The truth is that success comes with struggle and for director Shahid Rana, it was just that. He worked as an assistant director for 10 long years on 18 different films before an opportunity came his way in 1989.
As a young director, Rana’s first film Kalka became an immediate box-office hit despite six other films in competition at the time. After years of experience, Rana is proud, blunt and uncensored in his critique of the Pakistani film industry. After a break of five years, Rana is all set to release his film Dunya on Eid, if the cinemas agree to give it space.
“I always did everything according to my own merit,” says Rana. “I never became part of any lobby because I was happy working rather than promoting myself.”
Dunya highlights the topic of dowry and conflicts within the family system. Actor Jan Rambo’s character — young rural man goes to the big city to earn for his sister’s dowry — is crucial to the story. In the film, as Rambo arrives in Lahore, he realises that there is intense competition and it gets harder and harder for him to make money. Eventually, he runs into a guru for transgender people, played by Shafqat Cheema and starts dancing for money, at the risk of losing his honour.
“We live in a world where no matter what the circumstance is, you end up dancing for someone,” says Rana giving the message he wants to bring on screen.
Director Shahid Rana is clear that Dunya will face considerable odds and that local cinemas are shying away from traditional Lollywood films.
Cheema, who was also in Rana’s first film Kalka, has a prominent role. Other actors include Moammar Rana, Saima and also Nargis — who recently announced that she will leave the film industry.
“Many people make announcements and we don’t really ask questions,” says Rana. “Actors have lost interest in promoting films and don’t take films seriously. They [actors] have their own free will and decide themselves about which projects they want to take.”
Rana is clear that Dunya will face considerable odds. And he is not perturbed by the fact that local cinemas are shying away from traditional Lollywood films. “The critical test for the film will be to ensure that it meets the minimum figures,” says Rana, who will release the film simultaneously nationwide.
Commenting on the development of the film scene in Karachi, he said that it’s important to remember that films had given way to television. He shares that people [of television] had laughed when the film industry raised a voice against Indian content. But now that the same thing has happened to them with the Turkish drama content, their reactions are the same.
“As the Turkish dramas came, those same people [who criticised us] started to speak out,” says the veteran director.
Rana continues to talk about upcoming films, which will face the same structural hurdles present in Lahore, as the film-makers in the past had to deal with.
“Let us be clear, and point out the real culprits who hurt the film industry,” says Rana. “There is no environment for film-making; the studio owners never invested to make sure that we have the basic facilities; and for the upcoming films, you will still have to go abroad for production.”
Rana also shared that his next project will explore the underworld, and highlight topics such as crime, bhatta (extortion) and target-killing.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2013.