Durj is not just about cannibalism, it's a mix of three stories which come together as one.
If you were just as perplexed by the trailer let Shamoon Abbasi walk you through the film's inspiration. The director speaks to Images and gives us a lowdown on his character, the storyline and what went on behind the scenes.
"[The story for Durj] came to me two years ago when I read news of two brothers in Punjab who would dig graves of fresh bodies, chop them up and eat them. They were caught and put behind bars but were released two years later. After their release, they started doing it again.They had a mental disorder and there's is no medical record of these people. However, I did not include all this in the movie. I do not want my film to be gory or bloody, I kept in mind that Pakistani cinema is not into such movies so I kept it on a lighter note."
Although, the film is based on true events and a large part of it shows cannibalism, Abbasi stresses that the plot has more to it than just that.
"Durj's plot does not just revolve around cannibalism, it is about a cannibal but we have multiple stories. There are three stories which merge into one."
The film's research, however, took more than a year, says Abbasi as the team had to gather data on multiple cases; one on a family that was digging graves and unearthing bodies and another on man from Karachi who was digging fresh graves and raping girls. "That struck me. It became a nightmare for me to know that there are people in this country who are doing this and roaming free. If this thing becomes easy [to carry out], nobody is actually going to be safe."
After Abbasi started working on the storyline, there was a lot of work to be done as he wanted to make "an interesting movie and not just document the events". For him, there had to more to the film than just the cannibal aspect.
"It took us more than two years to document the story and during the filmmaking process we had to change the script around five to six times completely as it is based on true events. We had to be careful about details and how the psychology of the characters' comes together; how do they act, how do they live, how do they react to the normal life. so that was a challenge."
But that's not the only challenge the team faced.
"It was not an easy job," says Abbasi of playing a cannibal. "When you're thinking of doing such a role you need a lot of research; you cannot just be a negative role onscreen, you need to have a psychological aspect to it."
"I had to keep my beard for almost two years to make it look real and give it that length. It took me three months to grow my nails. I did not want to use wigs or fake props for this movie. Our viewers are very smart now and I didn't want to cheat them if we are doing something so real, it has to be convincing."
He adds, "I had to refuse many projects in between [because of my beard] and it became a challenging process because when the finances are low; it's not easy. Plus, Sherry and I had to stop socialising and doing fancy parties because we wanted to stay in character. She also went bald in one of the scenes.
For the director/actor, these details were important because now "people want international/Bollywood quality movies" and the effort had to match as close as possible to international standards.
"I had to keep my beard for almost two years to give it that length. It took me three months to grow my nails. I did not want to use wigs or fake props for this movie. Our viewers are very smart and I didn't want to cheat them. It had to be convincing."
Location was another bump on the road for the Durj team, Abbasi explains, "Finding a location that was picturesque was another struggle." They finally managed to find a location 500-600 km away from Karachi and had to drive there every two-three days for the shoot.
"There are no facilities in these mountains, no proper roads, no access to water or washrooms, no place to eat," he says. "The biggest struggle was to go there, stay for the duration of the shoot, survive in that situation with the entire team and keep everybody sane - because it was very hot at times, very dry. Additionally, the cameras used to react abnormally [in the heat], it was very difficult to sustain in that situation and drive back to Karachi and then go back the next day."
He further adds, "It took us around a year to shoot. it has been shot on eight cameras, with the latest technology. The grading has been done in Italy, the music for the trailer has been done by a Spanish musician. The original sound track has been made in Pakistan."
The reaction to Durj's trailer, which released earlier this week, has amazed Abbasi. "Pakistan has given us a beautiful response. We were not expecting this much love for this project. It's about time Pakistan also experiences such movies because we've been seeing a lot of rom-coms and comedy flicks and we wanted to break the stereotype [with Durj] to prove that we should not just stick to one genre, there should be some versatility."
He also hopes his film inspires new filmmakers who which to venture into this genre. "I think Pakistan needs more reality stories rather than copying films. It's important to have different film genres come up if you want to develop a new [film] industry."
"Everyone is doing comedy because it is easier to sell, it is easier to advertise, you get a lot of sponsors. We did not have any sponsors, we did not have any advertiser, we do not have any channel, yet we never gave up, we kept doing whatever we could for this film."