Pakistani Showbiz

‘Sarkata Insaan’ director sharpens his axe again

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During the late 1980s, Robert Zemeckis’ film Who Framed Roger Rabbit proved to be a turning point for Hollywood. The movie successfully merged 2D animation into a live-action series. Drawing inspiration from these visual effects, Pakistani director Saeed Rizvi attempted to breathe life into the then dying film industry with Sarkata Insaan (1991). It is remembered for a sequence featuring Babra Sharif dancing with Pink Panther and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It also established Rizvi as a visionary director.

Rizvi is set to make his comeback with his latest project, to be announced after Eid. Keeping the details under wraps, he reveals it would be a “sci-fi movie but with a romantic angle to it.” He says, “Neither am I Hrithik Roshan’s father nor do I have the kind of money to get my friends from the US to work on the film. But one thing is for sure that I’d do the layering of the effects in Pakistan and have them blended abroad.”

Having started his career as a TVC director, Rizvi always had a flair for visual effects. “Mary Poppins inspired me to use live-action animation in an ad I did for a bubble-gum brand,” he tells The Express Tribune. His passion took him to Los Angeles, where he refined his skills by working as an apprentice in a visual effects company. Upon his return, his father, a filmmaker himself, urged him to try his hand at the silver screen. Keen to test his newly-acquired skills in the local industry, he directed the sci-fi Shaani, which sustained at the box office.

Recalling the challenges of working during the 1980s, he shares, “Things were even more difficult as everything was analogue. You had to draw on each cell and it used to be a time-consuming process.” Having witnessed the rise, fall and resurgence of Pakistani cinema, Rizvi holds that the downfall was merely the outcome of our own inefficiency and the inability to keep up with international standards. “With the arrival of the digital age, the cost of production rose, and there were only a few multiplexes. We just couldn’t keep up.”

Mindful of the logistics of international cinema, he thinks the Pakistani industry is lagging behind, citing the dearth of film-financing corporations as a major factor. “We need film-financing corporations to encourage more producers. The government should give loans at low mark-up otherwise we’ll continue to have very few films each year.”

Even the current film releases have failed to impress Rizvi. He says, “Movies, such as Na Maloom Afraad, are not films … they are like telefilms. The directors of these movies need to go abroad and upgrade their style.” He feels people are interested in sci-fi films and if they have the added element of “desi ghee ka tarka” [visual effects], they’d be more popular. He recalls how people loved Sarkata Insaan, a movie which was ahead of its time. “People were screaming in cinemas when they saw Ghulam Mohiuddin’s head crawling in.”

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