Ishrat Made In China stars Mohib Mirza and Sanam Saeed opened up about their experience shooting the film, revealing the highs and lows of filming. The movie has gone through a long journey to get to our screens — from the cast being stuck in Thailand while shooting at the start of the pandemic to cinemas being shut until late 2021. The film is finally coming out on March 3 and the cast has fans hyped with teasers, posters and BTS pictures.
Stuck in Thailand
Mirza told Images that like Ishrat Made In China, the world faced delays for film productions and releases, businesses suffered and the impact of the lockdowns still remains. "Other than that, there were no delays as such — cinemas took their time because of Covid and even now people need assurances as to whether cinemas will open or not. That was the only delay, everything else carried out the way it was supposed to." Mirza added that the pandemic has been a time of suffering but since things are getting better, he hopes for the best for "our country, our cinema and for humanity."
The actor went into detail about their experience in Thailand. "We got a lot of coverage being stuck in Thailand, the experience was obviously bad — you're stuck in a place with 20 to 30 people and you're facing a situation when the entire world had shut down, we didn't know what would happen to our lives or what the virus would do. So it was torture and a traumatic experience for everyone," he said. "The airports were wrapped in plastic and there were no flights and you're just sitting with each other, discussing what could happen next. But thank God, we all made it back."
Saeed told Images she was relieved to see the film make it this far. "And the fact that we're releasing on the third of March despite everything we went through is a miracle."
Speaking about the shooting process, the Bachana actor said, "We're very grateful that we got the opportunity to finish right before things got really bad and we got stuck. Even though the lockdown had started, luckily we were just isolated in our little location and our hotel so we got to finish work bohot sukoon se [very peacefully], which was a blessing in disguise." Saeed said she felt blessed to have had this opportunity, despite the odds and is excited for the film to successfully release in cinemas.
No new friends?
"Obviously when you've worked with someone multiple times, they're more like a friend to you — you've rehearsed such long scripts together so of course it's always fun to reconnect. Having worked together repeatedly means you've established a camaraderie with that particular actor so it was amazing," Mirza said, referring to Saeed with whom he worked in Bachana.
"My process was pretty long and every actor was kind enough to give me a screen test and conduct a scene reading," said Mirza. "After that they were cast. Which is why this whole process with Shamoon [Abbasi], with Sara [Loren], Ali Kazmi [and] everyone took a while to prep." He clarified that "a while doesn't mean months or a year but years". "It turned out really good and everyone gelled well together," he added.
Saeed said it's exciting to work with both new actors and actors you already know. "[With] costars you already know, you know what to expect from them — if you get along with them, great, if you don't, you know how to get about it then, there are no surprises. But it is also fun to work with new actors because you're looking for a new rhythm with a new actor, new conversation, new perspective."
Commenting on working with Mirza, Saeed had some great things to say. "It is always a pleasure working with Mohib because he's so focused, he's so passionate about his work, he takes it very seriously." She called the actor and director "very motivated" and "positive", saying he always encourages his actors, crew members and spot boys. "Anyone, everyone on set will always have wonderful things to [say] about Mohib because he is so respectful and encouraging on set. As an actor, he just makes you a better actor, he gives you great tips, helps you, respects your time, your space, your craft which is always very important in a costar."
Expanding more on Mirza as a director, the Zindagi Gulzar Hai star said, "He's outdone himself and has performed even better than an actor." She said he's very "technical[ly] sound" and knows exactly how to treat an actor, being one himself. "He directs with certain nuances that other directors sometimes miss out on. Or just knowing how to pamper the actor, knowing how to get the best out of an actor is what he's done as a director which is a pleasure."
The Cake actor said Mirza also knows how to make the best out of a situation. "He will always have a solution. If the light is going, if an angle is wrong, he'll make sure his actors always look good so that was just a treat to work with someone who's so well rounded and knows a little bit about everything and every aspect and brings the best out of his actors and the whole team."
The hardest scenes to shoot
"What was it like shooting action scenes? For action scenes, our team was majorly Thailand's action crew plus our local team, Mahboob Shah's and our main action director Pradhat. It was mind opening — like they say chauda tabak roshan hojanay waali [having a revelatory experience] because we storyboarded it in detail and had a lot of work. It was almost 25 days of work involving a lot of rigging [and] cabling, so it was a learning curve for sure. It was an amazing experience and it came out really nice."
Saeed drew parallels between the difficult scenes and the simple ones, classifying action scenes among the tough ones. "The songs were extremely difficult to shoot, action was hard to shoot so the lighthearted moments, all the comedic moments were really funny so we couldn't help but crack up while reading the lines or while performing the lines. There was a lot of room for improvisation — free flow acting, relaxed and just [a] fun environment."
Mirza revealed his favourite part in the film is Ishrat's transformation and the film’s promotional song. He also said, "The most fun scenes were action scenes that you get to see at the end of the film — everyone really challenged their boundaries and crossed limits. After that I'd say the songs, some sequences. For me the whole film was the fun part but the action and songs top the list."
Saeed struggled to pick one character as her favourite. "There are too many — it's obviously Ishrat but I love my character too and I love the way Nayyar Ejaz has performed his role, I love Shabbir Jan's and Sara Loren had a really cool role [too]. I'm just looking forward to see Mohib's performance, I think he's done a really good job because he's got quite an arc and he's got quite a transformation and I'm happy to see the actors in very different roles, including myself."
Ishrat Made In China is an action comedy that releases on March 3.