Despite not having a massive budget or a well-known local cast, Zinda Bhaag has swept away audiences with its robust depiction of loud and artistic Punjabi culture. With its relatable take on culture, class divides and relationships, the independent film has managed to bag the coveted title of Pakistan’s first Oscar submission in 50 years.
The sudden success and hype surround the film brought directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi and producer Mazhar Zaidi to meet a curious audience for a small group discussion held at The Second Floor (T2F) on Thursday evening.
Although the trio has collaborated on four projects previously, which includes a documentary, it is the first time that their partnership has come into the limelight. However, despite being rather low-profile, they managed to bag veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah for a role.
“It was next to impossible,” said Zaidi. “None of us knew him but we managed to trace the number and left a text on his cell phone – we heard from him after a while.”
“After sharing the initial details and only five pages of the script, out which Shah only read two, he liked the script and agreed to be a part of the film,” he said.
They were modest enough to admit that they learnt a lot during the process of making this film. “[We learnt] scripts should be completely ready before you hit the floor,” said Nabi. “In a day, we used to shoot two scenes, but we came to know that we have to be slow and have it on paper first.”
Shot extensively on the streets of Lahore, the absence of a star-studded cast worked in the movie’s favour, as it helped the film-makers bring out the real essence of Lahori culture. “Had we taken big stars, we wouldn’t have managed to bring across the effect we were aiming for. Many auditions were conducted across Lahore and we were certainly looking for young Lahoris who could naturally act out their roles,” asserted Gaur. “These three boys had to have a personality that closely matched their roles.”
Calling the movie “quintessentially Lahori”, Gaur also explained that the decision of casting new faces was deliberate. “95% of our crew comprises fresh graduates, with no hands-on experience. It’s a huge collective achievement at our end as a team – if we can do it, so can everybody else,” stressed Gaur.
The Zinda Bhaag team also revealed that the post-production of the film was done in India. “Since Pakistan lacks such technical expertise, we had either an option to go to Thailand, Malaysia or India. We opted for India because of pure budgetary constraints,” said Nabi.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2013.