We might not know a lot about it, but Pakistan has a thriving hip hop subculture. And upcoming film Dance Kahani will put the country's B-boys in the spotlight.
Slated for a 2016 release, Dance Kahani will star hip hop dancers (hailing from Karachi to Lahore, Peshawar to Quetta) in a story about a British-born Pakistani girl (played by Scottish dancer Madeleine Hanna) who moves back to Pakistan and tries to reconcile with giving up her dream of becoming a ballet dancer.
The film will be ad man Omar Hassan's feature film debut, although it wasn't meant to be.
Images talked to the director to find out more about Dance Kahani.
Images: Why did you choose dance as the subject of your first film?
Omar Hassan: Dance Kahani is actually not the first movie project that I worked on. I had initially penned another film and was in the process of production planning for it when I stumbled across local dancing talent at Actone Dance studio.
That's where I met Vernin, a very talented local kid, a green jacket, a top freestyle hip hop dancer and an unbelievably incredible free runner.
Vernin along with other kids, instead of wasting away their lives on the streets of Karachi, were dedicated to spending their time on a studio floor, committed to the art of dance. Coming from all classes and various walks of life, these kids forgot all their woes once they were on that floor. They were doing something positive with a dream of making it big one day based on their talents.
These kids inspired me so much that I immediately shelved my first script and started working on a story that would give these boys a platform and would showcase what our youth is capable of when given an opportunity. It would also convey the message to our youth that if you believe in yourself, whoever you may be and wherever you are, your dreams can come true.
And this is one of the reason that it was decided to actually make their dreams come true by casting real dancing talent in the film, pick them up from various corners of the country and showcase them on the big screen for the entire country and the world to see.
Images: How long has Dance Kahani been in the making?
Omar: A very small team worked on the film, hence it has taken time. It was penned and planned in 2012 with shooting commencing and being completed in 2013. Post-production was done completely in Pakistan and it was indeed a big learning curve to edit and grade an entire film which was based on the 4K shoot format, so it took quite some time. But being complete now, we are all set to release [the film] in the coming months.
We also wanted to wait till the time that the Pakistani audience has matured though the resurgence phase of the Pakistani cinema which we feel has happened now and the time is now right for them to accept and appreciate a movie like ours.
Images: How did you find the cast of Dance Kahani? Where is the foreign cast of DK from and how did you rope them in?
Omar: We had Actone helping us with our casting process. Initially, we were thinking of going with only the Karachi boys, but with so much talent around the country, we recruited from all over Pakistan through an extensive search exercise.
We have talent from Quetta, Hazara town, Gujrat, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and even Peshawar, all doing Hip Hop, popping and free running.
It is pretty incredible when you think that some of these kids come from a not so urban Pakistan and excel in a very modern and technical form of dance, defying all stereotypes.
We only one international member in our cast and she is playing the lead. Madeleine Hanna is a trained actor as well as a ballerina and contemporary dance artist from Scotland.
Casting her was actually not so difficult. We had contacted a couple of international talent agencies who not only gave us access to their talent database but floated our project requirement within their talent pool. We received over 30 CVs from very talented girls mostly based out of the UK. We shortlisted the ones who fulfilled our criterion and conducted multiple dance and acting auditions over the Internet. Out of all the shortlisted candidates, Madeleine was the perfect fit not only with her looks, great acting and brilliant dancing skills, but she was also quite interested in coming down here and spending time here for the film.
Images: Music must also play an integral part of your film. Who are the people who have worked on the film's soundtrack?
Omar: Music is definitely a very important part and in fact a highlight of our film. The soundtrack however has been integrated more on the Hollywood pattern rather than on the lip-syncing song and dance Bollywood routine. And we have quite a diverse soundtrack, from English numbers to Punjabi, from Dubstep to Rock and even bhangra. However, we will be revealing the soundtrack and the artists involved in the near future. But again, all musicians involved are Pakistani and of course very talented.