Indie films have an audience, says Shahid
Salman Shahid has entertained the audience with his performances in TV shows and stage plays for years but admits his real passion lies in theatre — struggling for change and contributing something novel and unconventional has been his driving force. While cinema has not been the priority on the veteran actor’s list, the recent struggle for a new and transformed film industry has drawn his attention and he is proud of the young talent that has triggered this revolution.
“Several young and commendable people with a lot of talent are coming out with new ideas,” says Shahid, referring to the development in Pakistan’s lackluster film scene. “There is an emerging film culture in the country right now and it will probably be as strong as it was 20 years ago when pop music emerged in Pakistan.” Despite gaining fame through ‘70s drama Such Gup, Shahid made his film debut in 1993 in Nazrul Islam’s Khwahish as a villain.
Instead of pursuing a career in film, he devoted his time to theatre and worked with a dedicated group of actors who distanced themselves from the Lollywood circuit and used the stage to showcase their talent. “I did get offers [for films]; there was talk about casting me opposite Sultan Rahi,” says Shahid, admitting he didn’t know the entire story and had a faint idea. “They soon realised I wasn’t interested.”
“To do what I was doing, was partly experimental because it wasn’t being done in Pakistan; being young, we always wanted to do things differently,” he admits, speaking about his theatre friends.
Steering the conversation back to films, Shahid explains the importance of promoting indie cinema in Pakistan so that the interested parties have opportunities to watch these films. “Multiplexes are the only place where new [indie] cinema can be exhibited and there is an audience that is interested in viewing these films,” he adds.
Shahid, who was present at the premiere of Lamha (Seedlings), says the film shows the potential new talent has when it comes to film-making. He feels it’s the government’s responsibility to make a policy regarding cinema and ensure its implementation.
“To promote this art, the government doesn’t need to provide funds but it needs to make the right policy,” he says. “One simple thing they can do right now is to say that 60% of the screening hours in cinemas would be devoted to local productions whether it’s a Lollywood production or an indie film.”
Shahid has been approached by several indie film-makers; he feels it’s because he is as keen on pushing for change as they are and aspires for a full-fledged film culture in Pakistan. “I have received quite a few scripts — some are bad, some are very bad,” he laughs, adding that there will be good projects as well. “But good or bad, indie cinema will surely prove to be different — it’s there and is on the threshold.”
He will be starring in yet-to-be-released indie film, Tamanna, which is being directed by Steve Moore; another film directed by Owais Khan and numerous TV shows are also part of his current agenda. He also appeared in Bollywood film Ishqiya and will also star in its sequel Dehd Ishqiya, which is slated for release this year.