Pakistanis growing up in the 60s and 70s would remember the PTV classic comedy, Alif Noon, which not only served a priceless brand of comedy but did so while reflecting on various socio-economic issues that everyone could relate to. For almost two decades the series followed the lives of the wily Allan, played by Kamal Ahmed Rizvi – who in each episode devised new money-making schemes – and the gullible Nanna, played by Rafi Khawar, who was Alif’s sidekick and almost always messed up Allan’s plans. It was a kind of Laurel and Hardy formula, with characters that looked and behaved like polar opposites, but was rewritten with local flavor and without the element of slapstick. The comedy was more of a comic/satirical take on the socio-economic situation in the country; the series shed light upon several societal issues of the time, including fraud, scams, pollution, etc.
Alif Noon has gone down in Pakistan’s history as a series that shaped television, which is why – over three years since its discontinuation - it is being reprised. Funny-man Faisal Qureshi, who recently played a major role in Ali Zafar’s Teefa in Trouble, has penned the script for a reboot of the iconic series, turning it into a feature-length film. Whilst Faisal will direct the film as well as play the role of Nanna, seasoned musician Shehzad Roy will mark his cinematic debut with the film, taking on the character of Allan. Instep caught up with the two brains behind the remake as they opened up about the process and what to expect.
Roy, who’s known for his philanthropist endeavors and socio-political assignments as a musician, felt Alif Noon was the right script for him to make a foray into the movies.
"It’s not that I wanted to make a film or act," he spoke to Instep. "After my album, Laga Reh, I did this historical song where I take a Balochi to Bangladesh. Then I did Chal Para, something very different from music. So overall, you only have a few minutes to say what you want to say through a track, but with a film, you have about two hours," he maintained.
"Film is a medium where there’s music, there can be social commentary, you can make people laugh and entertain them at the same time, all of which, without being preachy," Shehzad continued on his shift to acting. "Alif Noon happens to be Faisal and my personal favourite and there’s some natural alliance because (for its time), it was a social commentary as well. It was definitely a big challenge for us, but the way it’s been thought and conceived, I hope it leaves an impact."
Qureshi, who’s written the script, revealed that the two protagonists will be presented in present-times, seen tackling modern-day issues, yet staying true to the ethos of the original. "It’s not the same 70s’ Alif Noon; it’s a new take, with a modern twist. And also since it’s a film and not a TV series, it will have a different style of storytelling," Faisal commented, before adding that the problems highlighted back in the day remain relevant today. "I think it was also important to make it now because the issues of those times are ironically still current and relatable to the new generation."
Nonetheless, there’s also great responsibility and risk that comes with tweaking a project that’s acquired a cult status. As witty as ever, Faisal isn’t much bothered about that it seems.
"With great power, comes great responsibility. I don’t have any power, so comparatively less responsibility," he says, poker-faced and as convincing as can be. "Fans, however, have a lot of power; they can take the responsibility of being calm and cool, even if they don’t like the movie."
Speaking of how Shehzad has been preparing for the role of Allan that was tailor-made for Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, Roy shared how he’s met with the late actor’s family to better understand his method.
"I met with Kamal Sahab’s wife, Ishrat after the rights (to remake the series) had been acquired from PTV. She gave me a very interesting book, which Kamal Sahab had written himself. She’s also writing a book on Kamal Sahab’s life, which we’ll try to launch nearer to the film’s release. And I keep asking her what kind of a person he was off-screen, what his lifestyle was like. I’ve also met his family, so the research bit is very interesting," he revealed.
On the other hand, Faisal plans on gaining weight for Nanna, whilst also getting tattoos for the role to give the character a contemporary twist.
The satirical comedy film promises to be thought-provoking, while also introducing high-voltage action to the narrative, which will be shot in Bangkok. Slated for an Eid-ul-Azha 2019 release next year, one wonders what to expect from the intriguing remodeled version.
"The audience will certainly enjoy the trailers of upcoming movies during our shows, along with caramel popcorn," Faisal concluded on an optimistic note.