“The Legend of Maula Jatt” is an undeniable success. While the film has had its detractors and naysayers from within the industry as well as the audience, critical and commercial praise has drowned them all out.
However, the film has also set a benchmark. Now that audiences have seen what the industry is capable of, they will not accept subpar or mediocre products as readily as they did before.
The film’s excellence goes far beyond its big budget. Without a strong story, Nasir Adeeb Sahab’s dialogues, and Bilal Lashari’s steady hand behind the camera, it would not have been the success it is.
With 2023 around the corner and very few Pakistani films locked for confirmed release, filmmakers must learn from “The Legend of Maula Jatt” if they are to replicate its success, and also overtake it.
So, here are five lessons that Pakistani filmmakers MUST learn from “The Legend of Maula Jatt”.
1. Work on the Script PLEASE!
If you’ve seen the myriad interviews that Bilal Lashari and Nasir Adeeb Sahab have given individually and together, you’ve heard that the script took a lot of work. Bilal Lashari collaborated with veteran writer for over a year on the script. And it shows.
Character motivations, plot details, pacing; it is all there. Supporting characters like Humaima Malick’s ‘Daro’, Gohar Rasheed’s ‘Maakha Natt’, and Faris Shafi’s ‘Mooda’ get to shine as well as the two main leads. Even Mahira Khan’s ‘Mukkho’, who has been criticized as lackluster has her moment to shine with the beautiful “Chann Pichay”.
In contrast Pakistani films usually have perfunctory scripts which fall apart at the sight of scrutiny. Films like “Kamli”, “Shah”, “Mah e Mir” and “Cake” are oddballs. Plus, they’re usually written for a niche audience and not marketable for mass commercial cinema. “The Legend of Maula Jatt” is the rare beast that does both.
Filmmakers would do well to actually work on original scripts rather than piece together the same old nonsense and repackage it to audiences.
They’re doing no one any favors.
2. Work With Veterans and Learn from Them
It’s an open secret that most new filmmakers; behind the camera or in front, don’t revere the old guard. There is a deep-rooted division in the film industry which extends beyond ideological differences and the Karachi/Lahore split.
It has been refreshing to see how Bilal Lashari has treated Nasir Adeeb Sahab with nothing but respect, and how Nasir Adeeb Sahab has been nothing but humble in return.
Bilal Lashari’s entire approach from the very beginning; viewing the Gandasa genre in Pakistan as complementary to the Hollywood Western or the Japanese Samurai film; was unique. However, his approach to making “The Legend of Maula Jatt” shows his dedication and respect for previous filmmakers’ efforts.
Even though Bilal Lashari couldn’t speak Punjabi, he would record Nasir Adeeb’s sessions with him and work on the screenplay. In his magnanimity, Nasir Adeeb Sahab has said that he worked on the project because he thought he could learn something new from Bilal.
If more youngsters worked with veteran directors, writers, actors and producers instead of waving from a distance, perhaps we’d get better films.
3. Know How to Market Your Film
Initially, “The Legend of Maula Jatt” made the quintessential mistake made by nearly all Pakistani filmmakers. They released the first trailer and then struggled to release the film.
In fact, there have been so many struggles to get this film out there that an entire documentary could be made called “The Curse of the Legend of Maula Jatt” about them.
However, the makers waited for the right opportunity and then came out all guns blazing. They partnered with TikTok to market the film, which is a brilliant, but unprecedented move.
Once the final trailer came out, everyone was talking about the film. GEO Films played its part beautifully of course, promoting the film whenever it had the chance.
Unfortunately, most Pakistani films come and go without people even knowing about them. Case in point, “Ishrat Made in China”; a movie I was personally excited for and even I never found out when it came to theaters.
Simply releasing a trailer online and going on morning shows is not going to cut it. Pakistani filmmakers need to carve out a marketing strategy that doesn’t hinge on wishful thinking.
4. The International Market for Pakistani Films is Huge
“The Legend of Maula Jatt” has made more than 60% of its money outside Pakistan. More than that, it has beaten several of the year’s biggest Indian films in markets like Canada, the US, and the UK. This is in huge contrast to nearly all Pakistani films earning their lion’s share domestically.
This shows that South Asian audiences, and arguably all types of audiences want to watch Pakistani films; if they’re worth it.
5. The Pakistani Market is Hungry for Something New
When “Waar” came out in 2013, Bilal Lashari gave the Pakistani audience something it had never seen before. With “The Legend of Maula Jatt”, he has done the same. And both times, his movies have taken cinemas by storm.
On the other hand, the new wave of Pakistani cinema has made a staple diet out of romantic comedies, social dramas with the same old plots, and commercial films that only count as Eid fodder and wouldn’t otherwise even last a week.
It’s clear that if filmmakers want to make their mark, they must come up with something new. That’s the only way they can advance both their own careers and also the intellect of the audience.