‘Taxali Gate’ Makers Reveal Film’s Significance, Power Of Consent, And More

Embracing the terrain of dark comedy and social commentary, Abu Aleeha’s film ‘Taxali Gate’ promises a murder mystery and a story about a fight for justice, infused with dark humour. The story unfolds against the vibrant backdrop of Lahore’s Heera Mandi. Ayesha Omer leads a stellar cast, including Yasir Hussain, Mehar Bano, Umer Aalam, Iffat Omar, and Nayyer Ejaz, offering a captivating tribute to artistic brilliance.

As ‘Taxali Gate’ is set to hit screens on February 16th, the team of the film shared their experience of the entire shoot. During an exclusive chat with Galaxy Lollywood, Ayesha Omer, Yasir Hussain, Abu Aleeha, and producers Waqas Rizvi and Barrister Shabbir Shah spill the beans on the film, adding an extra layer of anticipation to this wild ride.

‘Taxali Gate’ is an ode to its residents

With its narrative orbiting the challenges faced by the residents of ‘Taxali Gate’ and underlining the complexities of Lahore’s red-light district, the film naturally drew attention to this unconventional backdrop, inevitably making it the centrepiece of the storyline.

In fact, producer Waqas Rizvi disclosed that the shoot’s location played a pivotal role in persuading him to join the project. He said,” As a producer what attracted me to this film and convinced me to do it was the shoot of the red-light area. Since our childhood, we have been hearing about these 12 doors, Heera Mandi and the Taxali area and the environment of these places. We have also heard about the festive season of Basant happening there and Pakistan’s biggest food street being located there.”

Directed and writer of the film, Abu Aleeha also emphasized that he wanted to ensure that the story of Heera Mandi was told in its rawest form and the film conveyed how they live in their daily lives. “I think the audience will like the dark humour and the bold dialogues because they aren’t forcefully added. We are telling the story of the people who have lived there. You wouldn’t feel in the story that we have added any dialogue or abusive language where it wasn’t needed. At some places, you feel that when someone abuses, they are actually crying.”

Addressing the element of dark comedy in the film, which is very evident from the trailer, producer Waqas Rizvi pointed out that this is what makes the film true to reality as they have tried to depict how the people living there communicate in their everyday lives. He said, “Dark comedy or daily humour. The thing they call dark comedy, people of that area call it daily humour. It’s just like every city has a different humour. Yes, you can consider it dark humour in the sense that these are jokes that you can’t say in front of your elders, but we do use it in front of our friends. People will enjoy this film especially because it’s in Punjabi and comic timings are better in Punjabi.”

‘Taxali Gate’ revolves around the idea of consent

What stands out most for us is how the entire team is sensitively yet proudly advocating for the idea of consent and the grave matter of rape and injustice, which is highly prevalent in our country. The team emphasized how they addressed the subject matter with due diligence.

The film navigates around the ideas of consent and women’s empowerment. It also represents the voice of oppressed in the society who are often ignored and don’t have a channel to seek justice.

Executive Producer, Shabbir Shah brilliantly encapsulated the definition of content and degrees to it. He explained, “This movie identifies three degrees of consent and meaning of consent. Consenting to meet someone doesn’t mean you consent to touch, consenting to touch doesn’t mean consenting to kiss and a consent to kiss doesn’t mean consent to penetrate. This movie could actually be a public awareness campaign right before Valentine’s Day to educate young couples on their rights. Merely because they have agreed to go out on a date doesn’t mean they have consented to everything. You must separately consent to each and every act.”

Producer Waqas Rizvi also agreed with his statement and added, “I think the audience through this film will realize that an educated girl, who is living there and is better than that family, will fight for her own rights when she needs to. Plus, she isn’t alone and other people will fight alongside her. Also, the film will show a junior lawyer explaining to her the corrupt realities. Through this film, the audience will learn about right and wrong.”

He further described that while they made a conscious effort to depict the gruesome realities, they were also careful to shoot the film in such a way that it wouldn’t be banned. Rizvi said, “The concept for this film is to show how the people living there fight for their rights. There was a thin line showing this and there was also a risk factor. But I knew this would be critically acclaimed. We have also made sure we don’t show anything that can result in this getting banned, as you know Javed Iqbal was also banned over a small thing.”

Actress Ayesha Omer also added, “Rape is a very taboo and sensitive subject. It’s already hard to have a conversation about this. There is also a conversation about consent. We are also talking about the social construct of society in which those who aren’t privileged don’t get certain support and how they are treated. It is a true reflection of society.”

Yasir Hussain and Ayesha Omer share interesting revelations about the film

Actor Yasir Hussain revealed why he decided to sign this film when asked what motivated him to do this project.  “The reason behind signing such characters is that in Pakistan very few commercial films are produced. Also, when such films are produced, big actors, like Fahad Mustafa and Humayun Saeed will be cast in those. They also deserve this considering the amount of time they have given to this industry. So, the films that are left are offered to me and I see among those who have a good script and I sign that one. This film has a good script.”

Talking about his character in the film, Yasir explained, “The character in this film is a marasi who later becomes a pimp for Ayesha Omer. The girl who is raped is his niece and to get her justice, I and Nayyer Ijaz, who is playing the role of the girl’s father are trying to get justice for her. Just like it happens in our country.”

The pride was evident in Ayesha Omer’s voice as she described her character, hinting towards the fact that she has entirely embraced her role. Describing her character she said, “I am always very inspired by strong and empowered characters of any strata of our society and different income brackets. The strength of Muskan and her integrity, despite being someone who is looked down upon in our society, inspires me. She has our principles and values and is fierce. She is also searching for love like we all are.”

Ayesha also described the process in depth of how she moulded herself into the character of Muskaan. “Abu Aleeha and I had a lot of discussions about this film. I instantly got attracted to the character and it invoked a vision in me. I did a lot of reading about the mindset of someone who has gone through what Muskan has seen in her life. I wanted to know what the repercussions would be on someone who has had a traumatic childhood and life-like Muskan and what consequences they have on a woman, especially one who lives in a misogynistic society like ours. “

“I didn’t watch too many films or shows that have depicted characters like hers because I didn’t want to copy. I did watch a few films just to get a general overview, but I wanted to create the character from my own vision. I also studied the mannerisms and spent time with women who have worked in Taxali Gate. I also spent a lot of time creating a look for this character.”

Yasir Hussain and Ayesha Omer, the dynamic duo that previously lit up the screen in projects like ‘Karachi Se Lahore’ and Abu Aleeha’s film ‘Javed Iqbal’, are back to steal the cinema spotlight once again. Their on-screen magic has consistently wowed us, and Ayesha, confirming the undeniable bond, remarked, “Yasir is my old buddy. I made my first film with him and since then we have had a great repertoire and a great professional and personal relationship.”

Challenges encountered during the shoot

Set in the heart of Lahore, where everyday locals, as well as tourists, fill the streets of old Lahore to carry out their daily activities and explore the city, it’s inevitable that the shooting process would be a challenge.

Yasir Hussain agreed, stating that this was a difficult shoot. He revealed, “All the moments of this film are memorable because this was hard to shoot. Since we had to shoot in old Lahore, there used to be a lot of noise around us and the streets were also really narrow, and we had to walk a lot every day.

The actor laughed and said, “The team has literally given their blood to this film as someone would get occasionally injured during the shoot.”

As we appreciated the struggles of the shoot, Ayesha gave us a more vivid picture. She explained how she got injured on the first day of the shoot. “In the first scene of the film I had a really bad neck spasm…actually a back spasm because Yasir and I had to shoot a really violent scene. For the next two weeks of the shoot, I couldn’t move my neck and had to shoot after eating painkillers. But I knew that we were shooting in a time bracket, so I didn’t even cancel the shoot for a day or delay it by even an hour. It was also Ramazan back then and it was hot.”

The actress also revealed, “We didn’t have any vanity vans. We were shooting in Heera Mandi, so after the shoot, we would stay in those rooms.” There were also some rain sequences in which they tossed cold water on us, which made my muscles spasms even worse.”

Director Abu Aleeha shared his perspective on the challenges and obstacles they had to encounter. He said, “I don’t believe in cheating with the scenes in the film. We shot in Heera Mandi and if a scene was to be shot on a narrow road, I did that. Also, when we had to shoot scenes in the court, for which we didn’t get permission, we went there during off days and created an entire court scene with extras.”

Presenting an interesting take, Abu Aleeha talked about how as a director his main aim was to ensure that the audience was able to separate the art from the artist. He emphasized that his major goal was that the audience could draw a strong connection with the characters.

“The challenge of this film was that I had to cast commercial actors in the film in such a way that the audience doesn’t see the actor but the character. Ayesha Omer is such a big name, and the audience still connects with her character khubsurat in Bulbulay. So, I wanted to get such a strong performance from these actors that the audience only connects with the characters they are playing in the film.”

The plight of producers explained

Highlighting the plight of producers, who are currently trying to thrive in an uncertain landscape in Pakistan, as the cinema industry is still in its revival stage, producer Shabbir Shah gave a detailed account of the entire situation.

“I feel that we have extremely talented actors. Far more talented than India, however, we don’t provide them the same level of opportunities. People are hardly interested in investing in films because there is at present “very little footfall” towards the cinema. It’s not an attractive investment for investors hence very few people come forward for it is a huge risk. I believe one has to think long-term. If this trend continued, we would hardly have any cinema actors left in Pakistan and that would be such a huge loss to not just the entertainment industry but for the talented artists. We must continue to try and be innovative.

“Local Cinema/theatre is not the only source of income that the film delivers. There are so many other sources such as OTT rights, international cinema rights, TV rights, sponsorships etc. This is a low-budget film and I’m hopeful that I will not only recover my investment from cinema but will also make profits from other revenue heads that the film as a property renders. This has been a fantastic experience and a great source of learning.”


Abu Aleeha revealed that a relatively higher budget gave him the flexibility to cast great names. “I didn’t have any problems with casting in this film. Even if there was a cameo, the character was big enough that no one refused. I didn’t have any budget constraints, thanks to the producers.”

Abu Aleeha has always been honest about his films’ budgets, revealing any difficulties he encountered in bringing his films to the cinema screen. He said, “People have refused to work with me before because I couldn’t pay them as much as charge, but I didn’t have this problem with Taxali Gate.”

Showering praise on his entire cast, Abu Aleeha expressed his gratitude for the immense support he received from the entire team in bringing each character to life. He said, “It takes time to develop such complex characters. While it seems that commercial actors wouldn’t give this much time to develop a character, my team and cast members did. They participated in workshops and did research, and that difference can be seen in the film. You wouldn’t think that anyone just memorized the lines last night and performed but you can evidently witness that there has been a month’s effort of training, research, and workshops.”

Abu Aleeha concluded by underlining his high expectations with the film ‘Taxali Gate’. Promising a compelling watching experience he said, “The thing that I liked about Javed Iqbal was what my friend told me, that when he was watching the film, no one used their phones during the entire duration of the movie used their phones. He said I kept the audience engaged. With Taxali Gate I have created something which will not even bore you for a second and you wouldn’t even use your phone.”

Promising an irresistible viewer experience, with a bundle of messages, amalgamated together with a strong cast and musical experience, ‘Taxali Gate’ is one to look out for.


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