In a year that has witnessed a complete lull from the global movie-making apparatus, the film scene here in Pakistan has been no different. There’s been much talk about what can only be termed as apocalyptic scenarios – if one were to sift through pages of certain entertainment weeklies. However, battling through these hard times have also been quite a few filmmakers who have faced challenges brought by the pandemic head-on and have completed their upcoming ventures as per their schedule for the current year. Leading the charge has been director Yasir Nawaz, the man behind three successful films over the last five years, who has been busy working on his forthcoming masala-thriller Chakkar.
The Wrong No. director battled the Covid-19 virus himself this past summer and has been shooting the film with leads Ahsan Khan and Neelam Munir Khan at locations all over Karachi, and we decided to get in touch to learn more about the film that has had people talking for the better part of this year.
After a few phone calls and exchanging some text messages, this writer was finally able to track Yasir down for a tete-a-tete. The conversation inevitably turned to the hurdles brought in by the pandemic. “We shot for about 5 days in March, and were prepared to shoot more but we had to follow the SOPs (the Covid-19 guidelines) imposed by the government. Then later in May, I too caught the virus although it was unrelated to the shoot of the movie.” As things stand currently, the film’s leading lady Neelam Munir Khan tested positive for Covid-19 a fortnight back, which has resulted in a gap of about 20 days according to Yasir. Setbacks aside, things seem to be well on track. “The project is 85% complete,” reveals the ever-efficient director who is known for wrapping his projects within tight timelines. His last venture, 2019’s blockbuster Wrong No. 2, wrapped its production in record time – 45 days, according to some, so I couldn’t help but question whether more time afforded by the pandemic lull brought in any unexpected benefits. “Not really – we have only encountered challenges (as a result of the pandemic). Our script has been locked for almost two years now, and I had wanted to shoot Chakkar before Wrong No. 2 but at that time our team decided to go ahead with Wrong No. 2 instead.”
They say the script is the heart and soul of a film, and Yasir professes to adhere keenly to this aphorism. “The script, penned by Zafar Imran, was a challenging one. The story is complex and is the result of months and months of work. The nuanced mood and the engaging tempo of the writing are such that it will show on the screen that this was no ordinary material to work with.” Chakkar is said to be a murder mystery, and as Yasir adds pointedly “Not just another murder mystery – there is a layer of light-hearted comedy, and we have incorporated other commercial elements into the plot as well, ensuring that they remain an integral part of the narrative and not a mere add-on.” Among those are the film’s three songs, composed by Mere Paas Tum Ho and Do Bol composer Naveed Nashad, two of which have already been shot, according to the director. “The songs and music blend well into the overall narrative and take the plot forward.”
A murder mystery with shades of comedy is something that has rarely been done in Pakistan, and Yasir says it was the script that sold the project to him. “Besides the solid writing, my distributor Satish Anand of Evernew Pictures has been thoroughly supportive throughout. He has strongly believed that we should go ahead with the genre and the subject.” The director’s faith is evinced by the fact that he and his wife Nida Yasir are producing the film themselves. Has not the onslaught of digital entertainment during the current crisis, with even some Hollywood projects going for a Netflix release, unnerved him? “I believe strongly in the charisma of cinema. The challenges brought on by the current pandemic notwithstanding, the cinema-going culture is not going to shut down.” This would be especially true for Pakistan, where the avenues for entertainment are especially in dire need, he adds. “Going to the cinema is like going to the restaurant – you can always have food at home, but people still enjoy frequenting restaurants. Similarly, even if they can watch films on television, the charm for audiences of watching films on the big screen is inescapable. If the cinema-going culture were to die down, it would already have happened by now with the advent of satellite and cable entertainment, but as we have seen, cinema has managed to sustain its own magic.”
Chakkar will hit the screens sometime in the coming year, set to entice filmgoers back to the theaters with its unique mix of mystery, thrills, comedy, and action. Stay tuned to Pakistani Cinema for the latest on the film and a lot more.