Zinda Bhaag reflects new generation of Pak filmmakers and viewers: Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi

Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi wrote and directed Zinda Bhaag - the first Pakistani movie to be sent in 50 years to the Oscars. Speaking exclusively from Lahore with Srijana Mitra Das, the duo discussed their film, its Hollywood prospects — and why Pakistani cinema looks headed towards a Renaissance.
 
Please tell us about Zinda Bhaag?
 
It's an entertaining, gritty film, rooted in Lahore's culture. It features typically dry Lahori humour and vibrant, ambitious young people. It has beautiful Pakistani music, including an old classic called 'Paani da Bulbula', which we've revived.
 
This image of Pakistan and Lahore`s culture will be very new, even for Indian audiences.
 
How do you think it'll do at Hollywood?
 
We think it'll do very well at the Oscars. If you read the reports of the committee selecting this film, which includes people like Mohsin Hamid, they`re truly ecstatic about its content and form. They're very sure it'll go very far.
 
Does it deal with terror?
 
No, we don't deal with the geopolitical plight of Pakistan here. This is a very everyday tale, inspired by stories we heard from family and friends. We wanted primarily to make a film we'd enjoy watching. We wanted to show a Pakistan very few people know, with all its disappointments, successes — and its humour.
 
Our cast and crew's youth and freshness — our three main leads are actually boys from the Lahori mohalla we set the movie in — fuelled that.
 
Normally, films have heroes who succeed, who can do anything. Our movie shows the opposite, failure — as a comedy!
 
Given the rooted story, why the paradox of characters wanting to escape Pakistan?
 
Well, in both India and Pakistan, there are regions like Punjab where there's a huge tradition, if you will, of people emigrating illegally. In Lahore slang, it's called 'taking dunky' — basically, young people who feel all legitimate doors are shut to them, so they look to the West for a way out.
 
What is Pakistan's cinema scene today?
 
It`s a very interesting time for cinema in Pakistan — it's on the way up. Audiences had stopped going to theatres, old halls were being torn down and made into malls. But with the film Khuda Ke Liye, audiences came back and multiplexes started growing. There`s such a glut of films now, we're running short of screens.
 
What's driving this?
 
A whole new generation of filmmakers and viewers in Pakistan — there's a new batch of young people graduated from media schools, very hard-working and ready to do something original. That's fuelling both filmmakers and audiences.
 
To make cinema in Pakistan is an uphill struggle, with limited screens, infrastructure and technical facilities. Only passion can fuel production — that's what we're seeing.
 
Why the choice to cast Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah?
 
Naseer's character is called Pehalwan, a badmash who`s larger than life. We wanted someone who could carry this role — Naseer's name popped up. We didn't know him or anyone who knew him, so we couldn`t even use the South Asian contact!
 
Srijana Mitra Das
Times of India
23 September 2013
 
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