It is a clash of the titans as four mega budget Pakistani films (7 Din Mohabbat In, Azaadi, Na Band Na Baraati, and Wajood) are all set to battle it out at the box office this Eid-ul-Fitr. Interestingly, they are not the only players, as three Hollywood biggies(Hereditary, Jurassic World, and Ocean’s 8) will also be joining the party which takes the total number of new films coming out this Eid to seven.
Galaxy Lollywood’s Momin Ali Munshi met up with the cast of all four Pakistani releases to know more about the films, discuss release date strategies and to find out what all was keeping the actors on their toes.
Here is the first interview where we talked to the cast of 7 Din Mohabbat In, which currently seems to be leading the race courtesy lead actress Mahira Khan who is redefining what stardom means with each move she makes. Also, the film marks the second innings for hottie Sheheryar Munawar who was last seen in the 2016 release Ho Mann Jahaan and is coming back to the silver screen after a hiatus of 2.5 years. Also making their presence felt would be actresses Mira Sethi, who makes her cinematic debut with this one, and Amna Ilyas who after a string of item numbers will be seen acting after 3 years. Here are excerpts from the candid conversation with the stars of 7DMI.
When the film was announced I assumed it would be a big budget outright masala entertainer headed by Mahira Khan and Sheheryar Munawar along with the supporting cast. But when I saw the trailer, and I am being honest here, I felt that the canvas was rather smaller and the film came across as a choti (small budget) film. Was that the feel you wanted for the film or what?
Sheheryar Munawar: (Points to Mahira) Aap baray janwaar ko chothay cage main rakh hi nahi saktay.
Mahira Khan: (laughs) To be honest, it is a small film.
Sheheryar: I think that it is the style…
Mahira: Yeah, it is Meenu-Farjad’s style. You know I’ve done Raees too, so I remember I kept pressing that can’t we take the characters somewhere exotic. I was like I am playing a don’s wife and they tend to take their wives on vacations to Dubai and what not no? There they caved in, although not exactly because of me, as for 7 Din I wanted something similar.
Sheheryar: But a small time employee from Saddar (referring to his character) kahan lay kar jaye ga?
Mahira: But it is fantasy right, and you can go anywhere.
Amna Ilyas: But Meenu and Farjad like to keep things realistic.
Mahira: Yeah that is true, but yes you are absolutely right, it is a smaller film.
Mira Sethi: But I think smallness doesn’t have anything to do with the end product.
Sheheryar: Yeah, this film is a lot about the writing. So many of the big, visually appealing films we have had were weak on writing, but here you will really enjoy the writing.
Mira: I have a small, but a very well-written role, which is why I signed this film. I’ve had a lot of offers earlier, leading roles in fact, but the scripts have been so appalling that I’ve had to say no to them.
Talking about Fasih Bari’s writing, which I absolutely love, his characters tend to be very real, raw and grungy. How difficult was it for you Mahira and Sheheryar to get into that zone because you two are rather ‘burger.’
Sheheryar: I am not burger!
Mahira: Excuse me, did he just say he’s not burger. I’m sorry but you’re the biggest burger.
Sheheryar: I think it was more difficult for Mahira because the role has a lot of quirkiness and you really have to get into it.
Mahira: Actually yes it was. You know the roles I have been doing are mostly drama, and I fully enjoy them, even like Verna was contained drama, so I have done all the drama romance bit. Here it is something different, when they told me the character I was like this is fun, and when I read the introduction scene for Neeli I was like oh my god is she really like this, I need to do this! Neeli is a little kookie, so the first few times I was like yaar yeh toh ajeeb hay yeh jumla toh ban nahi raha. And coming out of Verna where every sentence has a meaning, I was like yeh toh main kuch nahi keh rahi and then I realized that is what I have to do, I have to do nothing and enjoy it and let go of that every line needs to hit hard.
When the film was announced Ayesha Omar was supposedly a part of the film. Is she still on board?
Sheheryar: Yes she has a special appearance in the film.
Mira: And as someone who you will be very delighted to see on screen.
Also initially Fahad Mustafa was supposed to be playing the leading role and from what I heard he was very keen on working on this project, so what went wrong?
Mahira: I have been on this film the longest so let me answer this one. I don’t know what happened with Fahad but we get offered so many things and to talk about something that someone hasn’t done just doesn’t feel right. Imagine if I sit right now and tell you I was offered so and so role and I didn’t do it. Also its the producer and directors call as to who they cast.
So there are four films coming out this Eid, what is your take on this?
Mahira: There are three no?
Sheheryar: Well there could be five tomorrow or maybe six the day after.
Mira: The more the merrier!
So don’t you think more films coming on Eid will result in lesser screens with showtimes getting divided?
Mahira: I’ve had film releases in the middle of the year and I’ve also had Eid releases, and honestly good films do well. In 2015 there was Bin Roye, Wrong Number and Bollywood biggie Bajrangi Bhaijan but all did well because they all catered to audiences and as long as your film clicks with the audience you’re good to go. But it would be nice to have a clean slate!
Sheheryar: Everyone wants to come on Eid, but the distributors should be smarter about this and more responsible. Two weeks before Eid you cannot announce that you are coming out on Eid, I think it is unfair and I’m upset by this sudden release date change of ‘Na Band Na Baraati’.
Building upon what you said Mahira, Eid 2015 had Bajrangi Bhaijan which pulled people to the cinemas and the overflow resulted in everyone doing well. However, this time around ‘Race 3’ has been delayed for a week, while ‘Veere Di Wedding’ also got banned. Do you think our Pakistani films on their own have the power to attract audiences to cinemas?
Mahira: Yes, I think so. Okay, I am not a producer so I am answering this as an actor and a layman who wants to watch films, all kinds of films. I don’t think films should be banned.
Mira: Also people are very curious about Pakistani films and there is a resurgence of interest.
Do you really think so Mira? The footfalls have another story to tell.
Mahira: But decreasing footfall is a worldwide phenomenon, which is why your Nicole Kidmans and Brad Pitts are moving to television and digital. Footfalls are decreasing for a number of reasons. When I can watch a ‘Game Of Thrones’ on my television why would I go out and pay for it? Which is why cinema now will primarily be delegated to event films like super-hero films in the west and big-budget films over here.
Amna: But we are very positive about our film and hope it will do well.
So the title of the film, people had different things to say about it when it was first revealed, but I’ve also heard that you guys weren’t that happy with it?
Sheheryar: Sab gossip pata hay tumhay, Momin.
Mahira: You know what I wanted? I wanted the film to be titled ‘Bhabhi Chalu Hain’! There is a character in the film who has this very catchy line and it would make a fun title but then you guys would have been like what kind of a title is this.
Rimal Ali, a transgender, is doing an item number in the film. Very bluntly I just want you to explain the rationale behind this decision.
Mahira: She has a role in the film, it’s not just a song.
Amna: Also I don’t think she was cast in the film because she was a transgender person.
Sheheryar: Okay, so there are three things I want to talk about because a lot of this has been going around. Firstly, it is not an item number as in our film it is driving the narrative forward. Secondly, about her being a transgender, this film is a romantic comedy but there are certain messages within it which I really like. One of those messages is my character turns around at one point and looks at Rimal and says chahay yeh larka ho yah larki main yahan say in kay bina nahi jaoon ga. At the end of the scene, it’s not the guy that comes across as the hero but it is Rimal’s character.
Mira: Amna (Ilyas) said something lovely in a recent interview. Doing an item number is a woman’s choice. Item numbers on their own are not bad or good, feminism is all about choice and the item number is never intrinsically bad or good. If it serves the purposes of a plot it is fantastic.
Mahira: Also the word ‘item number’ we have adopted it, God knows from where. It is a number, call it a number. Someone once asked me will you do an item number, and I said no I will do a number but not an item. But again even if I do an item number and I want to be called an item, it is my choice.
Sheheryar is Project Ghazi coming out anytime soon?
Sheheryar: I’ve heard yes, there have been talks. It is unfortunate what happened and I hope they resolve their issues, Inshallah December or early next year.
So one last question, why should people choose your film this Eid? In a few words, what would you say?
Amna: Because it is a full-fledged entertainment package.
Sheheryar: It is entertaining and something you can watch with your family.
Mahira: It will make you smile.
Mira: Watch it for the dialogues.