In Focus: Sharmeen Obaid, 3 Bahadur, and future of animation in Pakistan

Sharmeen Obaid Interview 3 Bahadur

After a massive success of the first two installments of the 3 Bahadur franchise, the series is back again in cinemas with its third and final part, 3 Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors. While the first part of the series was also the first animated children’s film to be made in Pakistan, others like Allahyaar and the Legend of Markhor, and most recently, The Donkey King, have set the bar really high for animation and children’s films.

We sat with the Academy Award-winning director of the successful franchise and discussed how she feels about this growing competition, the future of animated films in the country, and her own future in the industry. 

Was 3 Bahadur always planned as a trilogy?

When we started making 3 Bahadur, the plan was to have two films in the series. But when the second film came out and the response that we saw; of children and parents especially, coming up to us and saying, “please we need more of this and we need more superheroes for our children,” we decided there needs to be a grand finale.

So, 3 Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors is a grand finale. Iske andar jo fights hain, iske andar sequences hain, jo costumes hain, the animation quality is all par above anything else that we have ever done.

Okay, so you mentioned the response was great, then why not make a fourth and fifth part as well?

As a filmmaker, mein samajhti hun that when you reach that stage, you should come up with new characters, new ways to cultivate superheroes, so once 3 bahadur finishes, we have a new superhero trilogy, an animated one.

How important do you think marketing is for a film? If you were not with ARY, do you believe the film would have had the impact that it has now?

I think you need many ingredients to make the dish. ARY has been an excellent support to us, if you put on ARY, you know 3 Bahadur is coming! But then you also need to have a good film, because you need people to go into the cinema and spread the word of mouth.

So our films have been good, parents have loved it, children have loved it, entire families can go together. There are very few films in Pakistan where an entire family could go together. Either the kids go separately or the parents go separately, or it’s the teenagers who don’t go with their parents, but 3 bahadur is Nana, Nani, Dada, Dadi, sab jasakte hain 3 Bahadur dekhne k liye.    

3 Bahadur has mainstream big names, was that you, was that ARY,  or was it a mixture of everyone involved?

All the actors have come on board because of the 3 Bahadur franchise, and the success that it has had. Many of them have children that love the series and they want to be associated with the film.

Donkey King was sold as a kid’s film, although it was not. Do you feel it was somewhat misleading?

I think that sometimes we blur the lines between what is for adults and what is for children. But I know that anybody that went to the cinema to see the film said that it was a film for adults.

And the reason why it has done well is because it has mass appeal for the grownups. Children’s film is a niche market, but it’s an animated film and it has done really well, so I hope that they come out with many sequels.

So you know there is competition for you in the market, Allahyaar and the Legend of Markhor came and then also Tick Tock. Now 3 Bahadur is coming after Donkey King. Do you think you need to beat the numbers of the similar films that came out in past, especially the previous 3 Bahadur films?

I think the first 3 Bahadur set a record in the country for animated films. The second one beat the first one and the third one I’m sure will go on to do even better. I don’t think about competing with other animated films that are not children based. I am happy to compete with children based animated films which we will continue to do.

We are taking out the film in a very tough time, we have Spiderman, Aquaman, Mary Poppins and 3 Bahadur coming out at the same time. People think we are crazy for releasing the film right now. But I say they are Pakistan’s beloved superheroes. Children will come out and see them and as long as we do well; which we believe we have, the children will love the film.

So you have mentioned there is another animated franchise in the making, why not a feature film? Perhaps a live action feature? Maybe something with superheroes or a romantic comedy?

If somebody gave me a dollar for everytime a person asked me to make a romantic comedy, I would be a billionaire! My career has always been about making films that are different. Whether it is documentaries or animation or virtual reality, that is my calling.

I make different films and I think we have wonderful directors in this country who make mainstream films. My calling is children, women, minorities, and different subjects. That is the kind of films that I make. One day, maybe I would make a live action film but for now, no.

Cake was a wonderful movie touching the subject on family, would you want to make something on similar lines someday?

Maybe I would like to make films that are like those, but right now, I am enjoying making films for children. It feels wonderful to have children run up to you and say 3 Bahadur , 3 Bahadur! I love that! I love the fact that I make content for children.

On a parting note, something off topic, Cake has been sent for nomination in the Oscars. Do you think it has the chance to be selected?

Cake has been holding screenings and doing a lot of promotions for the film in America. When you get short listed or nominated for an Academy Award, its based on your craft, the story, the way you tell the story, the direction, and the camera angles.

It’s an award for filmmaking.. so we are hopeful, it’s a film that’s done well. We are hopeful that it will make the cut. And if this one doesn’t, very soon a Pakistani film will. At least we have started the process of sending Pakistani films in the competition, which is very important.