The first time filmmaker talks about shooting Pari, horror movies and 'Zinda Laash'
The first time filmmaker talks about shooting Pari, horror movies and 'Zinda Laash'

Since the revival of the Pakistani film industry, we've been seeing a trickle of horror flicks come and go in local cinemas.

The latest of these is Syed Atif Ali's Pari, which has been making headlines since the release of its bone-chilling trailer. Now it's almost here, set to release on February 2.

Images got in touch with director Syed Atif Ali to find out more about his project:

What inspired you to make a film like Pari?

I'm a huge fan of Stephen King. I love The Shining and Stanley Kubrick did a great job with it. And I love horror movies, even though I can't sleep afterwards because I actually get scared, but I still keep watching to see how long I can take it.

I've written for a lot of shows and genres but I enjoy writing horror the most. When we decided to work on a film I felt it only made sense to make a film that I'd enjoy. And in a horror movie, the director has a huge role to play.

So you always knew that your first film will be a horror flick?

I'd actually decided a long time ago that whenever I'd make a film it would be a horror film. I had an idea for the film and I wrote it along with Mohammad Ahsan, who did a great job.

We're dedicating this film to Khwaja Sarfaraz, the maker of film Zinda Laash. After that film, no one really attempted to make a proper horror movie in Pakistan. There are a few but none have been made with the serious intent that Khwaja Sarfaraz had, one with a proper story, a story people can relate to. I don't think our film is the best ever but I want to start [a trend].

Your cast includes some young actors and it's said that directing children is difficult. What was your experience like?

It is a little bit [difficult]. We had to work on the script because we knew it would be difficult to get a child to do [scenes like our film's]. But it wasn't as difficult as one would expect. Our kids in the film, Faiq and Khushi did a brilliant job. Faiq is a born actor. This was his first film and he was so motivated to work. Both the kids were, they more enthusiastic about the film than us! Khushi would actually go and scare people once she was in makeup. It felt so nice seeing them excited and eager to work and the experience was great.

What would captivate a Pakistani audience to be interested in a Pakistani horror film?

As a film industry, we have a long way to go. This revival is just the beginning, we have to work carefully. We don't have lavish budgets for films and have to keep in account how much the film can earn back. People are comparing us to Hollywood and Bollywood already and that's not a bad thing because that's the level our films need to be at, if not above.

I think it's all about the hard work we put in to the film. For example, the character make-up was done by two people, Mohammad Ramez and Mohammad Ali, and they did it so well that people are actually comparing it to a big budget film. They learned to do prosthetic makeup, which I don't think has been done properly in any Pakistani film. It would take 8 hours to put on and at least two to remove, for a two-minute shot.

The audience in Pakistan that loves watching horror flicks will come to watch this. And the response we've gotten just from the trailer gives me hope for the future.

Can you tell us about your experience of working on Pari?

First of all, I think people need to understand, and they've started to understand, how important a tool film is, it's being used all over the world.

We actually had a lot of issues shooting the film, regarding getting NOCs to shoot the film in Ayubiya and many other issues I don't want to talk about. I wish the government would support us more here or many have a group that works on supporting us.

Working on the film itself with the cast and crew, it was amazing. It was an honour to work with Qavi sahab, he's a living legend and I can't describe how amazing it feels to have him in my first film. Rasheed sahab was a sweetheart and Saleem Meiraj is brilliant. He's so versatile and I feel like he's the Nawazuddin Siddiqui of Pakistan.

So while there were issues to start the project, working on it was great.

Any interesting incident that took place on the sets?

Oh there were many! In fact, the house we shot the film in was said to be haunted! It had been closed off for years. We were actually looking for places to shoot and nothing was standing out. The moment I entered this house I knew this was the set. I guess it makes sense too.

While we were shooting there some odd incidents happened. For our novelist character we'd made a study in the basement and there was definitely something there. Everyone felt a presence there, even I was taken aback once when I went down there and the lights suddenly went off, I felt someone in front of me. I think we were just very spooked out there and hearing the house was haunted did not help our paranoia.

Pari is one of the first horror films to come out since the revival of Pakistani cinema. Do you feel the pressure?

We're starting to feel the pressure, experiencing sleepless nights, my team and I. The trailer did well and so there's a good hype around the movie now, we're just hoping people like it. Making a movie is a gamble, you never know whether it'll do well or not. You can do your part, you can work your hardest but at the end of the day, it all depends on the audience and mere luck.

How do you think the audience will react to this film? What are your expectations?

I have zero expectations, you can't when it comes to movies! Just try not to expect anything, just enjoy the moment, I'm reveling in the fact that my movie is releasing. Of course the pressure is there but I'm trying to savour the little moments like going to the cinemas and putting up posters. Even this is a big deal to me, it's every director's dream to see his work showcased on the big screen.

Someone asked me recently if I'm satisfied and I said if I'm satisfied, I'm done. An artist can never be a 100% satisfied, even now when I watch Pari, so many things go through my head and I think oh I should have changed this or I should have changed that. Your journey to learn should continue and I for one want to stay up to date, I listen to the music this generation is churning out, I read about millennials, I want to stay in the know.

Pari was initially supposed to release on October 31. Why the delay?

We've been working day and night for a few months now, on really getting the VFX down. We had a team working on it previously who didn't do a good job so we lost a lot of time, otherwise I really wanted the movie to be released on Halloween.

Do you have any projects or anything in store for us after Pari?

I have a couple of projects lined up, one of which is nearly ready to go on floors.