Of Lollywood comebacks, substantial roles, and fashion evolutions: A talk with team Azaadi

It is a clash of the titans as four mega budget Pakistani films (7 Din Mohabbat InAzaadiNa 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 (HereditaryJurassic 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.

Also Read: Interview with team ‘7 Din Mohabbat In’

Here is the second interview where we talked to the cast of Azaadi, which is the best-promoted film from the lot and given it has ARY Films as its distributor it will probably be getting the widest release too. Azaadi stars Moammar Rana who has a lot riding on this film which is his comeback of sorts in this new age cinema and it is pretty much a make or break situation for the veteran actor who has charmed the audiences for about two decades now. Starring alongside Moammar is actress Sonya Hussyn who has been a prominent face in the television industry and it is her first foray into mainstream cinema after appearing in the critically acclaimed, parallel cinema film Moor in 2015. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Moammar we have definitely missed seeing you on the silver screen for quite some time. I want to know what was the one thing which made you sign the dotted line for Azaadi as your comeback film of sorts?

Moammar Rana: Waisay toh I am always around. But Azaadi I chose because I loved the concept and when the script was narrated to me I knew I had to do this because I have never played a mujahid on screen.

Your contemporary Shaan made his comeback last year with Arth but unfortunately, the film was panned by critics and was a box office failure. Do you have this fear that what if your film flops too?

Moammar: Firstly, you need to see Shaan’s score! You cannot determine the fate of a superstar with one film. As for me I never get affected by either success or failure, I’m focused on my next project. Also, I want to say that there are a lot of other actors who are giving flops but why are they not being highlighted? Except for Fahad Mustafa, nobody has really given a solo hit.

Humayun Saeed?

Moammar: Okay, fine maybe Humayun Saeed. But why is Shaan the only one who is being pinpointed whereas failure is concerned? Not every film is a hit, films flop all the time.

When Arth came out and it didn’t do well, Shaan went on a Twitter rampage and raised a lot of points about Lahore vs Karachi, Lollywood and what not…

Moammar: This has been happening for years now Momin and it is not only Shaan who said that. This initially came out of Karachi, but anyhow I feel there is no Karachi or Lahore it is the Pakistani Film Industry. There are a bunch of people labeling films as Lahore based or Karachi based and I think this is just sad.

The reason I bring this up is because I feel that all Lahore based Lollywood veterans like you, Shaan, Resham etc. are not fully being accepted by the new age film-makers, actors, and all.

Moammar: So have they done wonders for the industry, no right?

Sonya, when Moammar came on board for the film, some BTS pictures were released but when they came out you denied working on the project and didn’t want to associate yourself with it, why?

Moammar: Well, let’s be honest she wasn’t very happy to be working with me.

Sonya Hussyn: (laughs) Why are you saying that! No, absolutely not. Actually, what happened what was that somehow those BTS pictures got leaked and at that point, we didn’t want to announce Momee’s arrival in the film. Earlier Danish Taimoor was doing the film, but then for whatever reason, he wasn’t a part of the film, so we wanted to complete the project before announcing the new cast.

You were last seen in Moor and now you’re doing Azaadi. What made you say yes to this project?

Sonya: Most of the films that have come out of Pakistan, the female leads have hardly had any substantial role in the film. There have been films with the title being centered around the girl but the girl nowhere to be found in the film (Mehrunisa V Lub U). I do not need such films with a 5 min screen appearance! In Azaadi I have a full-fledged role and my character drives the story forward.

So recently it was announced that Omer Shahzad is doing a role in the film. Is it a love triangle of sorts?

Sonya: It is a small character with two scenes. We wanted some big name but it was very last minute and getting the dates was a bit difficult so Omer ended up doing it.

Talking about the film a song ‘Lagiyaan’ was released recently with some CGI which comes across as quite amateurish. Will that be fixed?

Sonya: Yes, you’re right. That was our concern and it is being fixed and once the film comes out it will look different.

Sonya, I have to tell you this, you look beautiful on screen. When the film was first announced I was a bit skeptical because lots of TV faces do a film but never really leave an impact, you, however, look like you are meant for the silver screen.

Moammar: Also she has acted really well and  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw her perform. Obviously, she is a big name in the television industry but film is a different medium and she has made a wonderful transition and she has that spunk.

Also, Sonya over the years you’ve had quite the fashion evolution and if there were a meme to be made it would be Parvati bani Poo. What brought out this new fierce side to Sonya? 

Sonya: (laughs) Honestly, this is who I am. It is just that on TV, people don’t want to see fashionable girls, girls who dress that way are shown as the vamps. For TV, you need to be the seedhi saadhi gharailu larki and I don’t mind doing that as far as the character demands that. But if you want to see the fashionable side of mine you see my shoots and all, which by the way have people shocked as they are seeing this new side to me.

So there are four films coming out this Eid, are you happy about this development?

Moammar: Yes, I am happy and proud of the fact that we have four Pakistani films releasing this Eid and there will be a healthy competition amongst the films.

Sonya: Yes, it is good for the industry as it signals progress.

Moammar: But I would like to add that we were the first ones to announce Eid as our release date, and suddenly everyone locked Eid as their release date. What happens in such a case is that screens get divided, and business suffers, so I feel there should not have been more than three releases. How and where this fourth film (Na Band Na Baraati) popped up from I have no idea.

Sonya: Which fourth film?

Na Band Na Baraati is also coming out this Eid, they just announced a few days back.

Sonya: Oh, there is a fourth film too! I had no idea.

Moammar: They just came in last minute and I think it is not cool. Three films were enough, I feel we need to properly plan and support each other because, in the end, we are all the Pakistani Film Industry. However, it is good content that wins, I have been in the industry for more than 20 years now and I have seen more than my fair share of clashes, but content that clicks with the audience is what succeeds.

What is next for you after Azaadi Moammar?

Moammar: Delegate. It is a new film and we will reveal all in due time.

I remember you were doing a film with Syed Noor, what happened to that?

Moammar: Noor sahab stopped that film aur chain lenay chalay gaye thay.

So you know Moammar there was this era of gujjar films which you and Shaan were a part of. If you are offered such a film now, will you do it?

Moammar: Yes, why not. Punjabi cinema is there and it can never die. Also, I want people to know that it is not just about Moammar Rana it is about the lightman, the technicians who all work on a project. Me going to the sets for one day means employment for forty workers. Aap do teen achi mazay ki films karo aur sath aik aisi film karlo. And let me tell you, the fan following is crazy for Punjabi films in interior Punjab etc. I did a film ‘Gunehgar’ a few years back which did wonderfully and guess what, the budget for that film was about 80 lakhs and it did 4 crores at the box office.

Sonya, what is next for you?

Sonya: I have signed a drama which revolves around child abuse. Also, I am in talks for a film, but it is too soon to say anything about the film.

Lastly, in a few words, why should people spend money and watch Azaadi in cinemas?

Sonya and Moammar: Simply, because you’re going to love it!

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I might be an Economics graduate from LUMS, but cinema is where my heart truly belongs. Always up for a discussion on fims and I guess you could call me a Pakistani Cinema aficionado. Email: mominalimunshi@yahoo.com

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