It’s a relief to see Pakistani film-makers finally open up to genres other than dancing-around-the-tree love sagas and jatt-fighting-feudal lord action dramas.
Joining the team of innovative producers is the mother-son duo Zeba Bakhtiar and her 19-year-old son Azan Sami Khan. Last week, the teaser of their film Operation 021, which was previously titled The Extortionist, was released online. The film is being hyped as being Pakistan’s first spy-action thriller.
Young and enthusiastic, Azan Sami Khan, who hails from a family of prolific film-makers, is attempting to introduce ‘next generation’ film-making to Lollywood along with his mother. This movie, however, is not a result of him being ‘privileged’ but rather his aim to bring something new to the table. “We should call a spade a spade — it goes both ways. Anything I do will be compared with my parents’ work,” he says.
Khan and his mother set up One Motion Productions with the sole intent of pushing the envelope of traditional film-making and changing the prevailing attitude towards local cinema. The result is an international espionage thriller that has been referred to as a cross between Hollywood flicks such Syriana and Bourne Identity.
The story is partly based on real life events including the bombing of Nato tanks in Afghanistan a few years back. It will feature Shaan as the main protagonist playing a CIA agent alongside Shamoon Abbasi, Aaminah Sheikh and Ayub Khoso.
It is directed by Australian director Summer Nicks and it was produced in collaboration with music director Jamshed Mahmood Ansari aka Jami’s company Azad Film. The whole team though has remained tight-lipped about the release of the film which is expected to be sometime around the end of this year.
Working with a veteran like his mother has been quite an interesting adventure for Khan — a unique combination of the well-experienced and the relatively new. When they get down to business, there is little space for slacking and both work rigorously on a shared vision.
“My mother knows that when we enter the office, she is not my mother and I am not her son. We know each other and have a clear understanding of what we are trying do, and she believes it’s time the younger generation takes the industry forward,” says Khan.
Despite supporting the youth in taking the initiative, Khan says that one cannot simply write-off the contribution of older industry professionals. “I think we are fortunate to have people like Syed Noor in the industry but we tend to be pseudo-intellectual and write them off. Even for us it was the veteran technician who knew how to push through when everyone else was tired,” he emphasises.
Zeba Bakhtiar, a veteran actor herself, has come on board simply to support new talent in the industry. “We are looking at an exciting period — the whole technical side, thought-process, story-telling is changing. This is more about clearing the way for a new creative style that caters to a new generation,” says Bakhtiar.
Having learned a lot from being part of the local industry, Bakhtiar recalls her personal experience and feels that it’s high time that senior members start promoting new talent. “I remember trying to direct a film in the late ‘90s on a 35mm camera — the technology was not up to par. We were using equipment from the late ‘60s,” says Bakhtiar.
“We have to move beyond the idea that this is a glamorous profession. We need serious film-makers who are willing to support so that the new generation of film-makers can come to the fore,” she adds.
Through this film, the duo is trying to give way to a new genre that hasn’t been experimented with seriously. Bakhtiar asserts that not many films have been made in the past 20 odd years that one could say a certain formula works in the industry.
“There really is no way of judging what formula works. There have only been a few films of consequence that have been released — right now the scene is open,” says Bakhtiar.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2013.