Sarwar uploaded his directorial Shah in HD on Youtube this weekend —Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh
Sarwar uploaded his directorial Shah in HD on Youtube this weekend —Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

Shah director Adnan Sarwar is beating film pirates at their own game.

After the biopic's TV run on ARY World on Saturday night, the Logos Films team uploaded it to Youtube - in all its HD (1080p!) glory.

"We knew so many people would be recording the film on [substandard] resolution [on Saturday]," Sarwar tells Images. "Our strategy was to counter the film's piracy and release the film online on our own terms."

The story of legendary Pakistani boxer Syed Hussain Shah, Shah chronicled the turn of his fortunes as he went from homeless child in the streets of Lyari to the first South Asian winner of an Olympic Bronze Medal in boxing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

With superior picture quality and sound - and English subtitles - it is the first recent film from Pakistan available on Youtube in such pristine form. For Sarwar, it was only the next logical step.

"We've had a run in the cinemas, we've toured internationally and we've sold it to airlines. We couldn't monetise the film any further," Sarwar explains his decision.

A still from Shah
A still from Shah

"Over the course of years that we've been involved in the entertainment industry, we've made it a habit of doing things no one's done before," he adds. "We're early adapters of technology. Even as musicians, we were one of the first to put our music up on Facebook pages. We realised early on that we can't fight music piracy. It's the same with film torrents."

Sarwar hopes that opening up the film to a wider audience will help inform the world that Pakistani cinema is changing.

"I've just returned from a two-month tour in the US. We had 20 shows - we screened at Cornell University, Columbia, Georgia Tech, and had shows in [cities like] Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles. The film resonated very well with the US audience."

"The basic idea is to screen the film and interact with the audience after. We want to tell everyone that there's a new breed of filmmakers in Pakistani cinema - all very educated. And there should be expectations for completely different content coming out of Pakistani cinemas now. I feel Pakistani cinema should be to Bollywood what British films are to Hollywood, its edgier cousin." "

Also read: Can a film guild fix what's wrong with Pakistani cinema?

Sarwar now plans to take the film to Hong Kong and the UK.

Next film, Parwaaz

For his next film, Sarwar is exploring a completely different genre.

He has written a family drama called Parwaaz that he'll officially announce in a few weeks.

"It's a family drama about coming back home to Pakistan after ages and finding out that there's so much more to Pakistan than what you see in the international media. It's a very emotional, coming-of-age film about coming home, finding love, reconnecting with family, and your roots," he shares about the film.

The film, which is expected to be ready for release early next year, got a huge lift after the success of Shah.

"My life completely changed after Shah.," tells Sarwar. "We had bigger budgets being offered to us, we were interacting with bigger players, so I took a backseat and restructured the entire production."

But he stuck to his indie style of operations nonetheless.

"We can't afford flops at this point. If films suffer a lost of 3 to 4 crores, it'll scare away the investors. We were offered a much better budget that what we're working with, but we chose to work with a smaller budget and team and instead focus more on story and character."

Sarwar has also refused many film offers that came his way.

"After Shah, I was offered many run-of-the-mill films. Some song-and-dance romantic comedies, some overtly tragic film about social issues. Pakistanis see enough of what's wrong with Pakistan. I don't want to make issue-based films. I make films that are very personal."

"As a Pakistani, I suffer from an identity crisis. So the films I make are a personal catharsis of my own life. What is the struggle that I've had to make to get where I am today? What is it about Pakistan that keeps people coming back? I'm trying to give myself an identity as a Pakistani that I can be proud of. Everyone should have that."

Read on: For Sarmad Sehbai, films like Mah e Mir seek to subvert Pakistan's contempt for itself

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