Pervaiz Rana

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R: Pervaiz Rana

Action’ man Rana

By M. Saeed Awan


R Pervaiz Rana
R Pervaiz Rana

Those who have lived through the 1970s can and will vouch for the fact that Punjabi and Urdu language films in Pakistan were not as bad as they are now. Punjabi films such as Naukar Vohti Da, Heer Ranjha, Ziddi, Malangi and Dhee Rani were box-office hits of their times. However, the past few years have seen Punjabi language films glorifying Jatts and Gujjars, forcing families to keep away from cinema halls.

A large chunk of today’s cine-goers can largely be classified as chaiwalas, paanwalas, rickshaw and taxi drivers and the likes who let out catcalls at each vulgar scene and hoot at violence. This testosterone-driven audience is for whom Lollywood director Pervaiz Rana (PR) makes films for, the latest case in point being his recent Punjabi language release, Sooha Jora, with Shaan and Nargis in the lead.

Pervaiz Rana initially joined the film industry as clap boy. Later he latched on to a successful director as an assistant before finally graduating to the position of a film director himself. So far, he has some 60 films to his credit, mostly in Punjabi, but now an Urdu film, Sheesh Mahal, is also under production. He is known to promote gun-culture in his films but in person is anything but violent or aggressive by nature.

Q: Why do you stick to Punjabi movies only?

PR: I have directed some Urdu movies such as God Father, Raqasa, King Maker and Khuda Kay Chor but it’s Punjabi films that are presently a hot commodity on the film circuit.

Our films cannot meet international standards and/or compete with Bollywood, so no local producer can risk losing his investment. The safest thing for me and others like me to do is to make Punabi films. I think we should be ready to admit that only India can make good Urdu films and we, Punjabi.

Q: But what about viewers in others parts of the country. Don’t they matter?

PR: I think in such a scenario, producers/directors such as Syed Noor, Jamshaid Naqvi, Javaid Fazil and Samina Peerzada should feel their responsibility and try to do their best.

Even in the past Haidar Chaudhry, M. Akram and Dawood Butt directed Punjabi films while Nazarul Islam, Hasan Tariq and Pervaiz Malik stuck to Urdu language films. I suggest that the government should patronise Lollywood for promoting culture and unity within Pakistan.

Q: What good is the gun-toting and goon culture that you promote through your films doing to our society?

PR: I promote it because the audience loves it. You and others like you are wrong to blame me for violence in films. I only bring to light the core issues and problems that lead innocent people to the path of badmashi and ghunda gardi. Can you name one person who turned to a life of crime after watching my films? My films are a catharsis to the people who are deprived of and denied justice.

Q: Syed Noor’s Majajan did extremely well only recently. Why don’t you touch upon such social topics in your films?

PR: Such films are rare in bagging success. A celebrated Hollywood director once said that if a social/romantic film fails to attract the audience then only an action film will recover the budget spending. My producers never suffer losses so they always turn to me to direct their films.

“Our films cannot meet international standards and/or compete with Bollywood, so no local producer can risk losing his investment. The safest thing for me and others like me to do is to make Punabi films. I think we should be ready to admit that only India can make good Urdu films and we, Punjabi,” says Pervaiz Rana

Q. You always target the police force and portray them as the bad guys. Why?

PR: It’s better if you put this question before the law enforcement personnel and ask them why people bear a grudge against them. Or better still, ask any ishtahari mujrim (fugitive). He will tell you that he started off on the path due to the apathy and insensitivity of the police personnel.

Secondly, if you watch a Punjabi film, you will see for yourself that whenever a policeman is killed by a gunda, there is wild clapping from the people seated in the aisles. Go figure.

Q: Finally, do you admit that you have been instrumental in keeping families away from the country’s cinema halls?

PR: Not only me but other directors are also part of this dirty game. Take Sangeeta, for example. She might have made good films in the past but now, even she doesn’t care about the subject.

If you ask me, a painter paints only that picture which is before him. When injustice is all around us then only these kinds of films can exist. Besides, women do not like visiting the dingy cinema houses that we have. The entire system that is Lollywood needs a drastic overhaul.

Q: What’s the solution. Is revival a possibility?

PR: Yes, it is. Producers should come forward and start making films. Cinema houses have made huge profits off Lollywood films in the past and there’s no reason why it cannot happen again. At this critical juncture, the producers need to realise their responsibility and start making movies with good subjects.

Q: Is there any hope for Urdu films in Pakistan?

PR: Extremely slim. There is no culutral policy that can promote Urdu films. With the kind of cinema houses that we have couple with a blue collar audience and low budget, how can a good Urdu film be a possibility? For half the population that comprises women we have no social topics that can attract them. You might find it hard to believe but any producer who approaches me always asks me how much profit he will get out of making a film?

Q: But Javed Fazil has just come out with an Urdu language release called Mein Ek Din Laut Kay Aaoun Ga?

PR: Aree baba… Mein Ek Din Laut Kay Aaoun Ga is half-Indian. Its music, choreography, actors and even costumes all mostly Indian. What else is left? And secondly, as I told you earlier, nobody knows whether it has recovered its budget or not.

Q. Are you among those who favour co-production with India or against it?

PR: I’m all for it. We shouldn’t feel threatened by Bollywood. They have a vast Punjabi circuit in East Punjab where the standard of films is pitiable. I hope that our films can do good business there. Secondly, when Indian films are openly being watched on various TV channels throughout Pakistan, then what’s the logic behind the so-called ban on their exhibition?

Q: What about your forthcoming projects?

PR: Sooha Jora has just been released and is doing very good business in the Punjab while Ghungroo and some Gujjar-inspired projects are currently in the pipeline.

Q: What lies in store for the future for the Pakistan film industry?

PR: It’s better we now start calling it the Punjab film industry as the production of Urdu films has shrunk to the lowest possible ebb. Only India can produce Urdu language films as they have the budget and professional know-how to do so. No such thing as professionalism remains in our industry. We have been reduced to the likes of labourers who work sans creativity. All for a ‘Jora’?

It was in 2006 that Syed Noor’s Majajan brought back families to cinema houses throughout Pakistan. This year Pervaiz Rana’s Sooha Jora starring Shaan and Nargis in lead roles has some degree of attraction attached to it, albeit for different reasons entirely.

Malik Bangash (Mustafa Qureshi), an aged landlord and widower is looking to take on another wife. After a chance meeting between him and Masooma (Nargis), he asks his sister Jandan (Bahar Begum) to take his marriage proposal to Masooma’s father. On hearing about it, Masooma kicks her out of the house on which Jandan vows revenge and that she would ultimately make Masooma wear sooha jora (a bride’s red dress and hence the name of the film) for Malik Bangash.

Enmity ensues between the two rival ‘groups’ that lead to several encounters. Malik’s powerful clan decides to forcefully marry Masooma to their chief and a bloody encounter follows which leaves behind most of her family members dead. Seeing this, Masooma, in turn, vows revenge and after snatching a gun, opens fire on the rival clan. As a result, she is sent to jail where she meets a notorious dacoit, Zakariya, played by Shaan. Quite predictably, intimacy develops between the two and both promise to wreak havoc on the Bangash family.

At this point, Masooma is approached by a jail official that if she agrees to spend a night with a minister in the government, her release would be possible. Having thus gained her freedom, she along with Zakaria heads off straight to Bangash’s house and after a heavy exchange of fire, manages to avenge her family’s spilled blood. A jubilant Masooma then expresses her wish to wear a sooha jora for Zakariya.

On its release throughout Punjab, Sooha Jora did comparatively better than other such previous releases. The script has depth and it is made even more intense by the presence of stars like Mustafa Qureshi and Bahar Begum. Also, after Choorian, Sooha Jora has situational songs with good choreography. The audience was particularly spellbound by the Mustafa Qureshi-Nargis number, Budhay waray ishaq piya karna aen, Paunda howain ga jawanich hanair zalma, and demanded an encore. Director Pervaiz Rana says he worked hard on the project, giving due credit to the film’s producers Nargis and Syed Zubair Shah.

As far as the acting performances are concerned, Nargis matures as an actress in the film. Earlier, she was considered a good dancer but with Sooha Jora she has proved that she has what it takes to perform a challenging role.

Sadly, Shaan fails to impress as Zakariya as in most scenes he appears least interested in playing his role convincingly. — M. Saeed Awan

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