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Countdown begins for the next 6 months of Pakistan cinema

Written by Omair Alavi

With the cinema industry back on its feet, Pakistani cinemagoers are all set to get busy in the next six months

The year 2022 was always going to be the make-or-break year for Pakistan’s cinema industry. When the year began, it was trying to recover from the aftereffects of COVID-19, but by the end of it, everything seemed to be back to normal. The audience is once again preferring cinemas to OTT platforms, going for quality projects instead of run-of-the-mill stuff, and above all, making cinema a priority on their weekend to-do list. Will this new wave of cinema take both the cinema industry and the film industry forward, the next six months will decide.

The lead actor of Joyland Ali Junejo believes that since the makers weaved the film around a subject that is very close to our hearts, he is hopeful that Joyland (releasing next Friday) will do well in the cinemas. Not only was he confident that people would come and watch the film in cinemas, but they would also take something back since it delivers a strong message.

He added that when you work hard on a project without distracting yourself with worldly landmarks, then you get success from unexpected places.

‘When we were doing this film, the singular objective was to first complete the film and release it, and I believe that that’s why the film managed to win accolades across the world. Had we started the project aiming for the festivals, it might not have done well anywhere. The beauty of the script and its execution is what will surprise our audience when the film hits the cinemas on November 18 and I am confident that it will help raise the bar for Pakistan’s film industry just as it had done abroad.’

Theatre veteran Ali Junejo even went on to add that while people give their sweat and blood to projects, he gave his ‘weight’ to the film since he had to go on a strict diet to look the part. He also thanked Saim Sadiq (director) and Sarmad Khoosat (producer) who helped him adopt the accent of the people from Gawalmandi, which is where the protagonist is from. For him, it was a team effort that got them through the shoot and made it big abroad.

‘I had never imagined that I would walk the Cannes, let alone watch it with foreigners. I was intimidated when we all had our seats marked in a theatre where no Pakistani film has ever been screened. After the film screening ended, I wanted to cry but looked around to see whether it would look awkward or not, but when I saw non-Urdu and Punjabi speakers crying, I couldn’t resist. All I can say is that this film is so powerful that it will make you cry, and in a good way.’

Actress Aleeze Nasser will make her debut as a leading lady through Yaara Vey which is being touted as the first Hindi – Urdu film from the land of the United Arab Emirates. She believes that since her film has all the ingredients of a good flick, it will definitely be a treat on the eyes and the ears, but only in cinemas.

‘Cinema is a way to entertain ourselves, either you take your friends, spouse or family with kids and everything. It’s an amazing feeling when you are sitting in that dark room, with a huge screen in front of you, and are transported into another world. It is a great way to experience all your senses, especially when you watch the scenic visuals, or hear the amazing sounds that engulf your surroundings, making you feel that you are present there. Yaara Vey will do that to the audience when it’s released on December 2nd.’

Aleeze goes on to add that despite the belief that cinema has been replaced by OTT platforms, it still remains the prime entertainment platform.

‘Yaara Vey has been shot in different places, for instance, Georgia, Thailand, and Dubai and you will feel you are part of the world of the characters and experience two and a half hours of entertainment with a beautiful soundtrack that will take you to another world. That’s why I think people should be coming to watch the film if they want to get the cinema experience.’

TV and film actor Mikaal Zulfiqar believes that his forthcoming film Money Back Guarantee will be the biggest film ‘of the next six months’. Well, he can say that because never before has Wasim Akram appeared in a Pakistani film, nor has Fawad Khan shared the screen with him. With Mikaal Zulfiqar, Gohar Rasheed, Shayan Khan, Kiran Malik, and Marhoom Ahmed Bilal leading the cast, Money Back Guarantee might prove Mikaal’s words to be true. The film seems to be an inspired version of Money Heist and is all set to release next year on Eid ul Fitr.

Coming soon to a theatre near you!

The cinema industry in Pakistan is back with a bang, thanks to the astounding success of Bilal Lashari’s The Legend of Maula Jatt (TLMJ). The film has been doing well both domestically and internationally, and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the film industry could not be divided into two parts – before TLMJ and after TLMJ.

Thankfully, with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in November first week, the good work done by TLMJ would likely be carried forward and the cinemas would be back to their full strength in no time. Which films will follow these two blockbusters in the next six months, and will be coming soon to a theatre near you, let’s find out:

Joyland (Urdu)

November 18, 2022

Director: Saim Sadiq

Cast: Alina Khan, Rasti Farooq, Sarwat Gilani, Salmaan Peerzada, Sohail Sameer, Sania Saeed, Ali Junejo

What to Expect: It might be Pakistan’s official submission for the next Academy Awards, but Joyland is not a commercial flick, per se. It is a mixture of both worlds – art and commercial cinema – and is likely to appeal to those who wish to watch it with an open mind. It revolves around a typical Lahori middle-class family where a strict wheelchair-bound patriarch (Salmaan Peerzada) rules over his family with an iron fist. However, when his younger son Haider (Ali Junejo) takes up a job as a backup dancer at a local theatre and falls in love with a transgender dancer Biba (Alina Khan), things change for the young man and his entire family. Will he be able to change their beliefs or will he give in to their demands, Joyland will answer your questions with its release next week.

Tich Button (Urdu)

November 25, 2022

Director: Qasim Ali Mureed

Cast: Farhan Saeed, Iman Ali, Sonya Hussyn, Feroze Khan, Marhoom Ahmad Bilal, Samiya Mumtaz, Marina Khan, Gul-e-Rana, Qavi Khan, Raheela Agha, Noor ul Hassan, Ali Sikander, Sohail Ahmed

What to Expect: Tich Button is one of those films whose release was delayed repeatedly, first because of Covid-19 and later because of The Legend of Maula Jatt, the biggest hit in Pakistani cinemaFeaturing the acting talents of Iman Ali, Sonya Hussyn, Feroze Khan, and for the first time Farhan Saeed together, the film is set to make it to the cinemas on the last Friday of this month. It is produced by Urwa Hocane who appears in a dance number, while also marking the return of Iman Ali and Feroze Khan to films, after seven and six years respectively.

From the trailer, it seems that the story revolves around two brothers (Farhan Saeed and Feroze Khan) who go their separate ways because of some dispute. Their leading ladies (Iman Ali and Sonya Hussyn) are from different worlds as well, and it is the union of the four that seems to have made things worse. Written by TV’s most prolific scriptwriter Faiza Iftikhar who is known for her powerful dialogues and directed by first-time film director Qasim Ali Mureed, the film has been shot in Pakistan and Türkiye, and gives an international feel, for a change.

Zarrar (English/Urdu)

November 25, 2022

Director: Shaan Shahid

Cast: Shaan Shahid, Kiran Malik, Nadeem Baig, Shafqat Cheema, Rasheed Naz, Nayyar Ejaz

What to Expect: Industry veteran Shaan Shahid’s name is enough to guarantee a film’s success, especially when it’s an action flick, however, he hasn’t done many action films since Waar. His last action film as an actor Yalghaar (2017) had an ensemble cast but wasn’t up to the mark, but his fans are pretty convinced that with him at the helm, Zarrar will give the audience exactly what they want.

In the film, Shaan plays a spy named Zarrar whose only mission is to thwart any threats that come Pakistan’s way. The trailer suggests that Kiran (Kiran Malik) will play his love interest, and Major Mustajab (Nadeem Baig) his handler, and with the help of the two, Zarrar will race against time to save Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Shot at the Pinewood Studios using international technicians like cinematographer, and background score composer, the film is likely to be the first of the franchise, where Zarrar will take on all those who want to dismantle the Pakistani government, and the state.

Yaara Vey (Urdu)

December 2, 2022

Director: Manish Pawar

Cast: Sami Khan, Aleeze Nasser, Faizan Khawaja, Marina Khan, Jawed Sheikh, Ali Sikander

What to Expect: Yaara Vey isn’t just another film, it is the first Urdu/Hindi film to be produced in the United Arab Emirates, which is why most of the technicians, including the director, are from India. Combining the talents of actors from this side of the Wagah border with the technicians from the more advanced Indian film industry is likely to result in an impressive project, which might open doors for more such productions.

The plot seems to revolve around Samia Siddiqui (Aleeze Nasser in her film debut as the main lead) who has to choose between two guys Sameer (Sami Khan) and Armaan (Faizan Khawaja) who are madly in love with her. Add a few twists and turns and the film becomes something like a rom-com of Indian cinema, with a soundtrack featuring the vocals of Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan among others. Since the film was shot in exotic locations by the director who used his own crew, it might end up pleasing the eyes, for a change.

Avatar: The Way of Water (English)

December 16, 2022

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet

What to Expect: Ever since the original Avatar was released to the audience in 2009, fans have been waiting for the sequel with bated breaths, and their wait is likely to end next month with the release of the much-anticipated sequel. Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, the sequel revolves around the Sully family and their troubles which seem to follow them wherever they go.

The original film changed the way 3D flicks were made in those days, and the same is expected from the sequel, which took more than a decade to complete, because the director’s vision needed advanced technology, one that wasn’t around when he made the original. At the time of its release, Avatar: The Way of Water will be the most expensive film ever made, and if James Cameron’s track record says anything, then this film will go on to break records set by its predecessor, which is still the most successful film ever made.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (English, Animated)

December 21, 2022

Director: Joel Crawford

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Olivia Colman, Florence Pugh, Ray Winstone

What to Expect: A cat has nine lives, they say, so when Puss in Boots (voiced by the ever-young Antonio Banderas) loses his eighth life, he sets out on a journey to restore the lives he has lost, with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and his new friends. Unknown to him, Puss in Boots is being hunted down by renowned enemies from the fairy-tale world whom he had wronged in his previous lives.

With the man who played Zorro in films playing the Zorro-esque character, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish looks anything but disappointing. The producers’ decision to change the production design from the previous Puss in Boots to the one followed in The Bad Guys will pay dividends when the film is finally released five days after Avatar: The Way of Water.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (English)

February 17, 2023

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton, Jonathan Majors, Randall Park

What to Expect: Since Ant-Man is everyone’s favourite superhero because he saved the world with his Back to the Future idea in Avengers: Endgame, his fans are already looking forward to his appearance in the third Ant-Man flick. According to the trailer, Scott Lang (Paul Ruud), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Lang’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), and Hope’s parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) – the original Ant-Man and the Wasp – are sucked into the Quantum Realm by accident.

Although Janet had spent a lot of time in the Quantum Realm, she declines to reveal her past to others, which makes their stay awkward and complicated at the same time. Add to that the appearance of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) and veteran Bill Murray in an undisclosed role and the audience will have a winner when Ant-Man makes it to the theatres in February next year.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (English)

March 17, 2023

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, Djimon Hounsou

What to Expect: Although the film was expected to hit the theatres by December 2022, its release date was moved forward to avoid a clash with the sequel of Avatar.

The sequel of the quite successful Shazam! will revolve around a teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his foster siblings who became superheroes when they say the magic word ‘Shazam’, by the end of the original flick. However, from the trailer, it seems that things will go sideways when the adult alter ego Shazam (Zachary Levi) started taking his powers for granted and was also unable to take a stand against the daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler) who returned to use a weapon that could potentially destroy the world.

Will Shazam be able to make peace with the Wizards who gave him the powers, and save the world without wasting precious time, all interested to know the outcome will find out the answer on  March 17, 2023. After the release of Black Adam, the audiences are really interested to know how Shazam would fare, since Black Adam is his arch nemesis, not Superman’s, according to the comics.

John Wick: Chapter 4 (English)

March 24, 2023

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane

What to Expect: They stole his beloved car and killed his dog while he was mourning his wife’s death, and ever since that night, assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has not been his cool and calm self. He has been on the run since, not because he was afraid of getting killed but because he was afraid of losing adversaries. In the forthcoming fourth instalment of the series, he will back to what he does best – kill – and might take on the most powerful players in the underworld. They might be from all over the world, but John has some tricks up his sleeve, which might make them realize that they messed with the wrong guy. Will John be able to rest or will he keep fighting, the audience will know for sure by the end of March next year.

Money Back Guarantee (Urdu)

April 21, 2023

Director: Faisal Qureshi

Cast: Fawad Khan, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Jan Rambo, Ali Safina, Gohar Rasheed, Mani, Shafaat Ali, Marhoom Ahmad Bilal, Adnan Jaffar, Shayan Khan, Javed Sheikh, Kiran Malik, Wasim Akram, Shaniera Akram,

What to Expect: Comedian-turned-director Faisal Qureshi (of VJ fame) brings a desi version of Money Heist where he uses the talents of Fawad Khan (obviously!) and popular cricketer Wasim Akram besides the who’s who of the Pakistani entertainment industry. Shot mostly in Thailand and Karachi, the film will be released in Eid Ul Fitr next year, with the aim of continuing the legacy of Fawad Khan’s comeback film The Legend of Maula Jatt.

From the look of the teasers and the trailer, it seems that the plot might be inspired by another heist film – Tower Heist – which was released in 2011 and also featured an ensemble cast, involved in a heist. In that film, a few losers join hands to take back what’s rightfully theirs and this film seems to follow the same path. Interesting, isn’t it? -Ends

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Omair Alavi

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