by ASJAD NAZIR ALI ZAFAR ON HIS BIG PAKISTANI FILM FIRST POPULAR Pakistani singer and musician Ali Zafar launched his acting career in India with a series of high-profile films. Although he found success in Bollywood and received act­ing offers from the west, the multi-talented star always had a dream to make a world-class movie in Pakistan. Early indications are that is exactly what he has done with this week’s big cinema release Teefa In Trouble. Aside from playing the very challenging lead role, he has poured everything into the film from his time and money to producing, com­posing, singing and writing the story. The result looks likely to be another game-changing film for the ever-growing Pakistani film industry. Eastern Eye caught up with Ali to talk about Teefa In Trouble, its superb soundtrack, his talented leading lady, Pakistani cinema, future plans and more… Do you remember the moment you decided to produce and star in your debut Pakistani film? I remember it to be a process more than a deci­sion taken in a moment. I had always wanted to play my part in rebuilding our industry. While I was working in Bollywood, I would subconsciously and consciously nurture this immense de­sire to see our industry at a level where it’s known and seen internationally with both adulation and admiration. For some time, Ahsan sir and I, who is an old friend and like a mentor, would keep sharing dif­ferent ideas. He is also a very passionate film­maker. We were waiting for that perfect idea and moment for us to dive into our first film. When did that happen? After various back and forth discussions and ideas, Teefa In Trouble was the one that got us excited the most. From the time of its concep­tion till now, I don’t hesitate to confess that it had some real invisible forces working towards bringing it all together, and consequently it all worked like magic. I hope the same is translat­ed as an experience for the audience. What led you towards Teefa In Trouble as a subject? The fact that while it has all the ‘masala’ of a commer­cial film, it’s quite alter­native in a lot of ways. Tell us about the film… Well, it’s a ride I would say, from the moment it starts till the credits roll. It’s meant to make you feel so many differ­ent emotions at so many levels. It also has an underlying message that I feel is very important for us to connect with, especially in this time and era. One that is very close to my heart. What about the character you play? The character of Teefa is a unique one. He comes from the streets of the inner-walled city of Lahore with his own set of ambitions, but he comes across challenges that he could never imagine he would have to tackle. How he deals with them or how they deal with him, the comedy in his tragedy and vice versa makes him who is. What was the biggest challenge of making the movie? To pull off something of this cali­bre in an industry that lacks the infrastructure to do so. Where everything is a first, so every day comes with a new challenge. We set our targets high and hence they required higher levels of focus, energy and passion to pull it off, which was never lacking. The scale has been enormous in every aspect; the locations, the breadth of the cast, the music, and as my director Ahsan Rahim will attest to, the film itself has a huge global footprint. What do you mean? It has been shot, edited and graded between Pakistan, Europe, the Far East and Turkey. It’s a highly-ambitious project given the local market and considering that no one from here has stretched so far to achieve this level of finesse. I am immensely proud of the entire team, most especially our director Ahsan and cine­matographer Zain Haleem. I think it’s going to be a great visual and sonic experience. Did you not think it was too big a project for your debut production? I don’t believe in thinking small or setting easy targets for myself. There is a great sense of ac­complishment in achieving something never achieved before. But I dare not take the credit for this. It’s a team effort and nothing is possi­ble without the will of God. How were you able to balance all the depart­ments of producing, composing, singing, writing and acting? By sleeping very little, working very hard, stay­ing very determined and not letting any nega­tivity affect my work and this project. It’s a big challenge to wear so many different hats, but it is not me who was or can be able to do all that. It is the Al­mighty. I am just a source. What is your favourite moment in the movie? There is a scene by the lake. You will know when you watch it. Who are you hoping will connect most to the film? I have always wanted my work to connect and appeal to a cross-section of society; the classes and the masses. To all age groups! To friends wanting a great time out together, to families going out in numbers to come back with great memories, to children wanting to be Teefa. This film is for everyone. Tell us about the movie’s songs and how it compares to other music you have done? The music has its own tonality. It has a sig­nature to my previous style, however with a new approach. From the quirky and tongue and cheek item number to the soulful Ishq Nachaunda, you will hear so many differ­ent emotions in the music. Tell us about your leading lady Maya Ali as she looks like a superstar in the making? Yes, she is, isn’t she? When casting for the film, Ahsan sir wanted someone new to the screen, with freshness and zeal on and off screen. Maya brought that and more. Profes­sional, gentle and humble, Maya is a star born. How does Teefa In Trouble compare to your time in Bollywood? It’s tough to compare! Bollywood is at the top of its game; the industry has set standards, profession­al infrastructure and supporting networks for film. With Teefa In Trouble and possibly because it is my company Lightingale’s first feature film production, there has been a lot of learning. The film industry in Pakistan is burgeoning and with that comes the building of institutions to support it – we are very much in these growth stages. Teefa In Trouble is also different because it is my first film as a producer, so it holds that much more significance. Are you hoping this will be a game-changer for Pakistani cinema? I am hoping with belief! How do you feel in the lead-up to your film releasing? I feel pumped up like never before. What are your future hopes for Pakistani cinema? Hopefully to see our work be judged next to all the great films of the world. Today, what is your biggest unfulfilled ambition? To be able to play a substantial part in bringing about a change in our way of thinking, perceiving and existing. What is your main creative driving force? The hunger to achieve greatness! What can we expect next from you? A lot more music, movies and all things that matter. Can you see yourself working in the west or Hollywood? Yes, I do. As and when I think that the time is right. What movies do you enjoy watching? I like all kinds of movies, however certain styles and direc­tors appeal more. I love Christopher Nolan’s approach to­wards cinema. How much do your fans mean to you? The world. I am who I am because of them. Why should we watch Teefa In Trouble? Do not watch it as peer pressure to support local cinema. Watch it to be blown away and feel the pride.  Teefa In Trouble is in cinemas now