After about two somewhat dormant decades, Pakistani movies are quite the rage these days, despite the hits and misses. To draw crowds into cinemas in Pakistan is no easy feat but bringing local movies onto the international platform is an even bigger ordeal. The stars must align perfectly, at the perfect time for this to happen.
Na Maloom Afraad 2 is one of those movies that was being released on Eid 2017 in the USA. Â As luck would have it, Houston – where it was being released – was flooded and everything came to a standstill including the premiere of the movie. However, the South Asian Film Festival contacted Nabeel Qureshi (director of the movie) and offered to hold a premiere for him in the very best of places â€“ New York City! Nabeel has a nostalgic association with the South Asian Film Festival since they had premiered Na Maloom Afraad for him in NYC as well.
So, on the cold winter day of December 16th, 2017, NMA2 premiered in NYC. Mostly the promotion took place by word of mouth within the Pakistani expat community and despite it being a dreary day in New York City, the theater was one of a packed laughing audience.
A Q&A session with Nabeel Qureshi followed right after the movie and the audience was surprised to see that the director was such a young fellow!
One observation of the expat audience was that they enjoyed the movie for what it was â€“ light-hearted, funny and apolitical. Hereâ€™s what people in the audience had to sayâ€¦
â€œThe movie was well received. People loved the fact that it was a light-hearted movie. The audience needs movies that depict Pakistanis as normal people, as opposed to movies that try and depict the ugly and dark side of Pakistan. Too many filmmakers in Pakistan focus on making a political statement, but sometimes people just want a good laugh. Thatâ€™s what the director delivered.â€ – Shahid Khan, Managing Partner, MAG; Chairman, Mediamorph â€“ NYC
â€œThe crowd really enjoyed the movie. The slapstick comedy and Karachi boy jokes were well received and made people laugh. Some people felt that the song was unnecessary. They added that the movie was otherwise fantastic, flawless script, great flow and packed with entertainment.â€ – Lubna Joher, Account Director Oath/Verizon
â€œNMA 2 was a very funny comedy. It was a house full show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Surprised to see such a young director.â€ – Uzma, Director Cancer Research
The filmâ€™s Dallas premiere followed the very next day and apparently it was a â€œgirls’ night outâ€ which made Nabeel a bit nervous since the movie revolves around guys. Another stereotype is that the expats in Dallas are a bit conservative. It was refreshing to hear the audience (primarily females) laughing loudly and guffawing at the hilarious jokes in the movie.
Back to NY, a conversation with Nabeel Qureshi provided more insight into the thoughts behind his movies.
As a director, Nabeel said he does what he wants to do regardless of directing something to please the audience. He wants to explore different genres as seen by Actor in Law, Na Maloom Afraad, and NMA2. His fourth movie Load Wedding is in the works and is a different genre altogether based on a grand wedding as the movie very well suggests. With Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat as the leads, the movie promises to be fun and is geared to launch on Eid ul Azha in 2018.
Nabeel felt that the mindset of actors needs to evolve. It should not be about the female lead looking pretty, having the best clothes, and importance based on the number of scenes. He added that he was especially fond of Ann Hathaway, Sunny Leone, and our very own Aysha Khan. Mehwish Hayat was also a personal favorite while Fawad Khan, Ali Zafar, and Fahad Mustafa topped his list of local actors.
Itâ€™s good to see that Pakistani movie directors are gaining celebrity status and the educated audience is interested in local movies, not just for the actors but also based on the directors. Peers and news folks are respectful and inspired by Nabeelâ€™s work.