One conversation with Adnan Sarwar is enough to understand that this man has a vision for Pakistani cinema. While most people are now in the film business to make money, Sarwar is cementing his position in this risky business simply to tell stories which he deems important. “I want to leave behind a legacy. I want my work to be remembered and studied once I’m gone,” shared Sarwar in an interview.
At a time when many filmmakers are making ‘safe’ films to ensure that their financial investment is returned to them, Sarwar is making a film about a young 20-year-old girl, Zenith Irfan, who is the first Pakistani woman to have made a solo motorcycle journey through the northern regions of the country.
We are also living in a time where women are usually reduced to being accessories to men in our films.
Most people don’t even want to associate themselves with the word ‘feminist’, as has been witnessed by a viral video doing rounds of the internet lately where ironically, female Pakistani celebrities called feminism “overrated” and something that they don’t believe in.
So why is Sarwar taking such a huge risk? Is Pakistan ready to see a woman take centre stage on the big screen? “Nobody can predict what happens at the box office,” shared Sarwar. “Look at the films our industry has produced this past one year. These films had all the supposed elements that make a ‘hit’ film, but look at what happened to them. They were battered,” said Sarwar very honestly. “I personally feel that there is a market for female centric films and I feel that it’s about time we start making films about women who challenge societal taboos.”
This is why Adnan Sarwar’s second hero from his ‘Heroes Trilogy’ is a woman. The script has been written by the filmmaker himself, who will also be donning the director’s hat once again. While Sarwar wouldn’t reveal who has been cast for this dynamic role, he did reveal that the actor (he doesn’t like using the word ‘actress’ for female actors) is learning how to ride a motorcycle and will be riding it in the film. “She’s really working very hard; she has been spending time with Zenith to learn her mannerisms and how she walks and talks in real life,” he elaborated.
The film will be shot in Lahore and along the magnificent Karakoram Highway. And Sarwar has confirmed to us that the film will be released by the end of this year. We wondered the level of risk in shooting on such a location to which Sarwar assured us that it’s not dangerous to shoot there. “I recently did a BMW commercial which was also shot along the highway so I know how it can be done. I’m honestly very excited about shooting such massive spaces and bringing them to the big screen.”
There was another thing which Sarwar declared with absolute clarity: “It won’t be possible for me to work with big production houses.” One would think that Sarwar would be more inclined towards the big guys considering the financial constraints he faced while producing Shah.
“Taking money has strings attached. It is a business after all so I understand that investors want to secure their investment but financial donors should have faith in the filmmaker and not try to wrestle creative control from them. I’m funding the film myself because I have a certain vision for the film which I don’t want compromised. I have a few partners who believe in me and Logos Films will be producing the film. This is the only way I can work here,” he shared.
Sarwar proved with Shah that it is possible to make a good film even with a small budget. “You don’t need money to make beautiful things,” concluded Sarwar and we can only imagine that he must have been smiling while he said it. “If money was the only factor then all our expensive films would be considered hit films. What you need to make beautiful things is a heart, and I’m all heart.”
“It’s about time we start making films about women who challenge societal taboos,” shares Adnan Sarwar whose second film from his ‘Heroes Trilogy’ will revolve around a female protagonist. Zenith Irfan is the first Pakistani woman to have made a solo motorcycle journey through the northern regions of the country and is the inspiration behind Sarwar’s upcoming film.
The article was originally published in Instep, April 27th, 2017.