Perhaps the first thing that one wonders with an ISPR film is whether it’ll be official rhetoric or whether it’ll project the creative vision of the directors and the producers. Project Ghazi, Pakistan’s first superhero film, has been written by director Nadir Shah and producer Ali Raza, and according to the latter, the duo had complete creative control of the script.
We met the cast and crew of PG earlier last week. Well, to be fair, we met half of the cast. Missing from the promotions was Adnan Jaffer, who plays the villain in the film but the bigger name missing from the meeting was Humayun Saeed, who apparently hasn’t been actively involved in the film promotions so far (he made an appearance at the trailer launch but that was the last we saw of him). Even the director was missing that day. We’re assuming that Humayun Saeed is busy with the release of his film, Punjab Nahin Jaongi, which has been produced by him as well.
Regardless, we had the up and coming Syra Shahroz, who is perhaps the real hero of this movie (in our eyes). Syra plays a scientist in the film and the trailers suggests that she does some superhero butt kicking as well. We also met Sheheryar Munawar, who has been yo-yoing with his weight lately. For PG, Munawar had to bulk up but for another upcoming film, Sheheryar is being asked to lose all the muscle he made. That’s why when we met, Sheheryar was sipping on some green tea and had asked the PR people to bring him some fresh fruits to eat.
But it was our meeting with the producer which proved to be most fruitful, (no pun intended). Ali shared insightful details about the film. For instance, he told us how the ISPR had a certain “aesthetic request,” as Sheheryar put it, regarding the film.
“ISPR has never once intervened in the creative aspects of the film,” he clarified. “The only request they made was that we show clean shaven soldiers as well as those with mustaches.” Why would the ISPR care about what the soldiers look like? “The idea was that they wanted to show that army men have different looks other than the typical bearded look that has now become synonymous with army men.” Raza also revealed how they had sought the help of ISPR for factual information, such as whether or not a 28, 29 year old soldier could become a Major. “They can,” he revealed.
Let’s come back to Syra’s role. The reason why we’re fixated on this is that this is the first time in a really long time that a woman will be playing a character that isn’t simply someone’s wife, girlfriend, daughter in law, mother and so on and so forth. Syra plays a scientist who is conducting an investigation on a project of the army, which is called Project Ghazi. She is looking into a group of extraordinary soldiers who have extra capabilities over and above the average man.
“When I heard about the role, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t just like ‘oh we need a girl so we’re just placing her as a prop or eye candy,’” shared Shahroz. “I liked the script also. The story seemed very different from what we’ve been doing,” she continued.
We did wonder whether Syra and Sheheryar share a romantic relationship in the film, as the trailer does not reveal anything of the sort; the Pakistani audience will expect at least one wedding at the end. “Well, of course there is some romantic and sexual tension between the two,” shared Sheheryar. “I play the role of the cocky soldier and Syra is not impressed by him so of course there is some curiosity there.”
“Yes they like each other but it won’t be like what you’ve seen before,” added Syra.
Does Project Ghazi look ‘superhero’ enough? That’s something that we’ve been wondering. Did the producers encounter any technical limitations that restricted their horizon in terms of the action sequences?
“We knew that we will be heavily scrutinized if we even attempted to try a superhero film. Superman can wear a cape, Batman can come from a cave, but no matter what our superhero does, we won’t hear the end of it. Those narratives are 80 years old,” shared Raza before Munawar joined in. “Those characters have literature behind them. They started off with comic books and went on to films. They have a legacy. We don’t have that. And whenever anyone does anything for the first time, there is a lot of pressure. This film has very smartly tackled all that.”
“With that being said,” said Shahroz, “if you look at Batman and the fight sequences in the film, they are very real. I felt more Batman in the film than anything else.”
“I felt more Jason Bourne in the film. It’s very close to the entire concept as well. As in, Bourne’s a normal person with extra speed, precognition,” added Munawar but Raza was quick to point out the subtle difference between an extraordinary individual and a superhero. “Bourne is part of a rogue program. This is more Captain America because you’re clearly on the side of good.”
We wondered whether Raza had heard how Adnan Jaffar’s antagonist character, Qataan, was being called out for looking too similar to The Dark Knight Rises’ iconic villain, Bane?
“He will look similar. You see, Bane isn’t the only one who wears a mask. We’re forgetting Cobra Commander. Darth Vader. The problem is that we’re very quick to judge. The reason why he wears a mask is because he has disowned his face. There is an entire scene that explains it. Basically, this isn’t a propaganda film. The fight isn’t against another country or community, but with ourselves. It’s against intolerance and hate.”
You’re not alone if you’ve also gotten revved up for the film. After our conversation with the very confident cast and crew, we ourselves can’t wait to watch Project Ghazi! The film hits theatres on July 14th.