Instep Today

“I think I have a dream cast.” – Saqib Malik

Instep Today
By Buraq Shabbir
Wed, 06, 19

The director speaks to Instep about his first feature film Baaji, casting Meera in the principal role and his love for cinema.

After directing over a 1000 TVCs and a range of music videos including the critically acclaimed ‘Khamaaj’ (Fuzon) and ‘Na Re Na,’ (Ali Azmat) in a career that spans over three decades, director Saqib Malik is finally making his film directorial debut with a feature film, titled Baaji.

Scheduled to release across Pakistan and internationally on June 28, the film revolves around the world of cinema and marks Meera’s return to the big screen in the post-revival age of modern cinema.

“The journey of this film goes back many years; almost 45 years, the day when I first stepped into the cinema and was transfixed by the big screen,” captain of the ship, Saqib Malik, told Instep at a meet and greet session in Karachi. “Everybody who knew me as a kid knew that I wanted to make a movie. Today, all my friends say ‘you have finally done it; it has taken you this long’.”

“My film would have been the first film of the revival had I made a film at the right time,” he continued. “I had announced a film called Ajnabi Sheher Main, written by Sarmad Khoosat, around 2005-2006 with Shaan [Shahid], Meera, Ali Zafar and Tooba. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be made. There were many projects that I started on, scripts that I worked on and was about to shoot a couple of them as well but that didn’t happen either. It took a long time getting here because I took the route through advertising; I have made over a 1000 television commercials, I did music videos. Finally, I decided that I have an idea in mind and I thought this is the right time and the right story so I just went for it.”

Baaji operates in the world of cinema. It has glitz, glamour and a dark side that seems to devour. If we go by the trailer, it looks promising and expectations are very high.

When asked where the inspiration for the film came from, Saqib replied, “I wanted to make a film that had story; I was always inspired by the world of cinema and I thought there was a great story to tell because right now we are at a crossroads as far as our film industry is concerned. The story is about a hero who is from a certain world of cinema that is no longer relevant and a certain new cinema order [has taken over]. And it is a story of that hero. It is the perfect timing and it won’t come again. It is the end of Lollywood as we knew it and the emergence of a new order of the cinema. The heroine, who is a star of the former cinema, is stuck in the middle and wants to make a comeback. Meera is the perfect person to play the role. She is familiar with that age of cinema, she has remained a super star of that cinema and she is still relevant today.”

Saqib also informed that when he started thinking of this topic he really thought that the only person who could do this character is Meera. He was fascinated by Meera’s persona and what she would represent in the minds of people today and the character that she’d come to represent. “I was kind of inspired by her,” he admitted.

The cast including Meera, Osman Khalid Butt, Amna Ilyas and Mohsin Abbas Haider and the director are presently busy with the film’s promotions. After concluding their promotional spell in Pakistan earlier this week, they are now heading to Dubai where the film will be releasing at the same time.

“I think I have a dream cast; I think it was tailor made,” the director said about how fortunate he feels to have them onboard. “Both Amna and Meera are leads in it; Amna has done an amazing job. Osman, Mohsin and Ali Kazmi are amazing actors in their own right. All of them were hassle free; they have put their heart and soul into the film.”

Baaji is a 2 hours and 10 minutes long social drama-thriller, which is a tribute to the classical age of Pakistani cinema when Pakistan had women oriented films and social dramas that were character driven. It is also a tribute to the classical films of Hollywood, according to the director, who admits, “Our story is very relevant to our times and context; it is a very authentic story but it is inspired by the world of cinema that came before us.”

“It is a very different film; the whole approach to the film is very unique. Baaji is not a rom-com, it is not shadi oriented, it’s not an action film neither it is a patriotic film. The film is like an éclair; it has got a delicious, dark center and you don’t know what lies in the center of it. It is very glamorous and chocolaty on the outside but is oozing with something delicious inside. It has music, dance, drama and is a very commercial film with some unique elements,” concluded Saqib.