When we heard that Saqib Malik is making a film about the dying Lollywood and resurgence of cinema in Pakistan and he has taken Meera as the central character, we were curious then we saw the teaser of the said film – Baaji – and the thriller-cum-drama sent chills down our spine. We had to ask him if the story is somehow inspired by Meera’s journey in the industry. In an exclusive conversation with Something Haute, Saqib refuted the idea.
“No, Baaji is a work of fiction. Meera is an actor who used to be a star in Lollywood and I needed somebody who had a certain kind of look, experience and is in a certain age bracket. Meera fits the character perfectly. Shameera is an original character but people will definitely draw some parallels however, it has nothing to do with Meera’s own life,” Saqib said.
What prompted him to make a film on the life of a fading star?
“I wanted to make a film against the backdrop of our film industry because I always found that fascinating. I wanted to keep it women-oriented and with a darker context. Baaji has all the commercial trappings, but it is dark and gritty at its roots. My focus was to make a film with a good story and I kept on developing this idea. I just thought it was a really interesting time (in Pakistani cinema) which makes Baaji a great story. It’s the end of one order i.e. Lollywood and the beginning of a new chapter; so I wanted to take somebody who was caught it that transition,” he said.
Talking about the cast, Saqib wanted only Meera in the role of Shameera. “Meera was the one I wanted in my film from the beginning. I was sure that I needed Nayyar Ejaz in my film and Mohsin Abbas Haider was also a set choice. I wasn’t sure about everybody else till the very end, but ultimately I think I’ve a dream cast as all my actors have given their heart and soul to this film,” he added.
Our conversation then shifted towards the emphasis on female-oriented films in our industry at this nascent stage. We have already made films like Motorcycle Girl and Cake with strong female leads. Saqib believes that Pakistani film industry has made a lot of women-oriented films back in the 60s and 70s. “We used to have film director Hasan Tariq, who used to make films with his wife (Rani) who was a big star of her times. We’ve a history of strong female protagonist in films. I believe what matters the most is a good story, however, I find women much more interesting and intelligent any day!” he laughingly said.
We see friendship, romance, success, obsession, revenge, doom and a lot more in few minutes in the trailer. How did he manage to handle so much in one film?
“Baaji has diverse story lines in it. The film covers a lot of different angles as the characters belong to a variety of backgrounds. That’s the fun part to take characters with different motivations and ambitions and how you knit them together in a story. The story has many flavors; it’s not a one-dimensional film,” Saqib said adding, “If I’ve to put it in a genre then it’s a thriller/drama. I love music so the film has 7-8 songs. I’m not ashamed of lip-sync songs or afraid of singing and dancing. It’s part of our film world and I love it. Though I don’t like the cliché shaadi songs so Baaji’s USP is no wedding and no wedding songs,” Saqib said.
Talking about the bona fide star of his film, Meera, Saqib thinks one needs to be patient with a star of her caliber.
“I’ve worked with Meera before for TV commercials and I knew well that she is very committed. Yes, I had thought that she has come from a different school of acting so will she be able to adapt to my style of direction or will she be able to act with this new breed of actors, but she is very adaptable, committed to her craft and understands quickly. I have come to realize that Meera is a sensitive actor and she is the best foot soldier if only you give her the respect and comfort she deserves,” Saqib added.
When a film talks so deeply about harsh realities, it is inevitably bound to leave the audience with a message; however, Saqib begs to differ.
“Every story has a message. In Baaji, we aren’t spoon-feeding; it is for the audience to take. Biggest message is that don’t be afraid to dream, but at the same time every dream has a price,” he concluded.