Upcoming film Dance Kahani flips the lid on Pakistan's hip-hop subculture

Upcoming film Dance Kahani flips the lid on Pakistan's hip-hop subculture

Dance Kahani marks Omar Hassan's directorial debut. Here's what's up!
Updated 21 Nov, 2015

We might not know a lot about it, but Pakistan has a thriving hip hop subculture. And upcoming film Dance Kahani will put the country's B-boys in the spotlight.

Slated for a 2016 release, Dance Kahani will star hip hop dancers (hailing from Karachi to Lahore, Peshawar to Quetta) in a story about a British-born Pakistani girl (played by Scottish dancer Madeleine Hanna) who moves back to Pakistan and tries to reconcile with giving up her dream of becoming a ballet dancer.

The film will be ad man Omar Hassan's feature film debut, although it wasn't meant to be.

Images talked to the director to find out more about Dance Kahani.

Images: Why did you choose dance as the subject of your first film?

Omar Hassan: Dance Kahani is actually not the first movie project that I worked on. I had initially penned another film and was in the process of production planning for it when I stumbled across local dancing talent at Actone Dance studio.

That's where I met Vernin, a very talented local kid, a green jacket, a top freestyle hip hop dancer and an unbelievably incredible free runner.

Vernin along with other kids, instead of wasting away their lives on the streets of Karachi, were dedicated to spending their time on a studio floor, committed to the art of dance. Coming from all classes and various walks of life, these kids forgot all their woes once they were on that floor. They were doing something positive with a dream of making it big one day based on their talents.

These kids inspired me so much that I immediately shelved my first script and started working on a story that would give these boys a platform and would showcase what our youth is capable of when given an opportunity. It would also convey the message to our youth that if you believe in yourself, whoever you may be and wherever you are, your dreams can come true.

And this is one of the reason that it was decided to actually make their dreams come true by casting real dancing talent in the film, pick them up from various corners of the country and showcase them on the big screen for the entire country and the world to see.

Images: ​How long has Dance Kahani been in the making?

Omar: A very small team worked on the film, hence it has taken time. It was penned and planned in 2012 with shooting commencing and being completed in 2013. Post-production was done completely in Pakistan and it was indeed a big learning curve to edit and grade an entire film which was based on the 4K shoot format, so it took quite some time. But being complete now, we are all set to release [the film] in the coming months.

Scenes from the Dance Kahani promo – Screengrabs
Scenes from the Dance Kahani promo – Screengrabs

We also wanted to wait till the time that the Pakistani audience has matured though the resurgence phase of the Pakistani cinema which we feel has happened now and the time is now right for them to accept and appreciate a movie like ours.

Images: How did you find the cast of Dance Kahani? Where is the foreign cast of DK from and how did you rope them in?

Omar: We had Actone helping us with our casting process. Initially, we were thinking of going with only the Karachi boys, but with so much talent around the country, we recruited from all over Pakistan through an extensive search exercise.

We have talent from Quetta, Hazara town, Gujrat, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and even Peshawar, all doing Hip Hop, popping and free running.

It is pretty incredible when you think that some of these kids come from a not so urban Pakistan and excel in a very modern and technical form of dance, defying all stereotypes.

We only one international member in our cast and she is playing the lead. Madeleine Hanna is a trained actor as well as a ballerina and contemporary dance artist from Scotland.

Casting her was actually not so difficult. We had contacted a couple of international talent agencies who not only gave us access to their talent database but floated our project requirement within their talent pool. We received over 30 CVs from very talented girls mostly based out of the UK. We shortlisted the ones who fulfilled our criterion and conducted multiple dance and acting auditions over the Internet. Out of all the shortlisted candidates, Madeleine was the perfect fit not only with her looks, great acting and brilliant dancing skills, but she was also quite interested in coming down here and spending time here for the film.

Images: Music must also play an integral part of your film. Who are the people who have worked on the film's soundtrack?

Omar: Music is definitely a very important part and in fact a highlight of our film. The soundtrack however has been integrated more on the Hollywood pattern rather than on the lip-syncing song and dance Bollywood routine. And we have quite a diverse soundtrack, from English numbers to Punjabi, from Dubstep to Rock and even bhangra. However, we will be revealing the soundtrack and the artists involved in the near future. But again, all musicians involved are Pakistani and of course very talented.


Umair Nov 21, 2015 06:03pm
Promising and impressive !
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DifferentPerspective Nov 21, 2015 08:54pm
Thrilled to see such a diverse project being done in Pakistan. Very different subject and just tells the whole world that we are capable of doing so much different and such a high skill project. Amazing talent in Pakistan. Good luck guys.
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AXH Nov 21, 2015 09:35pm
Looks very promising.
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USN Nov 21, 2015 10:02pm
ever watched ABCD? looks like a copy
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khan Nov 21, 2015 11:55pm
Pure nonsense......nothing else.
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Ali Shah Nov 22, 2015 01:55am
Sounds great from the pakistan film industry
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Karachi Nov 22, 2015 02:42am
Looks like a copy of a famous French movie.
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Truth Nov 22, 2015 05:58am
Pakistan.... U Beauty!!!!! Amazed to see such Talent. Will be a great dance movie..!!!
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Another fan Nov 22, 2015 10:02am
Impressive promo. It's a miracle that movies like this one are not only being made but are also hot on the distribution circuit in Pakistan. Could not have imagined this scenario 10 years or so years go, when the Syed Noors and Masood Butts used to rule lollywood.
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Arslan Nov 22, 2015 04:45pm
@USN quick to conclusions, aren't you? Just because it's a dance movie doesn't mean it's a copy of an Indian by default! As for ABCD, there are at least 10+ hollywood children dance/cheerleading competition movies (mostly B-grade) over past 20 years with identical stories so its nothing unique.
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Naveed Nov 25, 2015 01:31pm
This is a very different movie. I hope they don't spoil the natural beauty of these street dancers.
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Ayaz Ali Nov 26, 2015 12:50pm
Step up Pakistan! God Speed!!!
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