Replacing Mahira Khan and talking #BoycottTeefaInTrouble: A candid chat with Ali Zafar and Maya Ali

 

That we met up with Ali Zafar and Maya Ali last week is no surprise. You just need to open up Instagram and you will see the two stars grooving to the dance number ‘Item Number’ in a video we shot which is all over social media. Before the video was shot, Galaxy Lollywood’s Momin Ali Munshi sat down with the two leading stars of upcoming film ‘Teefa In Trouble’ to talk about the film, future plans and so much more. Here are excerpts from a freely flowing candid conversation where no topic was off limits.

Maya, it’s so good to see you back in action. We have definitely missed seeing you on screen and we heard Ali stopped you from taking on any new work these past few months, is that true?

Maya Ali: (laughs) Ali kab kiya aap nay yeh? Honestly, he said no such thing and did not stop me from doing anything, it is just that I wanted to completely focus on Teefa. Even when I was doing television, my focus was on quality, not quantity.

But there’s been quite a huge gap between your last project and Teefa.

Maya: When there is quality work happening it’s bound to take time. I wanted to give this film and my character one hundred percent and wanted people to wait for my next project and have this excitement kay kab ayi gi Maya Ali kay samnay.

Okay so Ali, when Teefa’s teaser came out there was this intrigue factor surrounding the film, the setting, the characters but when the trailer came out it was like you revealed the complete plot. Was that a conscious decision?

Ali Zafar: It was a call on the directors part as Ahsan Rahim cut the trailer. See, it is a very tricky situation as to how much you have to reveal. I feel the story is the most important part because that is what engages the viewer for the first time who then decides whether he wants to see the story unfold on the screen or not. We’ve given some of it but not all of it as there are a lot of surprises, twists, and turns in store for you.

With its wide release world over, the focus for Teefa seems more on the International market, as compared to the domestic market. Is that so?

Ali: Well if that was the case I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now.

But the focus is more on that side no? What with all the London premiere, Dubai promotions and all?

Maya: There is a premiere in London, okay he’s not invited me for that. Kis kay saath kar rahay hain wahan pay?

Ali: Okay so it was a very conscious effort. While the film should have a place of its own in Pakistan and trust me the country is my first priority, this has been the case since the beginning of my journey, but I feel internationally whatever image or perception there is of Pakistan is not what we would like it to be and if through this film we can somehow change that perception, would be great. We wanted to make and take a film of International caliber, from Pakistan, which showcases our indigenous culture, our humor, music, style of film-making so people out there can see it because right now Pakistani Cinema doesn’t really have an image out there and trust me this was a huge challenge. But I have been lucky that there are some sixteen seventeen countries where this is the first Pakistani film that will be screened ever. Its releasing in 25 countries- widest release ever, something I also wanted to achieve.

Bin Roye did wonderfully on the international front and it made more money with its International release then it did here in Pakistan. Do you think Teefa has the potential to do that? Also, what factors do you think are important for a film to well on the International market, and given your experience with Bollywood you would probably have a better know how of that as compared to other Pakistani film-makers.

Ali: I think the most important thing for any film, any story is, the connection to its roots-where it comes from. We are Pakistanis and we have a certain ethos so if we stay true that, and that strikes with people internationally, you have a winner.

Is the film releasing in India?

Ali: Inshallah, hopefully, that’s on the cards. That is going to be another big thing for the film to happen, let’s see what happens.

Maya you have done a lot of television and your image is generally of the bechari, roti hui seedhi-saadhi larki, and now this shift to your character in Teefa where she has this western brought up and lives in Poland. How difficult was it for you to play this role and also do you think your television fanbase will digest this new Maya in a completely different and rather bold avatar where you’re showing skin and dancing in a ‘Main Item Number Nahi’ dance number?

Ali: But if you look at the song, there is no skin?

If you ask me I love the look but I’m asking on behalf of the thousands of loyal Instagram fans who seemed pretty upset.

Maya: Whatever I did on television with the roti-dhoti larki was a character and I was playing that character, and being an actor you should do all kinds of work. Film is larger than life and aap ko thora sa khul kay samnay ana hota hay and you get the margin to perform. Skin show walay comments toh woh dramas par bhi aatay hain, we wear a sleeveless top and people comment rather start passing judgments on one’s character. So my focus is on work and I try and play the character I have been given, and this all you see is Anya, not Maya.

Maya we’ve seen you dance at weddings and you’re a phenomenal dancer. How different was it dancing for the camera, with proper choreography or was it a piece of cake for you, at least that’s what we thought?

Maya: I thought so too! That since I am a great dancer it will all be very easy for me but when I performed for the camera I realized dancing at weddings is very easy but doing it for a film is something very technical, given all the movements and all. I feel we should have dance classes and need to focus on this too in addition to acting, it is very important if you are doing a film.

Ali, I am sure you are aware of the entire twitter war happening where on one side you have your fans defending you but on the other side people are calling for a boycott of the film given the Meesha Shafi episode. You’re aware of this right?

Ali: I block all sorts of negativity from my life and I only focus on the positive.

The reason I bring this up is because, initially it was just fans and lots of bots engaging in the conversation online but now we have prominent faces, journalists calling out for a ban on the film and then the entire Patari incident, what would be your reply or comment on the situation.

Ali: Very simple, let’s wait and see.

First the four Eid releases and then Jackpot, there has been a string of five mediocre/bad films and the momentum has been broken and people aren’t that keen on watching Pakistani films and that support Pakistani cinema card isn’t working anymore. Do you think this will affect your film?

Ali: Every time the public is disappointed with a film it does create a negative effect. But I feel that people are very intelligent and they can differentiate between good and bad content. We are pretty confident about our product, and I hope and pray it can change the perception because I agree with you about the support cinema card, which is why I don’t emotionally blackmail people asking them to support cinema, we are saying go to get entertained, to be blown away with the way its been shot, the action sequences, the comedy, the songs. Just go to get entertained with your family and friends.

Ali, you were working on a film titled ‘Deosai’ and were pretty excited about it, is it happening?

Yes, I was working on the film. We actually went to the mountain tops to see how practical it was to shoot that film, and it required a lot of paraphernalia to shoot that film. Then before we could get to it, ‘Teefa’ happened and once this happened now I feel the topic of ‘Deosai’ which was relevant for that period, is not so relevant now. I’ll reconsider, whether I want to do that film or not.

So whats next for you after Teefa?

Ali: I can only tell that after I have gone on vacation after the release of Teefa.

Any Indian project maybe?

Ali: The world’s becoming smaller and smaller, with possibilities growing larger and larger. So when you say any possibility I have always said immense!

So, Maya, you’re doing ‘Paray Hut Love’ right after Teefa when does the shooting start and when does it release? Also, any drama serial you’re planning on doing?

Maya: Shooting starts September and releases sometime next year and no drama serial as of now.

Ali: Whats the name ‘Paray Hut Love’?

Don’t you like it? It’s an interesting name.

Ali: I am actually just making the connection, I had read ‘Paray Hut Love’ and I had read you had signed Asim’s next now I’m putting them together.

And she replaced Mahira Khan as the leading lady.

Maya: (laughs) I am not replacing anyone.

Ali: You’ve replaced Mahira?

In the film, in the film!

Ali: You can put that question as a shocker for me

Maya: Question mark and full stop Momin, you know what I am talking about right. I haven’t replaced anyone, I was offered the film, I read the script, liked it, I didn’t ask what was happening before me and that’s pretty much it.

Ali: Maya Ali is going to be the biggest star this year…

After Teefa?

Ali: Even right now.

Such a sarcastic tone you have.

Ali: The fact has to be now acknowledged.

Okay, I don’t really follow but nonetheless, let’s end our conversation with the cliched question, why should people go see the film?

Maya: It is a proper family entertainer

Ali: It’s a full-on masala entertainer but with the right amount of masala, not the kind jis kay baad aap ka peth kharab ho jaye, rather agar kisi ka pet kharab hay woh theek ho jaye ga.

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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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