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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

‘Teefa in Trouble’ is the most expensive Pakistani film made, but will it be a success?

Will the gangster movie fly or flop? We find out what its producer thinks

Pakistani actor Ali Zafar stars in the film, which is the first he has produced. Courtesy Yash Raj Films 
Pakistani actor Ali Zafar stars in the film, which is the first he has produced. Courtesy Yash Raj Films 

Ali Zafar comes across quite relaxed as he addresses us from a hotel room in Dubai, ahead of today’s release of his film Teefa in Trouble. And that’s surprising, considering the stress he must be under – the release of his highly anticipated debut as a producer coincides with allegations of sexual harassment.

In April, singer and model Meesha Shafi said on her Twitter account that Zafar has on “several occasions crossed boundaries of what is appropriate behaviour between friends”, and that she has run away from those situations, until now. Others joined in Pakistan’s #MeToo moment, while some of Zafar’s colleagues came out in his support. But Zafar says it’s out of his control, with an uneasy but calm demeanour. “I have sent a legal notice and have been advised not to speak about it,” he says. “I am a firm believer, though, that truth will prevail.”

The most expensive Pakistani film

While Zafar cannot say much about that troublesome episode, both he and co-star Maya Ali are happy and confident about Teefa in Trouble. “We showed the [raw footage] to a few neutral observers and everyone liked it,” says Zafar. “We hope the audience here and back home in Pakistan like it, too.”

Teefa in Trouble is reportedly the most expensive film to have been made in Pakistan, costing nearly 2.3 billion Pakistani rupees (Dh69.4 million). Zafar hopes it will be worth the effort, and that it will change a thing or two about how the quality of movies coming out of Pakistan is viewed.

The film is about Teefa (played by Zafar) who heads to Poland from Lahore on the orders of gangster Butt Sahab (Mehmood Aslam) to bring Anya (Maya), the daughter of a Polish gangster, back to Pakistan so that she can be married off to Butt’s son. “It is a masala film, with romantic, action, comedy, everything,” says Zafar. The actor says he chose Poland for the setting because he was impressed with the architecture and style of the country’s houses.

'He is the best'

It is an endeavour that has taken Zafar nearly four years to bring to fruition from concept to post-production, though. Zafar co-wrote the film’s dialogues with his brother Danyal and director Ahsan Rahim. He also composed the music and acted in the lead role – the first time he has done so in a Pakistani film – all through his own company, Lightingale Productions. Zafar even did the stunts himself without using a body double.

Donning so many hats could have cost Zafar his focus on this first project. He may also have risked it further by entrusting the movie to the hands of Rahim, whose directorial experience had been limited to shooting advertisements and music videos before this.

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Co-star Ali disagrees. “But he is the best,” she says. There were doubts, but over the making of the film and now watching the preview, he has done a very good job. He made me feel at ease, too.”

Talking of the risk with director Rahim choosing TV actress Ali – of Mann Mayal fame – for the second lead in Teefa in Trouble, her first film role, Zafar brushes it all off saying, “I have full trust in Rahim. He may have only made advertisement films, but I have seen his potential. He selected Maya and I just went by his word.”

Zafar has pulled out all the stops to make sure the fruits of his labour are well received. While Lightingale Productions has the distribution rights of the film back home, it has tied up with Indian company Yash Raj Films to target the overseas markets in the UAE, Africa, the Middle East and the United Kingdom.

For a Pakistani film, the English title may sound a bit off, but Zafar sees the funny side. “Well, Teefa is a popular name in Pakistan and everyone there also knows what trouble is.”

Teefa in Trouble releases in the UAE on July 19, a day before hitting theatres in Pakistan