Director Faisal Bukhari is a busy man. There is little doubt that since his directorial debut with feature- film Bhai Log, he has become something of a pillar of strength for Lahore’s film-making scene. Unlike some of his peers, he has welcomed evolution and does not shy away from experimenting with new cameras and a broader vision. But his biggest project is yet to come.
Financed by Dubai-based hotelier and CEO of AB Pictures Aslam Bhatti, a big-budget project titled Sultanat is a biopic on the life of Bhatti himself, for which he is playing the lead role. For those who are not familiar with the actor, Bhatti financed and produced the 2007 Urdu thriller Godfather: The Legend Continues. Its cast included Vinod Khanna, Meera, Arbaaz Khan, Ajab Gul, Shafqat Cheema and Atiqa Odho.
In the film, Bhatti had played the character of an underworld don. He has said in several interviews, that he has a long-standing interest in film-making and looks to promote Indo-Pak cooperation through his productions.
The film also features Javed Sheikh as Bhatti’s business associate, along with Ahsan Khan, Javeria Abbasi, Sara Loren, Zaynab Qayyum, Nayyar Ejaz and Mustafa Qureshi, as well as Indian actors Shweta Tiwari and Akashdeep Saigal. The 30-episode television series and feature film have been shot at several locations across Dubai, Thailand and London.
The man behind the movie
The film is about the life of Bhatti; it traces his rise as a tycoon, following drama and action that took place as he squabbled with his family to build an empire. Bhatti, who has been involved in the hospitality and real estate businesses, is surrounded by an air of mystery, with rumours that he has alleged ties with Dawood Ibrahim.
In a 2006 interview with Mid-Day, Bhatti said he only visited Pakistan once for his film-making venture and had cut off all ties with Ibrahim. He specified that he had “casually spent time with Ibrahim”, when he was 18, and had watched cricket matches in Sharjah with him.
“The film will look at Bhatti’s life and the trials he went through to build his vast business empire,” says Bukhari, adding that the story will be “intriguing”.
“It was not hard for Bhatti to fit in the lead role, because the role is representative of his life and many of the scenes in the film are re-enactments of real-life incidents,” says Bukhari. “Sultanat will be different because the story comes from his heart as he tries to document his own journey, and that has been done with proper arrangements and investment.”
Since the film has been made for both television and the silver screen, it was shot through double-takes.
“Something like this has never happened before. Films usually have an average of 80 scenes, while a serial has many tracks and angles, which requires shooting 400 to 500 scenes,” Bukhari elaborates.
Veteran actor Mustafa, one of the cast members of Sutanat says, “I don’t think there has been a project of this scale in both India and Pakistan. Sultanat has been filmed in Dubai and the cast and crew went to Thailand thrice to shoot it.” He adds, “The producer is very keen to promote Indo-Pakistan ties.”
Sultanat is expected to release early next year across Pakistan, India and Middle East.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2013.