LAHORE, April 4: Farjad Nabi, Meenu Gaur and Mazhar Zaidi are the three people behind Naseeruddin Shah's latest secret endeavours in Pakistan.
The celebrated Indian actor last week shot in Lahore for a bi-lingual Pakistani film, 'Zinda Bhaag'. The film is directed by an equally mysterious Mr Nabi, with Ms Gaur, a trained filmmaker of Indian origins, as the co-director. Mr Zaidi, a well known media hand with a stint at the BBC behind him, plays the ambitious producer looking to set a trend.Naseeruddin Shah returned to India on Wednesday after completing a seven-day spell of shooting. He had visited Lahore last month also to familiarise himself with the city and also to conduct a week-long workshop with a group of greenhorns included in the cast of the film. His visits to the city were not advertised since he wanted to work quietly away from the media gaze.
The directors, who have also co-authored the script for 'Zinda Bhaag', told Dawn on Wednesday the film has a mix of Punjabi and Urdu. The theme revolves around the youngsters' urge to find a short cut to a life abroad, hence the title 'Zinda Bhaag' (Escape!).
Ms Gaur says many of the youngsters who are playing important roles in the film have no formal background in acting. "We held some 2,000 auditions to select 140," she says. In a fitting prelude to the film, these youngsters were then given in the care of Mr Shah whose role in the film is that of a local tough with multiple facets to his personality. He acts as the godfather to a bunch of mohalla boys and is not averse to give them a helping hand on their way out.
The film raises expectations given the star value of Naseeruddin Shah, who has earlier acted in Shoaib Mansoor's acclaimed 'Khuda Kay Liye'. He has time and again expressed a desire to work in Pakistani ventures and enjoys a large following here.
The director-duo of Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi have been around for some time and their advent in what is called the realm of commercial feature film is a sign that could encourage others and inspire change towards better-quality cinema.
Meenu Gaur obtained a masters degree in film and video from the Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC), JMI University, New Delhi. Her film, 'Paradise on a River of Hell', set in Kashmir, has received critical acclaim.
Farjad Nabi has been doing a bit of running around himself and has built a reputation for doing things his own way. He has made a name for himself as a filmmaker, starting with a film that mapped Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's global tour, more his journey away from his origins, a decade and a half ago.
For the vocals, the 'Zinda Bhaag', team has the services of the current heavyweight Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Arif Lohar and Amanat Ali, with Sahir Ali Bagga as the composer. The film introduces two new singers in Saleem Jawad and Iqra, while the acting cast includes three fresh faces in Khurram, Zohaib and Salman in major roles.
The cast includes Sarfraz Ansari, Imarn-ul-Haq and Malik Aslam, all three experienced players from the parallel theatre in Lahore. The boys are given company by veteran film actor Naghma, fashion model Amna Ilyas, and what adds to the suspense about the film, by commercial theatre actor Sanam Nazli.
"It is a low budget film that seeks to break the Pakistani film stereotype," says producer Mazhar Zaidi. "We would like to release it simultaneously in Pakistan and India."