Pakistani Showbiz

‘Heartening to see film’s song being played at Mukka Chowk’

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KARACHI: If a director from across the border makes a film about two characters lost in Karachi, many would assume the movie would make a myopic comment on the ongoing socio-political cauldron in the city. But contrary to popular ‘disbelief’, Ashish R Mohan’s Welcome 2 Karachi offers a comic depiction of how two Indian men get stranded in Pakistan without any official documents. Making a title that’d arouse curiosity, even raise a few eyebrows, Mohan, who was on a week-long visit to Karachi, tells The Express Tribune all about his filming mantra.

“Welcome 2 Karachi is about two people in a ‘dumb and dumber’ space. Neither is there a political motive behind the film, nor do we want to offend anyone,” says Mohan. Clarifying that the movie is unlike other Bollywood films from the genre, he shares that, albeit an entertainer, it has a serious message to it: “there is nothing more than humanity.”

Although the director and cast were willing to shoot the film in Karachi, they couldn’t get a security clearance at the time. So, the movie has been shot in India and the UK. Mohan feels global politics are liable for blurring the perception of the common man, who has limited know-how about such matters, and that he hopes to address this issue in a jovial way through his film.

No less than a livewire, Mohan seemed optimistic about his movie seeing the light of day in Pakistani cinemas. Claiming that the film’s trailer is being shown in local cinemas, he deems it unfair to write-off his movie as one that would offend Pakistani sentiment. With an air of confidence, he says censor board officials may not even need to make a “single cut” once they watch the film.

Mohan has been pleasantly surprised to see the fan-following his film has already garnered in Pakistan. “The other day, we were at Mukka Chowk for the opening of a supermarket. We went inside to have some tea and heard the song Lalla Lalla Lori from Welcome 2 Karachi playing. They didn’t know I was going to be there,” he shares excitedly.

Working on a film set against the backdrop of Karachi, the highlight of the filmmaking process for Mohan was the chance to work with Pakistani artists, such as Ayub Khoso and Adnan Shah Tipu. Mohan, who has previously worked as assistant director for the likes of Rohit Shetty and has worked with industry heavyweights, such as Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt and Akshay Kumar, lauds Pakistani stars, reserving special praise for Khoso.

He recalls how only a few crew members knew Khoso and his work when he first came on board for the project, but everyone was in awe of his talent once he completed filming his first few scenes, even giving him a standing ovation. Mohan expresses his desire to collaborate with stars, such as Khoso and Tipu, once again. “An actor is an actor for a director. He’s not an Indian, a Pakistani or a Russian. If more projects come my way, I would definitely try to involve them, as for an artist, it’s never the state or religion that matter … it’s the craft that does.”

On Mohan’s visit to Karachi, Khoso and Tipu were among those who played host to him, with Khoso especially driving all the way from Quetta to the city to meet him. With Welcome 2 Karachi having released worldwide, Mohan hopes it finds a place in Pakistan as well, where it’s expected to hit the theatres around May 28. For him, the film’s release in Pakistan is not only important because it stars two Pakistani actors or is set against the backdrop of Karachi, but also because it may offer the audiences an escape from their problems and may inspire a few laughs.

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