From non-existent item numbers to Bollywood ban: A candid conversation with team ‘Laal Kabootar’

laal kabootar

The film Laal Kabootar is all ready to fly on 22nd of March and the leads of the film; Ahmed Ali and Mansha Pasha are busy promoting the movie. Galaxy Lollywood managed to catch these two busy-birds and the following conversation we had, soared freely as they talked about the movie, their opinion of the Bollywood ban, and if they fear being type-cast.

Mansha, in a recent interview you said that people will either hate the film or love it. Can you elaborate on that?

Mansha: What I had meant was that Laal Kabootar is a genre film. So, if someone does not like the genre in itself, they will not like the film.

Ahmed: The director and the producer didn’t compromise on the vision, at all.

Mansha: Yeah. They haven’t tried to cut corners to please the people. I remember I had suggested one day that we put an item number in the film and even jokingly offered to do it as well but they wouldn’t budge. They haven’t made this movie to please people.

But that’s the issue, isn’t it? Directors make movies to please themselves rather than the audience. Laal Kabootar looks niche, would it be able to appeal to the masses?

Mansha: Obviously everyone wants to make a film that they want to make. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into that it would be a film that people don’t want to see. What matters is that the film should be interesting. A well-made, interesting film will find its market.

What would you say is the genre of the film? It looks like a spaghetti western or more like on the lines of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur.

Ahmed: It’s not like Gangs of Wasseypur. It’s more of a mystery, crime thriller. The similarities between the two movies can be based on the fact that they both have committed to authentically show how life is, in that part of the world.

The state of cinemas nowadays isn’t well. Screens are being shut down. People aren’t going to the cinemas anymore. Will Laal Kabootar and Sherdil manage to bring people to the cinemas?

Ahmed: We are certainly hoping so. But this will take time. It will happen slowly and gradually. For the industry to stand on its own two feet, more films should be released.

Most of the films get released on Eid and create a cluster, what do you think?

Ahmed: Yeah, I don’t get that. Films should be spread more evenly.

Mansha: There’s an argument that footfalls increase during the Eids anyway. Ask any filmmaker why they prefer to release their films on Eid and they reply that people stop going to the cinemas in between. There’s Ramzan, Muharam, families going away during summer/winter vacation. So, there are reasons why Eid is preferred.

From a business point of view, what do you think of the self-imposed ban on Bollywood movies? Is it a smart move, a dumb one, or you remain indifferent to it?

Ahmed: Everything that has been happening is a dumb move.

Mansha: The association did say that it is temporary so it’s fine. But I think the move can be justified considering this has been happening across the border as well, for quite some time now.

What would you prefer – critical acclaim or box office success?

Ahmed: Critical acclaim.

Mansha: Ideally, I want both. I want to do box office hits even if they are critical failures. I also want to do critical movies as they have a longer shelf life.

Ahmed has mostly played supporting roles in films. So, from there to now, playing the lead in Laal Kabootar, how has the journey been?

Ahmed: It’s been great. I am glad it went organically and smoothly. It took its time and I am happy that it led me to be the lead in Laal Kabootar.

As seen in Bollywood, actors usually get type-cast in supporting roles. Do you fear the same happening to you? Because Pakistani industry is very sensitive about the labels; who is the hero, who is parallel lead etc.

Mansha: That’s not necessarily true for all. Look at Rajkumar Rao. He built his career playing supporting and minor roles in so many movies and look where he is now. Kangana Ranaut won a National Award for her film Fashion and she had a supporting role in that. It doesn’t exist anymore. It’s all about luck and timing now.

Ahmed: Cinema globally is changing. Now is the time for character drive and ensemble films. Actors are now willing to play shorter roles, if it means more quality.

The trailer of the movie was quite bold and out there. Since the film’s censored version will be running in the cinemas, will we get to see the uncensored version somewhere?

Mansha: Of course.

Ahmed, you have a bed scene in the film. Didn’t you have any apprehensions doing it?

Ahmed: The content of that scene is actually very interesting and necessary for the story. Personally, I am not bothered about it because I know that’s not me. It’s the character I am playing. As for the people toh logon ne toh baatein hi karni hai aur wo baatein karte hi rahenge.

Looking at the film, do you think there’s any part that could’ve been better?

Ahmed: I can’t stand to watch myself on screen in general. I am critical about everything I do.

Mansha: I think this question can be better answered once the film is out. Because after the trailer was released, all we did was go around asking, “Did you like it?” only to get the same question thrown our way, as a response. We need time to be objective about it. It was just a one-minute trailer. Film toh abhi baaqi hai!

With Motorcycle Girl and Cake, movies with strong female characters are getting attention. What can you tell us about your role in the film, Mansha? Is it substantial?

Ahmed: Let me answer that. Mansha’s character is very cool in the sense that it is about a woman finding strength during the worst time of her life. The film is all about her journey out of this rough patch of her life, and how she tackles the problems thrown in her way. Every other character just plugs in. The story is driven via Mansha’s character only.

Mansha: I am quite excited to see the chemistry between our characters. Ahmed’s character is very grungy. He does all these unethical things to get what he wants but there’s an earnestness to him that would make people sympathize with him ke yaar ye bechara toh yehi karega na! You feel for him. So, it’s about our characters dealing with the situation.

Ahmed you have mostly played romantic heroes on TV, how difficult was it to tackle a dark role for this film?

Ahmed: I say this to people a lot that they have only seen my work on TV that I have done in the last four years. For eight years before that, I had been doing theater where I played all kinds of roles. So, this role is not that different of an experience for me as an actor but yeah, it will be a different experience for the audience. As for the difficulties, I did find it a little difficult initially to tap in the character’s psyche, apart from the usual prepping of adopting a new manner of speaking and walking. It has been a long journey.

On a parting note, what is next for you both after Laal Kabootar?

Ahmed: I am reading some things currently.

Mansha: Surkh Chandni is going to wrap up in April but I wouldn’t call it my next as I have been doing it for a while now. I’d like to do something lighter now.

What other Pakistani films you are excited for this year?

Ahmed: Ali Abbas’s film. It’s yet untitled but it is going to be out later this year. It has an interesting plot. Thn there’s Maula Jutt and Baaji too.

Mansha: Yes, Baaji!

Ahmed: Loads of films coming out.

And the last clichéd question – why should people watch Laal Kabootar?

Ahmed: Because they have got no choice!

But there’s Sherdil!

Ahmed: Well, they can watch Sherdil as well.

Mansha: But that’s the thing na. They have no other choice. It’s not like Indian films are running in theaters.

Ahmed: No but seriously, watch the trailer for Laal Kabootar and they’d be sold.

Mansha: Yeah, most people are already sold on it, after watching the trailer.

Here’s wishing Ahmed Ali, Mansha Pasha and the entire team of Laal Kabootar the very best of luck!

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