35mm evokes seriousness: Hijrat's Farooq Mengal explains staying old-school in a digital world

Published 09 Apr, 2016 10:44am

Peerzada Salman

It was my dream to shoot a movie on 35mm, says Mengal

Shot on film, Hijrat has been several years in the making
Shot on film, Hijrat has been several years in the making

KARACHI: We don’t have to be self-conscious to compete with Indian films. We need to tell our stories with sincerity and honesty. Today, Pakistani film-makers are telling their stories with a difference and without using escapist content, said actor Jamal Shah at an event held to introduce a new film, Hijrat, which is to hit cinema screens on April 22.

He added that Pakistani films in the past were systematically destroyed, after which things were picked from the ashes as film-makers were telling their stories with a difference.

Mr Shah said the good thing about the whole process was that there’s no escapist content in it.

Referring to the 35mm format on which Hijrat has been made, he said it lent visual crispness to the story. He said most of his scenes were shot in Turkey, which was perhaps the only country where Pakistanis were welcomed wholeheartedly. His role in the film was of a music composer, he said.

Farooq Mengal, the director of Hijrat, acknowledged that it took his film some years to complete but argued that’s the way it should be (waqt hi lagna chahyey). He said it was his dream to shoot a movie on 35mm. He said there were problems along the way, but that’s part and parcel of work. He thanked his entire team, which he claimed was with him to date, for enabling him to make the project. He said it was up to cine-goers to see the film.

When a journalist asked him about why he chose the format that not many are using these days, Mr Mengal said 35mm invoked seriousness (sanjeedgi dikhti hai) and the digital format lacked it.

Answering another question, he said we [Pakistanis] could make better films than the Indians provided we remained true to our own selves (apney rang mein rahein).

Film actress Sana wished the project well. During the question and answer session, she expressed her displeasure at a journalist saying she (journalist) didn’t know the actress’s name.

Singer Ali Azmat, who has sung two songs for the film’s soundtrack, first talked about migration (hijrat, also the title of the film), saying that all our parents had migrated to Pakistan from India. He said Balochistan was unfairly treated in the past 60 years and pointed out that things were not good in Lahore either where people suffered inordinate load-shedding. He said when the music composer of the film, Sahir Ali Bagga, approached him to sing a track for Hijrat, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan had already sung one that intimidated him. However, things worked out in the end, he said.

Actress Rabia Butt said it took three to four years for the film to complete but “all good things take time”. She called working in it as her “best experience”. She said it was a debut venture for some of the lead actors all of whom had worked hard on it.

Asad Zaman, who is playing the male protagonist, requested the media not to be harsh on the film and instead use positive criticism so that we (his colleagues) could learn from it.

Rubab Ali, Akhtar Husain and Saima Baloch also spoke.

Originally published in Dawn, April 9th, 2016