One of Pakistan’s biggest film stars says let the culture do the talking on important subjects and bring people together…
HE IS AN ICON in his native Pakistan with more than 500 movies to his name and now in what is believed to be a first in contemporary times, he has reinterpreted an Indian classic.
Shaan Shahid, the man behind ‘Arth 2 – The Destination’ – a remake of Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Arth’ in 1982, told www.asianculturevulture.com he was driven by a sense of wanting to close the cultural divide between India and Pakistan. The film opens today globally.
Relations between India and Pakistan have worsened over the last 18 months and the fallout has affected the film industry – with a virtual ban on films and visible talent going either way.
“We should have a trade-off,” Shaan (as he is routinely referred to) told acv, “between India and Pakistan, that’s why I picked up an Indian film and what better one than Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Arth’.
“It is one of the pivotal films that changed the Indian film industry in the 1980s.”
His argument is that if business people can carry on business between the two – why can’t those involved in culture be allowed the same freedom.
“Governments don’t decide what we watch or what we drink. It’s important how I treat others or how good I am as a person – the government doesn’t need to get involved in that,” he argued.
The film is controversial because at its core is the subject of extra-marital relations.
Bhatt himself said it was partially autobiographical and inspired by his own closeness to film star Parveen Babi.
It represented a different type of Bollywood film – a hard-hitting subject but sensitively and skilfully handled.
Today, it is seen as a classic and routinely cited in lists of the best modern Bollywood films ever made.
“I picked up ‘Arth’ because it had all the human emotions a person goes through and there so many elements to it but we have changed the storyline.”
In Shaan’s own ‘Arth’, he plays Ali a singer and there are three other important figures ‘Uzma’ (played by Uzma Hassan) a writer, Umar (Mohib Mirza), and Humaima (Humaima Malik), another writer.
There are creative passions at play and emotions get tangled, no doubt.
“It’s quite different,” Shaan emphasised. “We picked up the characters but not the storyline. It’s a different take on Mahesh Bhatt’s classic.”
Music is a big part of his own film and the tracks released have been popular on Youtube and similar platforms.
“It’s really part of the dialogue,” Shaan said. “We are producing the kind of music no one else is.”
With the film only coming out today and the main plot largely kept under wraps during publicity, Shaan has only talked about the film’s themes in general.
There’s little doubt that it has a progressive sensibility and comes from the perspective that men and woman are equal.
“It’s all about the power that women have and that they don’t tap into,” Shaan expanded, when pushed gently to talk about the film in more detail.
“It’s the interesting feature of working women that I saw. That part really interested me – where a woman can be independent.”
He believes the film is as good as anything else you might come across in your local UK multiplex – much of the production talent is British and the film was shot both in London and Pakistan.
“The script required shooting in London,” Shaan explained. “It’s so touristic and I wanted to meet up with all the Pakistanis there because it’s very difficult to connect from so far away. It was amazing to see all the people and the warmth they showed.”
He returned to London in October to promote the film and feels Pakistani films are beginning to come of age internationally. It is among two big releases this week from there.
“We’ve been lagging behind a little but we’re getting back on our feet and the audiences are responding. It’s the right time to boost production.”
He felt that the industry had fallen behind because of the lack of access to modern technology but that has changed.
“We’re shooting with the same cameras Hollywood is shooting with, and my whole team was English. We’re on the right track.”
ACV special presenter and London-based Attika Choudhary also appears in the film – read about her experience here…
Shaan is keen for Pakistani films to re-enter India and be screened in China too.
“The industry is growing and there are new markets and once we connect to India and China, we are going to go further.”
His film is also something of a riposte to those who want to continue hostilities and breathe fire and brimstone at the mere mention of an India-Pakistan cultural thaw.
“It’s about relationships in the end,” he said talking about cultural connections. “Those Indians or Pakistanis (and and those of that heritage) living in the UK are not ruled by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party in government in India), or Nawaz Sharif (until recently ousted, prime minister of Pakistan) for that matter, and are free in the truest sense and it would be nice if they started supporting each other and come out for entertainment – and create a bridge.
“Look at the positivity to be gained from joining hands. In my 30 years (of working in films) I see a lot of friendship from India.
“The support (for the film) would show the friendship on the cultural front. It’s really important the audience realises it’s not an Indian or a Pakistani film, it’s a mixture of both – so I think we are going back to our roots (of a shared culture) – enjoy the film!”
‘Arth 2 – The Destination’ is out now