After over two decades in the spotlight, Reema still comes across queries as mundane as “when will you get married?” However, she answers them with the enthusiasm of a giddy teen.
Dressed in a white outfit as she frequently adjusts her bangs and tosses her hair (with carefully placed extensions), it’s hard to imagine that she has been around for over 22 years, leaving one wondering if she has been ‘under the knife’. But more than the looks, it’s the effort she has made to move on from being a starlet to a marketable celebrity (she is her best publicist).
Debuting in Bulandi and going on to work in hundreds of Lollywood productions, Reema reinvented her image and can now be seen sitting pretty while hosting a chat show on television. The ease with which she gives advice on life, she can easily be considered as Pakistan’s answer to Dr Phil!
“Over the years I have learnt a lot of things, the most important lesson being to stay humble and not get consumed by how one looks. Beauty fades but if you have what it takes — grit and dedication — you will survive,” she says. “I have had my time as an actress, doing scores of films in a year but now direction is something that appeals to me. Koi Tujh Sa Kahan was just the start, Love Mein Gum (LMG) is another offering. It’s my bit for the revival of cinema.”
Given that revival of cinema is more of a cliché, Reema seems to have taken to it like a fish to water. For any sick unit’s rehabilitation, finances and remedies are needed but in the case of Pakistan’s film industry, there is little possibility of this happening. Getting our film industry back on its feet would require at least 50 films a year, and ones that have good content and can attract the masses. The task demands huge amounts of investment which not many would be willing to take at this juncture.
I ask Reema how she thinks her film can change fortunes. “I believe in doing my bit, even if it’s a single film. Rather than sitting around doing nothing, it’s better to make an effort,” she says.
When presented with the argument that no advancements have been made in terms of improving the technical or financial aspects of film-making in Pakistan and that it needs more than a one-off effort such as Bol or LMG, Reema looks around to think before saying, “Anything and everything is possible. Please don’t say our film industry is dead,” her voice filled with emotion.
She goes on to add that urgent steps are needed on a war-footing basis. “It’s too late now and we can’t stop the onslaught of Indian films, but what we can do is improve our content. Obviously, parallels will be drawn but there are always takers and the audience will be willing to take a chance if we put in our effort. We also need institutional support and have to provide our staff with training and opportunities to upgrade their skills. With the technical side going down the drain, the worst casualty has been the poor technicians. The bottom line here is that we need money.” Taking the urgent need for funding a step further, she mentions Bollywood and how it is funded “not only by the state but also by the underworld.” She says she believes that “investment investment hoti hai, state ki ho ya underworld ki!”
In her case, she says she has been lucky to find sponsorship for her film. Given that ample amount of money was available, she shot LMG in major cities and northern areas of Azarbijan as well as in several cities of Malaysia. However, for post-production, she chose India “as the quality improves drastically given that they have the right equipment.”
LMG is all set for an Eidul Fitr release. The out-and-out masala film aims to please the masses with what the film-maker claims is “quality entertainment.” While on the subject, of the title song directed by Saqib Malik and sponsored by Lux, quite a few viewers are pained by the fact that it looks like a copy of Om Shanti Om’s title number. Reema gets visibly agitated when I point this out but she dismisses the criticism, “It’s a great video. I got Saqib to do it because he is very talented. It’s a fun, peppy song and the video is not a rip-off of any Indian song.”
Changing gears swiftly, the smart girl reverts to the revival of cinema, insisting that in order for Pakistani cinema to survive, it needs more entertainment and not art films. “Art films might take the director and producer to awards all over the world but they will not help the cause of the people associated with the trade. Call me what you like but escapism sells. With all due respect, Bol might be a good film and Shoaib Mansoor a great director, but the masses don’t want so many issues being sent their way. All day long you see and hear news of people being killed and wounded being broadcast on TV channels with no censor in place. People want some kind of relief from these harsh realities of life and a well-made, intelligent film takes their mind off their troubles,” she concludes, strangely making sense to me.