The resurgence of Pakistani cinema means that one gets to see a diverse line-up of films releasing every year; if not all, some of them manage to leave an impression and generate decent figures at the box office. Producers and directors are trying their hands at different genres, offering a variety of options to cine-goers. While some directors like Mohammed Ehteshamuddin (Superstar) and Saqib Malik (Baaji) have recently made their big screen debuts, others like Nabeel Qureshi, Nadeem Baig and Wajahat Rauf have multiple films to their credit. However, the only new-age director who has four films to his name is Azfar Jafri; and he is gearing up for his fifth: the Hareem Farooq and Ali Rehman Khan starrer, Heer Maan Ja.
We caught up with Azfar Jafri during the Karachi spell of promotions, before the cast left for nationwide and international promotions. He spoke about diversifying, learning from his mistakes and the importance of working in the best interest of producers.
“I have always tried to experiment with my work and I am still learning,” he began, as we sat down for an interview. “It is a career where you keep learning and can’t just say ‘I am there’; every time you get into a project, you learn new things. We make new mistakes every time.”
Jafri made his debut with horror film Siyaah in 2013, followed by romantic comedy Janaan (2016), action comedy Parchi (2018) and the most recent, action drama Sherdil, that released earlier this year. His upcoming film, Heer Maan Ja, is a romantic comedy which, according to the director, is combination of Janaan and Parchi, in terms of the overall feel.
“My focus is to enhance the romantic and comedy bits in Heer Maan Ja; I have spiced up romance a little,” he shared. “I have tried to fix what went wrong in my previous films on the basis of feedback I received from people in general. So Heer Maan Ja is a full-fledged awami film. My focus is the audience.”
Given that Jafri’s last directorial venture, Sherdil, received mixed to bad reviews, there are speculations regarding his upcoming film and whether it is going to deliver what it promises.
Reflecting on Sherdil, the director noted, “It was a completely different genre and a different producer; he had his demands and as a director, I am bound to fulfil those. Every producer has a way of storytelling while I have my own style so we have to collaborate on how much romance, drama, action and conflict has to be there in a film.”
“I am probably the only director in Pakistan who follows the rule of supporting the producer as much as possible,” he continued. “Other directors usually spend more than they are given (budget), I don’t. I try to support the producer because at this stage, when the industry is struggling, we need producers in Pakistan to survive. My producer asks for something, I deliver and considered my job done. Within those resources, whatever I am given, I do the best I can and I own it.”
One question that always arises when we speak of multiple films simultaneously releasing on Eid is the box office clash and its impact on revenue. Sharing his input on the subject, Jafri admitted that it doesn’t really affect him as a director but he feels bad for his producer.
“Cine-goers will have more options,” he maintained, adding, “Business is business; everyone has their strategy. They felt they should release their film on Eid, so it’s okay.”
“As far as Heer Maan Ja is concerned, I think it is going to stand out among the rest as it offers a complete package – romance, comedy, action and drama. It’s a joy ride, not just one love-y dove-y tragedy; there are going to be ups and downs in the film.”
A lot of comedy films that have released in Pakistan so far are often criticized for mindless comedy and uncouth one-liners. When asked about humour in Heer Maan Ja, the director replied that he is not into juggat but rather opts for situational comedy.
“Situational comedy is the most relatable comedy and that’s what my aim is,” he informed. “I did the same in Janaan and Parchi and I think it worked for us. We are boosting it further in Heer Maan Ja; there are punch lines but they are very thoughtful because it is a family film. People should expect really good humour this time; they will have a full-fledged entertainment package.”
Heer Maan Ja is produced by IRK Films and Arif Lakhani Films in association with Geo Films.