaani Phir Naheen Aani, Moor, Manto – they are all stylistically so different and I think that is fantastic. That we are telling our own story in our own unique way.
Ayesha: How was your experience of working with Mohib and Sanam? Mohib has done a few films before and Sanam has made her film debut with Bachaana. How was the chemistry?
Adeel: I was actually very pleasantly surprised. I am a very private person – the team that I have worked with for the past 15 years is my own team. I usually hesitate to work with people from outside my team but I have to confess that I was very pleasantly surprised. One good thing, whether it was by chance or done on purpose was that Mohib has done a lot a theatre previously and Sanam too, has worked a lot in theatre. And when you bring theatrical actors on screen – they are used to working hard, they are used to rehearsals, they are used to working long hours, and they are used to getting it right.
And if you see the film, you will see that these two have pretty much pulled off an impossible task – with a two –character film, you can’t definitely can’t take your eyes off the screen – their tempo, their pace, their chemistry, is just very, very refreshing. So I was very happy working with them. Only hopefully, you won’t ask them the same question, because they might have some bad things to say about me (laughs).
Ayesha: From the trailer, we can see that the story revolves around a Pakistani man, Mohib and an Indian couple, which is you and Sanam in Mauritius. Were you very conscious that you didn’t want it to become a clichéd story because we have seen similar stories before where either the man has been Pakistani and the woman Indian or vice versa?
Adeel: I think it is always important to not to do creative things in a clichéd way, no matter what it is. An idea can be simple, an idea can be repetitive – a love story has obviously been attempted many times but it is the way you do it, the way you deliver art, the way you produce anything that is entertaining – the craft is what people want to come and see. We all know that Michelangelo made David but that doesn’t mean that people do not wish to see any other depictions of David. In fact, people keep going over and over to see different figures of David. That’s because it is the craft that gives audiences delight as much as the subject. This is a light-hearted, fast-paced, humorously entertaining story and I think people would like to see it for its treatment, its humour, its tempo, I think people would love it.
Ayesha: What is next in the pipeline for you? When do audiences next see you on the silver screen, after Bachaana, of course.
Adeel: We are working on a new film project that should hopefully be out by the next year. You know, Man proposes and God Disposes so let’s see what the Supreme Commander has in store for us.
Ayesha: All the best for the UK release of Bachaana and for your other projects!
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