Spring is in the air and television channels are launching the brightest and best serials for the new season. And anyone watching ARY Digital cannot fail to see the intriguing teasers for the new drama serial Dil Lagi.
It boasts a formidable star cast including Humayun Saeed and Mehwish Hayat, fresh from their blockbuster movie Jawani Phir Nahi Ani. Their amazing onscreen chemistry is once again being utilized, this time for the small screen. Dil Lagi has been produced by Six Sigma and directed by Nadeem Baig.
Anything Baig touches seems to turn to gold: he is the director of Pyarey Afzal, the serial that made Hamza Ali Abbasi a household name, and what is now the highest grossing movie Pakistani movie, JPNA.
Faiza Iftikhar, who wrote Dil Lagi, has written the scripts for popular shows like Aunn Zara and Roag.
This is the duo's first collaboration -- we caught up with them to talk about their new project.
1) What inspired you to write Dil Lagi?
Faiza Iftikhar: I took a break from writing in 2013 because I didn't want to write the same kind of stories over and over again. Channels were asking me to write something similar to Roag but as a writer, I find it hard to repeat what I have already written and what someone else has already covered.
I have never written anything when someone has ordered me to, I simply cannot; when Nadeem Baig came to see me initially about a potential serial, I kept coming up with excuses in the hopes that I could put it off.
2) What excuses did you make ?
Faiza: I said, “My heroine will not allow anyone to slap her". I was in no mood to write anything so I added, "Actually, my leading lady will do the slapping; in fact, she will slap the hero!” To my surprise, Baig saheb was was undaunted and said fine.
I kept going, telling him my heroine will be zalim and khabees and he was a little taken aback but told me that he didn’t even want to know the story and that I could write exactly what I wanted.
I had no way out and the story of Dil Lagi came to me after that. And yes, be warned: the female lead Anmol is not your typical bholi, mazloom larki -- she is not empathetic at all and will certainly ruffle some feathers.
3) Why would she annoy people?
Faiza: Channels want heroines who make people shed tears. We have a strange concept of women in our society; either they are very good or very bad, very intelligent or very stupid, nothing in between.
People are much more complex than that and I simply can't write such perfect characters. When I see these one dimensional characters onscreen, it makes me laugh. I cannot take them seriously. Characters have to be rooted in observation and reality to be authentic.
4) Can you tell us something about the story of Dil Lagi?
Faiza: Dil Lagi is a love story but unlike most love stories, it is one-sided. On one side, there is love and on the other end, absolute hatred. One person is taking the relationship in a positive way and the other person is taking it as a challenge. Dil Lagi can mean true love or infatuation, a game and that fits the story.
5) Humayun Saeed plays Mohid, the male lead. Tell us how he's managed to look twenty years younger?
Nadeem Baig: He has always been a good looking man with a great screen presence and I might add, a close friend. When we shot the JPNA court room scene, I decided his look for Dil Lagi that very day. He's sporting a clean shave after nearly four years and it gave him a fresh look and of course, he's fit and keeps his weight in check.
6) How do you perceive his role -- is he an inspirational character?
Faiza: I think this dialogue of Mohid defines his character very well: ”Main ghalat kaam bhi bohat sahi tareeqay say karta hoon, magar kabhi kabhi koi sahi kaam ghalat tareeqay say kar baethta hoon lekin admi ghalat nahi hon.” (I may do the wrong thing in the right way but sometimes, I do the right thing in the wrong way. I am not a bad man.) In his own way, he is inspirational.
Nadeem: I think Mohid’s character is tailor-made for Humayun. This is a story of mistrust, how we completely misinterpret people. He is not naïve, in fact he is very intelligent so yes, he's kind of inspirational.
7) From the trailers of Dil Lagi, Anmol seems to be manipulating him so is he really that smart?
Nadeem: Jab dil kaheen lag jay tau intelligence bhi peechay reh jati hai. (when you fall in love you leave intelligence behind.)
Anmol is actually not manipulating or the calculating sort, she's just an impulsive girl. I think women are actually quite strong in our society, they take their own decisions and unlike men, they are able to multi-task. I like to show women who think for themselves in my dramas.
Faiza: Anmol is a character that suffers not because she is bholi or naïve but because she is overtly confident. She is a strong woman who makes quick decisions but just because you are confident, it doesn’t mean you are right every time.
You should consider what other people say, especially your parents. Anmol has all the qualities I admire in a woman; she's very hardworking, independent, proud and self-made. She is not defined by simply being a wife, a mother or a daughter; she is a person in her own right.
8) How do you create this chemistry between the pair?
Nadeem: I actually don’t know the exact formula; I strive for the feeling of every scene and push my actors to give me that emotion in that moment. I think it is a director’s job primarily to inspire his actors.
I become obsessive with the actors about their performance. Those who have worked with me understand me so well that they pick up on what I want. Take Aiza (Khan) for example -- she only had 8 scenes with Hamza in Pyarey Afzal but she made people believe in that relationship.
9) Mehwish Hayat plays Anmol. We have recently seen her in modern avatars but in Dil Lagi, she will be portraying a traditional middle class girl. Was it an easy transition?
Nadeem: I'm very happy with her. She has really worked hard and given 100 percent. You will see how she's carried some tough dialogues really well. When she read the script, she was really excited; I'm glad she trusted me and said yes to the role.
10) What can you tell us about other actors in Dil Lagi?
Nadeem: Saba Hamid has given yet another award winning performance. She got nominated for Lux Style Awards for both my previous plays as well. She's a mother with strong beliefs but not in the negative way; she's practically Anmol's reflection and Faiza has given her some beautiful scenes. The supporting cast is full of good actors like Imran Ashraf and Asma Abbasi.
11) What do you want to say to the audience about Dil Lagi?
Nadeem: I want the audience to interpret this story themselves without preconceptions. They should watch it because it's different, it's not a run of the mill saas bahu story and it is deeply romantic. It will also mark Humayun's return to television after five years.
12) A few words about your super hit film Jawani Phir Nahi Ani?
Nadeem: Well I had one rule for JPNA, I wanted to be able to watch it with my family and that rule will remain with me; My favourite scene was the DDLJ spoof at the end.
The toughest part of making JPNA was convincing the producers we could actually make a good film that was it. The transition from drama to film was not difficult I guess mein shuru sey hee thora filmi tha but it is true that the craft of storytelling is different for films. Honestly, JPNA was not difficult because I was prepared and had visualized it.
13) For the fans of Pyaray Afzal, why did it end the way it did? Why did you kill Afzal off?
Nadeem: Everyone asks me that question, even my mother! I don’t think you can get away with a murder, no matter how justified we might think it was. Truly a sad end to a beautiful love story.
14) Apart from Dil Lagi do you have any other projects coming up?
Nadeem: It’s a love story a film written by Khalil ur Rehman Qamar. I cannot say more because nothing is finalized yet.
Faiza: I have several projects in the works. One is with Big Bang productions starring Faysal Qureshi and Iraj Fatima but untitled as yet. Another project coming to your screens soon is Nigaar Khana. In Urdu, nigaar khana means “studio”, this project is about the heyday of the Pakistani film industry. Nigaar Khana’s cast includes Saba Qamarand Mikaal Zulfikar, among others.