In conversation with Shaan Shahid: Talking ‘Arth’ and clearing the air on some of his misconstrued views

Shaan Shahid needs no introduction. He is the bonafide superstar of Lollywood, ruling the industry for more than two decades and still doing good.

Shaan Shahid is returning to the silver screen in the avatar of a romantic hero after a huge gap with his home-production ‘Arth – the Destination’, which is the remake of classic Bollywood film by the friend of Pakistan and the renowned filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt. Arth is clashing with another Pakistani film, Rangreza, on the box office on 21st December, which bodes well for the industry as two major films are releasing the same day.

We got in touch with the superstar to talk about his upcoming movie, his criticism of Indian content being played in Pakistani cinema houses and Pakistani artists working across the border and if we will see him in a light-hearted comedy film anytime soon. The actor-turned-director opened up on many important things and cleared the air on some of his point of views misconstrued by others.

Read the interview of Shaan Shahid below and share your feedback in the comments section.

Shaan Shahid, as we all know, you always say that you want to take the Pakistan film industry at higher levels internationally but your movies Yalghaar and Arth have released after a gap of 3 years since the release of O21 in 2014, don’t you think having more releases is the first step towards helping the industry?

Well, I think the intellectual policy needs to be drafted first, the road map is very important. Number two you see this is a producer’s prerogative if he wants to cast me in a film or not. Karachi and Lahore have a great divide and we need to join hands to create that platform where a lot of people can come in and prosper. We as a Pakistan film industry need to become more mature rather than just bragging about who attended which film’s premiere and take this industry as a business proposition than self-boosting ego trip.

We also need to move out from the old ways of running an industry like our censor boards need to have a rating system which include ‘U’ for everyone, ‘PG’ for parental guidance and then an ‘A’ certificate for the adult movies. I think we should also start venturing into film markets like India and China to get more mileage and presence in the film world.

For me not doing many films I would say that I chose from what I was offered and if I do not like it I make my own movies like I am doing right now.

You have been part of this industry since 1990, so in these past 27 years what changes have you seen in the Pakistan film industry?

I feel the technology has evolved but the production level has gone down fiercely low. I remember I used to do 40 films a year and in total we had 70 films a year. We need to make more films but the divide is so big that one person cannot fill it up. For example, if I can do four films a year than I need to understand that some other actor will do the remaining required ones. We need to think more like professionals and go for really making a difference to bring Pakistan on the international map as far as films are concerned. We need to come out of this mental recession and realize that just by having a new camera your thinking does not change. To become a force to reckon with one needs to look at the movie business at a macro level and achieve much more.

In recent years we have seen that you have a very strong point of view towards the Indian content being imported into Pakistan or the local stars who work in India, so what is your thinking behind this whole thing?

Personally speaking, I believe there should be an element of respect. First of all, Indian movies are being played in our cinemas without an issue and cinema owners are earning well. But, why aren’t our films being played there or why does Fawad Khan not get advertisements there like Irfan Khan gets here? Respect should be one’s main priority and secondly there should be cultural exchange on both sides. Like, if Fawad Khan makes a film in Pakistan and takes Sonam Kapoor as the lead heroine then I would be more than happy that it’s a Pakistani film being released in India.

My statements have always been twisted, giving an impression that I am against Indian movies. See when I will feel like working there I will do that. I think my country needs my services more at this moment so if I focus all my talent on making money then I would also end up being one of those politicians who do money laundering leading to them becoming rich while country gets poorer. I do not go after destroying cinemas that are playing Indian movies, it is the people who should understand that our stars do not get the respect that Indians get when they come here.

Recently we saw one of your tweets where you had replied to a tabloid that “Why is Katrina playing a spy from Pakistan the writer needs to do his homework stop fooling people in the name of cinema grow up guys”, whereas Meesha Shafi also played a RAW agent in Waar. So, don’t you think we should look at these roles as fictional characters?

See that being a RAW agent is one thing and being Pakistani agent is another. Secondly, I do not know any Pakistani agent rather any Pakistani person who can dance like Katrina id doing in the Tiger Zinda Hai. So, I think that’s great but I call this spoof cinema. I think India needs to move away from this cinema, where heroes and heroines are dancing in front of a rainbow. Indian industry got revolutionized firstly when Dilwale Dhulaniya Lae Jayeingae was released, but it has been 20 years since then, so, they need to get into the new phase. Pakistan, I believe, can do this spoof cinema at this moment but India should grow out of it now and make better films. Even if you see the CGI or stunts in some of the Indian movies they are so childish, like ones in Aamir Khan’s Dhoom 3. Bollywood has the power and money and they should look to improve their films now and go for the best.

In recent times we have seen you either in hardcore action films with a political backdrop or like now in Arth which is an intense romantic drama film, but when are we going to see you in a lighthearted fare or a comedy?

My next film after Zarrar is going to be a comedy film but as I told you in the start that it is the producer’s prerogative that he comes in with a script and signs me up for a film. If he thinks that I cannot pull off a comic role then he will not cast me. In the previous years I have not been offered much films and whatever came my way I did not like them. Some main producers only want to take their home-grown heroes in the movies, so why would they cast somebody else!

Secondly, if I feel that romantic films are being made but I do not want to be part of any or I don’t like them enough I will make my own just as I made Arth and like that if I want to make a comedy film I’ll do that too. But remember one thing that comedy films always come in as third tier, whereas action movies are first tier films, while romantic films are second tier films. I am all up for good scripts that come my way, and I am open to all genres.

Most of our stars these days are seen quite much on TV but you have always kept yourself exclusively for films, while you may have got many offers in the years for TV but why did you never take them up?

I belong to a family that comes from a film background, so, for me, once you are in films there is so much to do here that one does not need to go anywhere else unless they come up with Game of Thrones. I think, our television is going through the dilemma of selling women’s suppression. This whole concept is not helping anybody and our dramas are portraying women as damsel in distress only, so the intellectuals of television should come up with better content.

Arth is clashing with Rangreza on 21st December. How do you see this clash?

I don’t think this is a clash. I believe there is room for everyone and the better film will anyway come out as more successful. When I was doing 40 films a year I think my own films used to clash with each other. I still think we should give space to every film in this phase of our industry but the issues and egos that come in do not help anybody. If I had been told before that Rangreza team wanted to come with their film on this date I would have accommodated them, but, yeah, I hope the better film works.

You have been in the industry for so many years how do you perceive or analyze the box-office for any of your movies?

Firstly, I define my audience and when the script is finalized then I see the maximum capacity looking at the box office’s potential. After this you play the blind game, where you say these are my options and what are doable. So, it’s okay because sometimes film demands what it wants. If a film demands that we shoot in London or in Ichra then we go there. So, mainly it’s what the script demands matters the most and nothing else.

Now that we know that Zarrar is coming on Eid-ul-Fitr. We have seen a very bad trend in our industry where all films release in Eid-ul-Fitr to Eid-ul-Azha period or in December mostly. Don’t you think stars like you need to step up to break these trends of coming only on or around festivals?

I have been catering to the festivals since past 25 years and the old constitution of film making says that every big action movie should release on Eid and everything else is anytime you want. All big action blockbusters in Hollywood would wait for the summers, similarly romantic films are never meant for Eid. The new industry sadly has learned nothing from the old industry and neither does it want to learn anything.

Final editing by Zeeshan Mahmood.

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I am a complete movie buff, who not only watches a lot of movies but also considers all other factors involved in making movie a success story. Movies are my passion and analysing them from all aspects is what I love doing.

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