The low-budget independent horror thriller Siyaah, which is scheduled for a nationwide release on March 15, deals with the themes of black magic and exorcism.
The film’s director Azfar Jafri, a self-taught film-maker based in Islamabad, joined the project after producer Imran Raza Kazmi tried out several screenwriters and directors.
“I am not a horror film director or anything,” says Jafri. “We don’t how the critics or masses will take the film, but the way we have treated the film should make it as different as possible.”
Producer Kazmi, who has limited experience with film, also seems unperturbed by the odds of making a horror film for a Pakistani audience. “After I saw Omar Khan’s Zibahkhana, it really got me thinking; if one person can make a good quality film, then we can too,” says Kazmi. The process hasn’t been easy, since he has changed three screen writers and put in several months of research regarding the film’s themes. “My goal was to create something different to show another side to Pakistani film-making,” Kazmi adds. “It is different from Zibahkhana and horror films from the ‘60s and ‘70s. It has suspense and drama — we have tried to create a balance of all the perfect ingredients.”
The film includes several actors from the local circuit in Islamabad, such as Hareem Farooq, Qazi Jabbar, Mahnoor Usman, Ahmed Ali Akbar, Aslam Rana, Sofia Wanchoo Mir, Rizwana, Sarwar Salimi and Amy Saleh. Owner of Living Picture Productions Osman Khalid Butt has written the screenplay.
“The people we have chosen were already in the theatrical scene; they knew that Kazmi could pull it off and we could produce something really good,” says Jafri. Speaking about the low profile and publicity the film has maintained, Jafri explains that the team has been focusing on ensuring that the film is completed before speaking to the media. “It is a negative reflection on your credibility when you start talking about a film and it turns out to be different.”
On the bright side
While audiences should hold their breath for what the film-makers promise will be a different experience, Siyaah could also be a breakthrough Pakistan’s film industry.
Films with smaller budgets usually find it difficult to reach cinemas because of distribution problems, but Siyaah seems to have been lucky. “I know of several films that are ready in Pakistan but don’t find distribution,” says Kazmi. Fortunately, the horror flick has secured major distribution thanks to Cinepax Cinema, whose parent company is Footprint Entertainment. “This was the best way to get our film to theatres,” explains Kazmi.
Marketing manager of Cinepax Limited Mohsin Yaseen explains that while Footprint Entertainment has been involved in the distribution of films from major companies such as Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, over the last few years the company has spearheaded the resurgence of local cinema in Pakistan by making it a priority to support local films.
Yaseen explains that even after securing distribution, future of local films depends on the content. Film-makers will have to be creative and get away from old and worn-out themes which intelligent and aware audiences do not appreciate.
“People don’t want to see dancing in the fields or things of that nature,” says Yaseen. “The audience is much more sophisticated and comes prepared to watch a film after looking at trailers and reading reviews. We think that Siyaah provides that content.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2013.