The curious case of a film postponed
KARACHI: There was something odd from the get-go about the premiere of the film Project Ghazi at a local cinema on Thursday evening. One thought that the stars of the movie — Humayun Saeed, Syra Shehroz and Sheheryar Munawar — not to mention its director Nadir Shah, were fashionably late. But they were inordinately late. The red carpet event was supposed to begin at 7pm. Well, for almost an hour the only people on the carpet were media personnel (of the electronic kind), some dolled up girls and suited men — they looked very ‘showbizy’ but were not part of the film.
At 8pm veteran actor Talat Husain (who plays an important character in the film which was slated for a country-wide release on July 14) turned up. He was swarmed by TV cameras and microphone-pushing journalists. He was cool as a cucumber and responded to each of their queries with composure.
“It was a great experience working on the project. The approach [to film-making] was like an art form,” was how Husain described his feelings for Project Ghazi. He was also very optimistic about the future of Pakistani cinema. When Dawn sought his opinion on the over-hyped phrase ‘revival of cinema’ he said, “I am very happy. The reason is: now we are trying to match our standards with bade loag (great people) and not the Indian film industry.”
When asked to explain great people, he said he meant films made in the US, China and Iran. Not just that, the seasoned actor was satisfied with the technique used in Project Ghazi to highlight the ‘superhero’ factor projected by its makers.
Nadir Shah arrived next, quite later than Husain. He said the special effects used in the film are different and he was happy with them. As far as the box office expectations were concerned, he remarked he couldn’t say anything about it: “It’s in God’s hands.”
As soon as the clock struck 9, the showbiz media — which these days includes a countless number of film critics, film bloggers, film experts, looking for their coupons for free popcorn and soft drinks before they enter the cinema hall — got a little on edge, so it was decided by the organisers of the event to hand them tickets to the screening. Most members of the media went inside the hall in a jiffy. Some of them were lucky enough to see in person the principal actors of the film that arrived at, or after, 9.30pm.
The film started at about 9.45pm. One could sense uneasiness in the hall. Barely a few minutes after the end of the story an announcement was made on Project Ghazi’s Facebook page that its release had been postponed. “It is with a heavy heart that we are making the announcement that Project Ghazi’s release date has been postponed. We understand that this was a highly anticipated movie, but films of this magnitude require extensive technical work and hence to do justice to this film genre, we have decided to delay the release from July 14, 2017. The new release date will be announced soon.”
Social media was abuzz with the news in no time and it was claimed that it’s Humayun Saeed who urged the film’s producers to put off its release.
Now, strange things have happened in the Pakistan film industry, but this one is unusual. Surely, the director and producer of the film, if not its actors, must have seen it when they were editing it. No fault — of sound, lighting or continuity jumps — can remain undetected at the editing table. How could they not have noticed it before giving the film the go-ahead for the premiere?
Humayun Saeed explained the whole situation to Dawn: “The makers of the film are educated and well-meaning people. But they’re new to it. A film requires a great deal of time in post [production]. It needs at least six months in the post phase. Also, it’s a sci-fi project, which is the director’s strength, but as I said, it takes time. They finished the film a month and a half ago, and went through the censors only a couple of days back. The director wasn’t there at the censors, the producer [Ali Raza] was. He knew about the sound issue but was also concerned that the premiere had been announced, so he thought let’s just go with it. When I saw the film for 20 minutes I realised that while it’s well-shot, there was a sound issue as I couldn’t understand what the actors were saying. I thought it’s not good for all of us, and most of all for the public. We will have to dub the film and improve its sound.”
The actor is spot-on. But spare a thought for cinema owners.