x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pakistan’s first cricket film was a long time coming

It's a coming-of-age drama about cricket. The Pakistani film Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is bound to be well received by expats from the subcontinent, says its director Humayun Saeed.

The movie Main Hoon Shahid Afridi. Courtesy Six Sigma Entertainment
The movie Main Hoon Shahid Afridi. Courtesy Six Sigma Entertainment

For a nation obsessed with the sport, Pakistan’s first feature film about cricket has been a long time coming. Co-produced by Humayun Saeed and Shahzad Nasib, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi was released in Pakistan late last year – albeit amid some scepticism.

“Pakistan has never had a sports film. This is the first one,” says Saeed, who was in Dubai recently to promote the film.

Saeed is emphatic that cinemagoers are aware that the film is not a biopic of the Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi but about a young boy who dreams of becoming a legend like him. Saeed also stars in the film as an ex-cricketer,

“Like most Pakistanis, I am also a Shahid Afridi fan. But this film is not about Afridi’s life. It is a commercial venture inspired by his spirit and personality. We hope we have made something that will contribute to raising our film standards in the long term and that it will result in more locally made films that will bring audiences to the cinema, just as they flock to watch Indian or Hollywood movies.”

But the going was tough. “The exhibitors didn’t have a lot of confidence in it,” says Saeed. “Sure, as a nation, we love the sport, but they were not sure that people would come to the cinema and watch a Pakistani film about the sport. As result, we got a fairly small number of screens to show the film.”

Despite this limited screen space, the film went on to do phenomenal business.“It’s considered good business if a film makes five to six crores in Pakistan. Our film made more than that,” Saeed says, adding that the film paved the way for a warmer reception among exhibitors for other Pakistani films, such as last year’s the spy drama Waar.

“Due to the success of Main Hoon Shahid Afridi, Waar got a lot more screens and did even more business. Both films proved that Pakistani films can be good and financially viable. Now that such films are being made, there will be competition for the Indian films showing in Pakistan and that can only be a good thing.”

There was a gap of several months between the film’s Pakistani and UAE releases and Saeed attributes this to teething problems.

“This is a first film for most of the people who have worked on it,” says Saeed. “We are a new team and have had to learn a lot of things along the way, such as the challenges of international distribution. We are so proud that the film has made it to the UAE. The audience in Pakistan has loved it and we are confident about it’s success in the UAE, because when people in Pakistan like something, Pakistani expatriates like it, too.”

Main Hoon Shahid Afridi is screening at Abu Dhabi’s National Cinema at 1.45pm and 7.45pm

artslife@thenational.ae