‘Tell story of Pakistan to world through your films’
KARACHI: “No one knows the world in Pakistan as well as you do. Tell that story through your films,” said award-winning New York-based Indian filmmaker Mira Nair during a session on ‘Independent film financing and publicity’ on the last day of the International Conference on Film and Television.
The three-day conference organised by the South Asian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Television ended on Wednesday.
Ms Nair’s, whose session was broadcast over Skype to the audience, is set to release her film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s eponymous titled book, sometime later this month. The film starring Pakistani artist
Meesha Shafi in a supporting role will be released in Pakistan and India in May.
“It took me five years to make. Longer than any other film I’ve made,” said Ms Nair while talking about her film. She mentioned that she was inspired to make that film during a trip to Lahore sometime in 2004 or 2005. Her father was born, bred and educated in Lahore and later moved to India. “We were raised as Lahoris in India without realising it,” related Ms Nair, “When I went there, Lahore was both familiar and dazzling for me, because it showed a portrait of Pakistan that you don’t see in India or anywhere else for that matter.”She mentioned meeting Mr Hamid and discussing the possibility of converting his book into a film. But it took around eight to nine months to find a writer who was able and would be willing to adapt the book into a
screenplay — an unusually long time, according to Ms Nair.
“There is a lot of ignorance in this part of the world about South Asia and there is a lot of arrogance in that ignorance,” she said.
She enlisted the help of a writer she had worked with for almost a decade, Ami Boghani, and he and Mr Hamid set about working on developing the script. Later on, William Wheeler, joined hands with them in the scriptwriting process as well.
Financing the film was extremely hard. “No one wanted to touch the film,” said Ms Nair. “A producer once offered two million dollars which, considering the Hollywood cast, crew and foreign locations, was barely enough to cover costs.”
She added that the same producer, under the influence, very blatantly said to her ‘You can shoot at Rockaway Beach, darling, but when you have a Muslim protagonist, that is all you’re going to get’.
Undeterred, Ms Nair continued to work on the film. “We set up the movie twice and it collapsed twice with the same cast and crew,” she said. “One of our investors ran away so we had to send everyone home at one point. In the end we only had one investor left.”
They shot the entire film in digital format and had the postproduction done in India, which reduced their costs on a very large scale.
The end result, according to Ms Nair, was well worth the effort. “The film was made with complete creative freedom. Not a single thing was censored, which not a lot of film-makers can say,” she said proudly.
When asked as to how she managed to secure financing for her film she responded: “The magic potion is money. My films usually don’t lose money. When investing in a film, no one is handing down charity. Also, you develop relationships with distributors who believe in your work.”
Ms Nair praised the work of New York-based Pakistani filmmaker Mehreen Jabbar, saying that it was very important for her that Ms Jabbar made her second film. “She is really talented and has a singular vision. I’ve never seen the kind of work she has done in her films anywhere else. They are like jewels.”
“Do not burden yourself with the idea of going global,” she said as a word of advice, “Don’t go with the fame before you make the film. If you are true to your work, the message you are trying to send will be universal. No one knows the world in Pakistan as well as you. Work with your community to make a film that touches you.”