Known for his distinctive filmography, director Abu Aleeha has a knack for tapping into various genres and succeeds in bringing something new to the table. The hatke director who never fears to experiment this time takes a different route with his latest outing ‘Super Punjabi’.
He challenges himself and dabbles in the mainstream cinema and makes a film solely for the masses. In an exclusive conversation with Pakistani Cinema, the director spoke at length about “Super Punjabi” and the various aspects of the film industry. Read on…
What Is Super Punjabi All About?
Abu Aleeha has earlier touched upon the comic genre with “Shortcut”. However, the film had more sci-fi elements, besides the story was limited and low budget too. With Super Punjabi, Abu Aleeha takes the conventional route, “Super Punjabi is my first comedy film with a duration of two hours – ten minutes with five songs. The plot revolves around three characters hailing from different classes of society. It depicts the up and downs, twists and turns and how they revert from wrong to right direction is what forms the story.”
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Aleeha gave a disclaimer that the film has nothing to do with racism. “The core idea of the film emphasizes that a Punjabi in any part of the world will support fellow Punjabi. We have kept the language Punjabi as the crux of the plot that revolves around Punjab.”
Aleeha feels the audience over the years, has been bombarded with repetitive storylines that revolve around a boy, girl and their families. “Super Pujnabi is not a typical romcom that is usually produced to rake in moolah at festive occasions.”
Fleshed Out Characters
Aleeha, who is also the writer of Super Punjab has fleshed out interesting details of his characters and cleverly placed them in the story. “Mohsin Abbas Haider hails from Faisalabad and speaks fluent Indian Punjabi. So, I have highlighted his original accent to make it more real and relatable. He plays an accountant in the film. Nasir Chinyoti’s comic timing is very brutal. Iftikhar Thakur has a strong character in the film. For a change the audience will watch him act instead of making funny faces and go overboard with his character.”
He further revealed that despite the narrative being set around a male eccentric world, one of the most important aspects of Super Punjabi is the powerful female characters. “The leading ladies of the film Saima Baloch, Sana Fakhar and Rukhma Maryam are not restricted to eye candy who mouth their dialogues and disappear. They have their own space and control over the premise and leave a lasting impact. I don’t think women in Punjabi films have been shown in such a powerful avatar before.”
The Readymade Film set
After shooting three films, Aleeha feels, he is the official brand ambassador of Lahore. “When shooting in Karachi, we have to look out for locations as per the requirement. Whereas Lahore is by default a set, just place the camera, get the actors in position and roll. One finds the depth in the background automatically. I urge the filmmakers of Karachi to shoot in Lahore.”
Much Needed Collaborations
“Super Punjabi” is Aleeha’s first-ever collaboration with Safdar Malik, a seasoned producer of Lahore. Malik is associated with the film industry for over thirty-five years and has produced eleven films with veteran director Syed Noor. “It was a wonderful experience, he gave me the liberty to showcase my craft. The producers of Lahore don’t mind if a director demands to work with four cameras, or a steady cam or requires lavish spending on a song’s production designs. They are happy to invest.”
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The Lollywood Savior
According to Abu Aleeha, Punjabi cinema or films specifically made in Lahore can save the industry. “They are films and not drama lookalike films being shot using Alexa or other expensive cameras. Filmmakers who are willing to make expensive films need to explore the international market. Super Punjabi will release internationally in nineteen countries with more than eight hundred shows.”
He further added that “The audience across the border, specifically from Indian Punjab, is very fond of Pakistani theatre actors. They welcome them with open arms and don’t differentiate between Amritsar and Lahore. If Super Punjabi releases in India, it would perform well at the box office. Not just that, the audiences across the globe who prefer watching Punjabi films be it Indian or Pakistani Punjabi films will surely like Super Punjabi.” He commented.
The Box Office Mathematics
Abu Aleeha sets the record straight and clears the misconception of his cinema being labeled as low-budget. “I feel my fellow filmmakers and colleagues go over budget with their films. The film industry of Pakistan at this point cannot bear the burden of heavy-budget films. We just have 155 screens in the country including (single screens). Therefore making a film on a budget of 15 cores that requires a breakeven of around 30 crores to emerge as a genuine hit isn’t a fair deal for the producers.”
Elaborating on the above, he added, “What happens is that after a week, the makers release a false template on social media regarding the huge box office earnings and celebrate its success themselves. They are least bothered about the critics and audience word of mouth.”
Aleeha feels that the medium of cinema is very honest. Filmmakers shouldn’t mock their craft, and refrain from allowing others to do the same. “Films should be made with true dedication, if the audience and critics praise it, well and good. If not, then one should not be questioning their IQ and labeling them as dumb. Instead, they should respect their opinion, admit their flaws and make sure of not repeating them in the future.”
Venturing Into Commercial Cinema
Abu Aleeha’s cinema is offbeat and he is curious to know how the critics feel about his work. His recent film “Daadal” received rave reviews, especially for its plot and Sonya Hussyn’s towering performance. But this time around, Aleeha is not worried about the reviews or ratings by any portal, blogger, You Tuber, or journalist. “Super Punjabi is my first commercial venture for the masses. This will indeed be a litmus test for me in terms of pulling crowds to the theatres. The box office numbers will decide whether I am suitable for making commercial cinema or not.” He concluded.
Will Aleeha hit the bull’s eye with Super Punjabi? The film releases in cinemas on May 12.