Dobara Phir Se (DPS) marks Mehreen Jabbar’s comeback to films after more than eight years. And it looks just what her next should have looked like; as her first (Raamchand Pakistani – 2008) was one of the pioneer films of this budding industry.
An exciting ensemble cast with actors like Adeel Hussain, Sanam Saeed, Ali Kazmi, Hareem Farooq, Atiqa Odho, Tooba Siddiqui and many others, along with a fact of it being mostly set in New York and a story that looks intriguing to say the very least, I believe it is really something rousing coming our way. So mark your dates as it hits cinemas nationwide on 25th November, 2016.
Just as its release day is zooming in fast, I sit with Adeel, Sanam, Hareem and Tooba from Dobara Phir Se’s cast and we discuss it all out. Here is how our discussion went:
Adeel: The whole exciting thing about this, I believe, is it being a surprise for people to figure out, It is like someone invited you to a party and you are trying to figure out how it’s going to be, what kind of food will there be? Would it be western cuisine or eastern cuisine? Will it be enjoyable? Will there be spices or not? The best way to find out is actually to just go to that party, consume the food, and know it for yourself. At the end of the day it is a very individual experience for all the characters, for all the actors and for each audience member and that’s what good stories are supposed to do. Even something simple like the tale of rabbit and turtle is not the same rabbit and turtle for me, I might be the rabbit, somebody else might be the turtle. And I think that’s what we have to kind of celebrate about stories, so yeah, I guess let people figure it out for themselves.
Sanam: I think people who we have worked with in this film know films, they know how to cut a trailer, they know how to shoot a film and all that. I had complete confidence in them, and I think the trailer has come out perfectly. It hasn’t given away too much, it will show you who is maybe interested in whom, who is interested in whom for sure, what’s happening, and has left enough for your imagination that what will happen next so that people watch to know. And I think by showing New York, it has made it even more intriguing that ‘Oh we would love to see our Pakistani actors in that setting.’
Tooba and Hareem agree with the point-of-view presented, and don’t feel like adding anything.
You all have done some great work in past, films and otherwise. What was it so special in Dobara Phir Se that made you guys go for it?
Adeel: Yeah ingredients and to continue on from that, once you put the ingredients in together, you hope that the end product is bigger than the sum of its parts. That’s what the magic is. So I am just happy with the feeling we have come out at the end. And even while we were making it, it kind of got around me and I was thinking, ‘Oh this feels bigger. It feels larger, and that somehow things are working.’ So, fingers crossed. we have very high hopes.
Hareem: For me it was first of all Mehreen Jabbar, then it was the co-actors and then it was the fact that they are shooting abroad…
Tooba interjects: Don’t steal my answers (laughs all around).
Hareem continues: … It was not just about New York as location but the thought that we will be working with the foreign crew and all was one big reason. The script and the character I was not concerned about because knowing Mehreen you don’t expect shit work from her. So looking at the package, none of us I guess had any reason to refuse this one.
Tooba: First thing was Mehreen Jabbar obviously, when she is calling you for a project, you cannot say no to her because you know what kind of work she has done, and also what a brilliant director she is. Secondly, when I heard about the cast I was like ‘Oh Wow.’ You can’t say no to them as you can feel that when all these actors are together something great is going to come out. It was also being shot in New York, so I was like ‘ye tau soney pay sohaga hai.’
Sanam: : One thing that specially made me do it was that there was this project I was working on before Dobara Phir Se, and I was exhausted and needed break. When Mehreen called for this, I was like, ‘Mehreen I can’t work, and I need a break,’ but when she offered me the role of Samar, I was like ‘Oh my God, it’s so good.’ I saw the way she had to work, the story is mostly around two characters, we are all sorted in our lives, you will see in the movie it’s about their life and relationship, so I was like, Yes! Less work, no rona dhona, no tension, just seeing the sight, and so I said yes. So yeah, kaam chori, was one big reason. (Laughs).
To Sanam: Plays like Dyar-e-Dil, Faraag, Shukk, met all the scales of success. But Zindagi Gulzaar Hai was such a Magnum Opus that even now people weigh you on its scale. Have you ever tried to wash that image of ‘Kashaf’ out of your actor self, or you feel happy with it?
Sanam replies: I hope my work gets better and better with time but it may never have the impact that that one character had, and we have all had roles like that, I mean everyone loves Marina Khan and Shehnaz Sheikh for Tanhaiyan, and same goes for different Hollywood films and actors. Kashaf was quite a role model, for young girls specially, and when fans like girls who work in parlours come and say they want to finish school just because they are inspired by your character, or a mother says ‘I wouldn’t marry my 14 year old daughter till she completes her education,’ then it just feels incredible. Also, because of Kashaf, I have never had any badtameez or crazy stalker fans, I have just gotten so much izzat that there is absolutely no need and point of running away from her.
But, at the same time, just to remind people that I am an actor and not Kashaf, I have tried doing funnier roles, vixen roles, and all. Samar, in DPS, too is a different role but the impact that characters like Kashaf and Shazia have makes me want to keep doing roles like that.
To Adeel: After Ho mann Jahaan and its success or however you take it, how much has it strengthened your faith in keep doing films?
Adeel replies: Oh, a lot. The successes definitely fuel you. If you are a smart person, the failures fuel you even more. But when I started off, there was no industry, literally. So every next thing for me is big. In Daam, for instance, for the first time we had Facebook chat interactions and we weren’t even accustomed to Facebook that much, and so we were like ‘ho kya raha hai?’ In Ho Mann Jahaan, somebody even bothered teaching me the drums or had that expectation of me was another big thing. So because I have had that seat mostly in my career, I feel very lucky. I am not that rattled by failures, but at the same time success is good, films are expensive enterprises and when they make money you are happy. So a certain amount of fear or uncertainties are always very good to keep you grounded, and so I keep being more grateful and I am definitely, always been keen into keep challenging myself.
To Hareem: You have done quite a lot of work, good amount of theatre, television and then three films, one of which you actually co-produced. How is it going to look for you in future, is it going to be films more, television more. Or is it going to be a juggling act?
Hareem replies: You know one thing that I hate is routine, I just cannot do that. I cannot be doing one thing for a very long time, so it’s going to be a juggling act, yes. But it might not just be about that, I would probably want to expand, I would probably want to test myself, I would probably want to direct after few films. Another thing for sure is that I love acting and ever since I have started, I have just fallen in love with it. So for sure I will be doing these two things, for a very long time. But sirf film, ya sirf tv, ya sirf theatre, that’s something that I am not going to do. I want to do stuff which will take theatre to another level, I want to bring good stuff into TV as well, as we have all these retarded subjects being focused there. So in a nutshell, it’s about not being monotonous, as simple as that.
To Tooba: You have done a good amount of television in past, but with Wrong No. previously and DPS now, we have seen you coming more towards films. So have you made films your permanent home?
Tooba replies: No, no, I am also doing a serial actually, just started it last month. I was waiting for a good script to come and have finally found it. It has been a while because there were few very weird scripts and topics that I personally didn’t want to touch.
Adeel interjects: Tell us one, tell us one weird topic.
Tooba continues: Like… like a rape topic. (All sigh in agreement). I don’t just like to promote such subjects, and so finally I have got a script that I thought I was feeling very good about. And so yeah, it’s been about four years now but I will be doing something good.
Mehreen Jabbar is known for her cut-throat perfectionism, how true is that image of hers, and how easy is it to work with such a person?
Adeel: Perfectionism is one way of defining it, and it’s true, but more accurately, it’s kind of foreknowledge of them knowing that if this thing is in excess or if this thing is not appropriately proportionate, it will make difference. Mehreen is very enabling, she gives you complete freedom. Mata-e-Jaan was a perfect example. Humsafar at that time was a big hit and channels were looking to create another big hit, and so we were all told like this is a very big novel and Abee is this guy who plays basketball, and people love him, so he was a jock. But I told Mehreen, that ‘I am going to play this guy like he’s weird,’ and she was like, ‘really? why?’ And I said, ‘I am going to play him weird because nowhere in the script does he go and tells his family what the hell you guys are doing? So he is not a typical jock.’ Mehreen could have easily said ‘No, no, it’s a big project, big production,’ but nothing, she completely let me do it my way and could see it herself too. So she allows you that.
Sanam: The thing about Mehreen is that she knows exactly what she wants, how a character should be looking and what direction the story is going. So she is very organised that way. She is also very strategic about whom she works with. She works with people, with whom she doesn’t have to sit and teach because she comes for limited time, she also works with people who are on the same wavelength. Maya Ali, for instance, was someone she hadn’t worked with before Mera Naam Yusuf Hai, but Maya worked for the character and it turned out pretty well.
Her upbringing, her parents, her father’s influence, a lot of her family influence, a lot of exposure in life generally, and the fact that she lives abroad makes her soch and khayaal and vision thora hat ke from the rest of the people back here. Living here really does kind of bias you, limit you, influence you in different ways, but Mehreen has that freedom to think a little bit out of the box, a bit more openly and that’s what shows in her work. So she is not perfectionist as such, but you can see it in her work. Waisey she is the most relaxed person. She has rehearsals, never gives direction, and if something gets a little over then she just says that ‘bring it down a bit.’
Hareem and Tooba agree.
Given a choice, which other character from the film you would have really liked to do, and why?
Fun Fact: Sanam Saeed (Samar) and Tooba Siddiqui (Natasha) were very close to switching roles.
Tooba adds: Samar’s character is more of a breather in the film, when she will come on, she would be a sigh of relief for people, and they will be like, ‘Oh, something’s weird is about to happen, she will do something weird, oh she is wearing something weird.’
Sanam explains further: But it’s amazing, with each character you have to follow Zainab (played by Hareem) because it’s her story, you want to know if she will be happy, what’s going to happen, what decision is she going to make. She is a kickass Wall street girl and you will be like, ‘wow she was strong, she was cool enough to take decision to do what she does, and it’s nice to see powerful women.’ Samar, on the other hand, is the lightheartedness of the story, you definitely want to follow each character story, that’s the cool thing about how it’s written.
Adeel: I could take a shot at Ali Kazmi’s character, because you know when you are playing somebody’s best friend, and you get to know them so well then you are like if I had to exhibit these traits how would it look like? People love to typecast actors here and that’s one of the biggest challenges, but if somebody gave me a very interesting story where I was playing like this funny friend, I feel I would do it. But it’s fun as actors bring their own template and their own resources to every character they play.
If one day you woke up and you were one of the following people, what would you do?
-Adeel: Oh, I would move on directing my movie.
-Hareem: I would try and learn some business sense. Mehreen has zero business sense. (All agree, laughs all around in the room.)
-Tooba: I would get up and eat lot of beef. She is a vegetarian so yeah, I am going eat a lot of meat and beef. (laughs).
-Sanam: If I was Mehreen Jabbar I would probably move back to Pakistan, and get back to work here instead of once a year doing something great and hiding.
-Adeel: I would start producing a big film in my country, and make that work.
-Hareem: I would bag like 2, 3 huge commercials and get like 2, 3 crores out of some banks, and then runaway.
-Tooba: I would get up and call Tooba Siddiqui and say, ‘Hey babe.’
Adeel interjects: Make Zindagi Gulzar Hai Part 2! (All laugh).
Sanam continues: If I was Fawad I would get into production and create something really amazing because he’s really brilliant and he has that charisma about him so I would use it here and not go there because they have their stars, you stay here man.
-Adeel: I would quit running for the presidency, and get a haircut. (the interview was conducted before U.S. elections).
-Hareem: I would kill myself. A. because I am Donald Trump, and B. because I am Donald Trump. So I would definitely kill myself.
-Tooba: I would actually shoot Hillary because I hate her more. I think Donald is just a puppet and people are actually looking at him and making him look bad so that Hillary can win. But yeah, after doing that I would probably kill myself too.
-Sanam: I would just apologize and redeem myself, open up a big charity and do things like that.
One actor/actress you would really like to work with?
Sanam: Saba Qamar and Noman Ejaz. Saba Qamar is so versatile, so confident, so sure of herself that she wows me. So she is definitely someone I would like to work with.
Adeel: Well, 2016 is a global age and I am setting my sights up high, this is the only time, want to make my country proud, so I would work with Christopher Nolan. He is a director though, but yeah that would be my choice.
Hareem: I think it would be Noman Ejaz for sure, I think he is a brilliant actor, and probably Saba and Mahira both together because I have a feeling that with Mahira it would be very easy to work with her, not just the acting part but the experience would be amazing too.
Tooba: I always wanted to work with Nadia Jameel, somehow I really like her as an actor. I would really like to do something like her sister’s role or something. She really intrigues me. In guys, I think I would like to share screen with Shaan. I think he is amazing.
So who has been the naughtiest on sets? Any incident you would like to share.
Hareem: There were a lot of things, a lot of moments together overall. While we were shooting it was mostly like thak thak thak, you didn’t have a lot of time between shots to do crazy stuff. One shot would get done and we would get our makeup done and get ready for the next one and just go and do it. So we had fun along the way, and after the shoots we would all sit together and will have a laugh, would go to different places and have fun.
If Dobara Phir Se was being done Dobara Phir Se, one thing you wouldn’t do, or would do differently?
Adeel: Oh God! I wouldn’t like to break my finger a month before I was applying for my Visa. I was at the American Embassy with Hareem with a bandage on my hand. And then I was taking the bandage off for finger printing, and I was like they are not giving me the Visa. They must have been thinking who is this guy doing finger printing with his damaged hands. So yeah, would definitely try to avoid that.
Hareem: If it was happening Dobara Phir Se I will play Samar.
Tooba: I would change my wardrobe into Zainab’s wardrobe.
Sanam: I would not get so annoyed with the boys. Bohut baatein kartey hain, mera dimagh pakta hai.
Lastly, what are your future plans? What’s in line for you next, and for us eventually?
Sanam: Oh future plans! Rest.
Adeel: Some time off for me too, I did Jackson and then moved on to Ho Mann Jahaan and then Dobara Phir Se, so I haven’t had any real break. So yeah.
Hareem: Doing another film titled Parchi, producing it as well along with acting in it. Azfar Jafri is directing it; director of Janaan. And after that, merey pass tau 10 saal ka plan para hai (Jokingly).
Tooba: I am just looking forward to this serial that I am shooting, titled Iltija.
That’s all people, hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned as we bring you Mehreen Jabbar interview next.