By Ahmed Sarym
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a name that needs no introduction. Chinoy, who entered the world of theatrical commercial cinema with Pakistan’s first animated feature film, 3 Bahadur, has been on the roll since winning the Oscar.
After bagging her second Academy Award for the documentary, A Girl In The River, which also helped in passing a law against honor killing, and releasing the sequel of 3 Bahadur titled 3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam last year, Chinoy is now gearing up for her next project of moving cinema which will showcase the movies to people not having the luxury of cinema and entertainment across the country.
In conversation with Galaxy Lollywood, the relentless filmmaker discusses her latest cinematic outing, the chances of creating quality animation in Pakistan and much more. Read on!
Galaxy Lollywood: Do you think by producing animation for children locally, you’ll be able to divert their need for entertainment?
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy: I made 3 Bahadur first and foremost as a form of entertainment – with a menacing villain and his gang of fumbling thugs and a slew of hilarious and action packed moments. I want audiences to laugh with our characters, grieve with them, root for them, and see themselves in our heroes.
I want audiences to be proud of a Pakistani production, and to leave the cinema feeling thoroughly entertained. 3 Bahadur seeks to entertain you, everything else is secondary.
GL: Making an animated feature film requires a team that is technically sound. Do you think Pakistani film industry can produce quality animation, at par with international standards?
SOC: Animation is in its infancy in Pakistan, and I had assumed that finding the right people would be the most difficult part of the process. It became evident that the issue was not a lack of talent or skill, but the fact that this industry had never been given the resources that it required to live up to its full potential.
There is a lot of talent in Pakistan – and I have no doubt that we can compete with the very best in the world if we are only given the time and material required to do so.
GL: How do you think 3 Bahadur can play an impact on the lives of Pakistani children? What’s was your inspiration behind making 3 Bahadur and now its sequel?
SOC: I had wanted to do something for children for a long time, Pakistan has a very young population and a booming media industry, but we have stopped producing quality content for children. All of our content is imported, from animation to variety shows, and thus our youth grows up with mentors and heroes that are far removed from what they see around them in real life.
We have taken special care to ensure that the story of 3 Bahadur remains very local; from the way we have designed our characters, to our dialogues and our script. We want children to see characters that look like them and talk like them on the big screen for the first time.
GL: You have two adorable young daughters. How do they feel about her that you’re working towards providing children in Pakistan with wholesome entertainment?
SOC: My eldest daughter is a big fan of 3 Bahadur, especially Amna, and it makes be extremely happy to know that the film has given her a superhero that she can relate and look up to.
GL: Do you think we have the scope to be able to produce sequels in Pakistan. Do you think it was a risk when you took up 3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam?
SOC: There is no doubt that animation is very expensive and time consuming. However, there is a demand in Pakistan for quality children’s entertainment and this is evident in the success that 3 Bahadur had. It currently stands as the highest grossing animated feature film ever in Pakistan – a record previously set by Hollywood’s Rio 2.
In order to continue this legacy and further inspire the children of Pakistan, I think it was important for us to create a feature length sequel to the film. If we can sustain the interest being created now, we can achieve exponential growth over the next 5 years.
GL: With the recent ban on Indian films in Pakistan, there’re not enough cinema-goers left. Do you think it will have an effect on the film?
SOC: It is disheartening to know that with the ban of Indian films in Pakistan people are reluctant to go to the cinemas. However, I hope that this film encourages people to give our filmmakers a chance and support the local film industry.
GL: Most of your work has been social commentary, including the documentaries that won you two Academy Awards. How and why did you form ‘Waadi Animations’?
SOC: My generation grew up watching Ainak Wala Jin, Uncle Sargram and Sohail Rana’s musical shows on television, but the new generation doesn’t have local heroes to look up to and whatever they have is either from the West or India.
In a world of Dora’s, Ben 10’s and Chota Bheem’s, the fact that we are giving our children local mentors and heroes with 3 Bahadur is one of my proudest accomplishments and one of the main reasons I formed ‘Waadi Animations’.
GL: At what point did you realise that 3 Bahadur deserves a sequel. Also please take us back in time and what are your fondest memories of making the latest installment?
SOC: I was overwhelmed by the response we received from the first film. We were amazed by the support from all quarters, from politicians to actors, designers and writers; they all took to social media to support the launch of the film. The reviews in newspapers and magazines were also tremendous and it was exciting to see the film come alive.
There was no doubt that we had to release a sequel for our fans. We have added new characters in the latest film, including my favorite – a very mischievous parrot voiced by Zeba Shehnaz.
GL: Can we expect another 3 Bahadur installment, or any other animated films or series from you?
SOC: We are taking a break from 3 Bahadur and have another feature film in the pipeline that we will be announcing soon!
About the Author: Ahmad Sarym is 14, ninth grader and film journalist. He writes for Dawn, Express Tribune and The News. He can be approached on [email protected]
Note: Excerpts were used in a review by the author that was published earlier in Dawn Images.