On Sheheryar Munawar’s absence and unusual mileage problems: In Conversation with Humayun Saeed and Syra Shahroz

The last we spoke of Project Ghazi, we talked about how there’s nothing to talk about the movie owing to the complete lack of promotions from the team. However, things have changed for the better now and we finally have some good stuff to report about the film.

Galaxy Lollywood sat down with 2/3rds of Project Ghazi’s main trio, Humayun Saeed and Syra Shahroz, to talk about the film that is finally happening, films that didn’t happen but still get talked about, and why is Sheheryar Munawar only found on the posters but not in person?

On frustrations and excitement

Addressing the almost two-year long period when the movie was stuck as a product that was finished but not ready to be released, Syra said that it was a little frustrating for her as a performer. “You do get frustrated as an actor as you put in so much of your time and effort into a project.” But she clarified that the movie wasn’t stuck for the wrong reasons. “[The makers] were working on it to make it better and fix the things that went wrong. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Humayun agreed with this and added that he was genuinely excited that the film was ready to be released now, after a long delay. Clearing the air about the reports that he had been the one to stop the release of the film back in 2017, Humayun said that the decision was inevitable. “The decision of the makers was going to be the same. The news just happened to come out from my side first.”

Reiterating the need for the film to be technically sound, Humayun said that it was necessary that more time be added in polishing the film. He said that the film is of a different genre and it demands more finesse in certain areas. He assured that now that he has seen the newer version of the film, he feels satisfied with the improvements. “This is how it was always supposed to be like.”

On the current box office situation

Last time we interviewed him, Humayun Saeed had credited Bollywood movie Jab Harry Met Sejal for increasing the footfalls in the cinemas that had ultimately helped the Pakistani films in doing good business. However, with the current ban on Bollywood content, will it be difficult to attract people to the cinemas? Humayun stood by his words and said that the presence of Bollywood content does positively affect the Pakistani industry.

To put in his own words, “However, people have come to watch Sherdil and Laal Kabootar. So that’s definitely good news for the industry. I was personally worried it wouldn’t be the case but I am happy to be proved wrong.”

On the issue of producers demanding more share of profit from the distributors in this time when the local industry needs more financial support, Humayun sided with the producers. “The producer gets the last and the least share. That definitely has to change. There should be a flat 50% share given to the producer by all the cinemas.”

On the new Humayun and Syra

Considering the kind of larger-than-life, massy hero roles Humayun does in his movies, his role in Project Ghazi looks very different. When we asked if this was the new Humayun, the one who plays a fatherly, mentor-like-figure to someone younger, Humayun clarified, “I don’t know what impression the trailers are giving. But the film is very much a two-hero film.”

He added that he quite likes his character in the film and it is very different from the kind of movies that he personally makes. “This is the reason why I signed this film in the first place; it was because it is of a very different genre. The makers of this film have a very different vision and we should support that as it would translate to more diverse content being made.”

Speaking of different, Syra plays a scientist in the movie. “How often do you get to do that?” Syra chirped. Her character in the film is very essential to the plot as she not only plays a scientist, but she is also a key figure in deciphering the mystery that is going on. Syra will also be seen in a few action sequence scenes as well.

On regrets and unusual mileage problems

With the topic veering in the substantial role category, we asked Syra about getting mileage from movies that she doesn’t do. We were, of course, talking about her connection to JPNA2 where she was supposed to do a role that ultimately was played by Mawra Hocane and Mawra’s comments on the talk show One Take where she had talked about celebrities getting mileage from projects they don’t do.

Syra defended that it wasn’t her fault things happened that way. “Sometimes you say ‘yes’ to things and then halfway through things don’t work out so you end up not doing them. Saying I was offered the film is one thing. But the news came out that I had been a part of the film. I didn’t even put that news out there.”

Syra said that she agrees that one shouldn’t take mileage from films that they are just offered and they don’t end up doing. “At the end of the day, the film belongs to the one who has done it. All the attention should be on them but it’s not my fault the news was out there before I could do anything about it.”

JPNA2 was a blockbuster success so does she regret passing it on? we asked. “No. It has done well but I am very big on what I want to do. I always go with my gut feeling,” told Syra.

And with the star of that film sitting with us, we asked Humayun if he had any fears about Project Ghazi not being able to repeat the mammoth successes of his previous two films, JPNA2 and Punjab Nahi Jaungi; the films that have made him a box office superstar of the country.

“Honestly, the kind of efforts and hard work that I have put in to make sure Project Ghazi releases is the testament to the fact that I have no such insecurity or fear.” Humayun explained. He added that he feels the same nervousness before the release of his signature films like he is feeling now for Project Ghazi. “Actors do all kinds of films world over. They do big festival films as well as small indie ones. They have different expectations from both the kind of movies.” Humayun said that who knows maybe this film will do even bigger business than his previous films.  

On Sheheryar Munawar’s absence from the promotions

The complete absence of Sheheryar Munawar, who is the protagonist of the film, from the promotions’ scene is quite impossible to ignore. Has he really said Parey Hut Ghazi by consciously distancing himself from the film’s promotions? “I want to ask him the very same question,” Humayun laughed. Explaining Sheheryar’s absence as due to him being busy with some personal commitments, Humayun explained that Sheheryar had been facing a scheduling conflict which is why he couldn’t make it to the promotions this time around.

“Plus, he has recently gotten engaged as well so there’s that.”

On future projects

Lastly, we asked them was about their future projects – Love You Jutta and Syra’s untitled film with Shahroze.

“We are still working on Jutta’s script. The film will most likely not be happening this year.” Humayun said. That means Project Ghazi will be the only time Humayun will be on the big screens in 2019. As for Syra, her film with Shahroze still has some shooting left. “The last spell of the shoot will start soon. The film will most probably release by the end of the year.”

It isn’t the only other project Syra is working on as she plans on launching her own website. We commented that Mahira Khan already has her own website, Mashion, and now Syra is doing the same, is it some kind of way for putting other media portals, for example, Galaxy Lollywood, out of work? “No, but it will help you only in so many ways. Don’t you need inspiration?”

The conversation ended with our signature question – why should people go watch Project Ghazi?

“Because it is a different film. I don’t know many other Pakistani superhero films.” Syra replied. “Yeah, it’s a different genre,” added Humayun. “When have we ever gotten to see super soldiers dressed in Pakistani uniforms? This kind of environment and aesthetics have never been done before.”

Well, that is true indeed. We wish the team of Project Ghazi good luck and a great run at the box office.

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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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