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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Director and stars reveal the story behind Pakistani action movie Jalaibee

As the action movie Jalaibee breaks new ground for Pakistani cinema, we talk to the director, Yasir Jaswal, and stars Zhalay Sarhadi and Sabeeka Imam, who were in Dubai for the UAE premiere.
A scene from the Pakistani action movie Jalaibee.

Jaswal Films
A scene from the Pakistani action movie Jalaibee. Jaswal Films

The Pakistani action movie Jalaibee has been proving popular around the globe.

Following its March 20th release in Pakistan, the film – writer/director Yasir Jaswal’s big-screen debut – has opened in the UK, the US and Australia, and it opened last Thursday in the UAE.

The fast-paced, nail-biting crime-thriller tells the story of two friends drowning in debt who fall foul of local gangsters, and get caught up in murder and kidnapping.

The cast includes Danish Taimoor, Sajid Hasan, Zhalay Sarhadi, Sabeeka Imam, Ali Safina and Wiqar Ali Khan.

Jaswal, Sarhadi and Imam were in Dubai last week for the UAE premiere, and we caught up with them to talk about the film and what it’s international release means for Pakistani cinema.

The film

Jaswal: I always knew that if I ever got the opportunity to make a film, then it would not be something that is dictated by what the audience wants to see. It’s an open field in Pakistan right now. There are four or five films made every year and the audience will watch whatever you show them. They may not like it, but they will watch it. There was a huge possibility that Jalaibee would be a hit-and-miss, but I wanted to have the satisfaction of saying I made a film I wanted to make, and not just something to make money.

Sarhadi: We have been waiting for this for a long time. The Pakistani industry hasn’t grown in a while. People are talking about the revival of cinema, but I see Jalaibee as more of a rebirth. It’s a complete renaissance. The film has elements of Hollywood, a lot of things that Pakistani cinema has not seen yet. We have taken a risk, and so far, this risk has paid off well.

Imam: What I love most is the storytelling aspect of it. Yasir is an amazing storyteller. The way he introduces the characters, the way the different stories merge into each other … it’s a film where you really need to concentrate. You are constantly on the edge of your seat and you have to pay attention because if you miss even a small thing, then you will lose track of the story. I love those kind of movies and so do a lot of other people. If your mind is engaged, then you are glued to the screen.

The cast

Jaswal: The casting was done with my casting director Ehtesham Ansari, who has also styled everyone in the film. There were a couple of people I had in mind when I was writing every character. Some of them didn’t work out, some did. One who did work out was Ali Safeena, who plays Bugga. He is the narrator of the story and I could always see him as Bugga. I knew from the start that I didn’t want any big names in my film. It’s not to take anything away from them, but I wanted to broaden the horizon a bit. We have a lot of talented actors and actresses who never get a chance to appear on the big screen because not that many films are being made.

The challenge

Jaswal: Getting the script together was a bit of a nightmare at first. We are not a country that writes films. We write dramas. I took my story to one writer and when I got it back, it was written like a drama. I took it to another writer and the same thing happened. I had to educate myself on screenwriting and scriptwriting, and learn what a screenplay is, and then write it myself. That took a lot of time.

Coming to Dubai

Imam: We have been talking about bringing the film to Dubai for a while now. The film has ben very popular on social media and Pakistanis all over the world have been talking about it a lot on Facebook, Twitter and instagram. I have had a lot of people from Dubai ask me when we are going to bring the film here. Well, here we are.

Sarhadi: I hope we get the same response in Dubai that we got in Pakistan, and in the UK and the US. The infiltration of the Indian film industry in Dubai has been amazing, and with Jalaibee, I am sure that the Pakistani film industry will get a boost and people will be more open to watching Pakistani movies.

artslife@thenational.ae