Producer Ammara Hikmat (MJ) and director Qasim Ali Mureed (TB) talk about the fate of the two big films that were scheduled to release on Eid ul Fitr 2020, prior to the pandemic.
The entire world has turned upside down in the wake of Covid-19, with almost every sector facing its devastating consequences. The entertainment industry is no exception. Worldwide, TV and film productions, award shows, met galas, movie releases and much more have either been cancelled or put on hold. Major 2020 Hollywood releases such as F9, Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow and others have been pushed to next year while over 20 international film festivals have joined forces to stream movies on YouTube for free. Starting from May 29, the 10-day-long ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ will feature content by the Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca film festivals, among others, according to a statement released earlier this week.
Speaking of Pakistan, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed local cinema into an even deeper, darker abyss than it already was in; many film shoots have stopped while release dates have been postponed. After the huge loss the industry faced last year, due to the ban on Bollywood films and a lack of blockbuster local films, one was hoping for an incline in 2020. Big-budget, high-profile releases such as The Legend of Maula Jatt, Tich Button, London Nahi Jaunga, Quaid e Azam Zindabad, Zarrar and over a dozen others were slated to resuscitate an ailing industry. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.
Eid ul Fitr is just round the corner and there is no sign of a film’s release, unlike past years when one used to have at least three local Eid films coming out in cinemas across Pakistan. The holiday season is the most bankable of the year and most producers/filmmakers wish to cash in on the opportunity. This year too, two star-studded productions, the long-delayed The Legend of Maula Jatt and Tich Button, were supposed to release on Eid ul Fitr until the pandemic hit the world.
Directed by Bilal Lashari, The Legend of Maula Jatt will see Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan share the silver screen (eight years after Humsafar) alongside Hamza Ali Abbasi, Humaima Malick and Gohar Rasheed.
Instep got in touch with Ammara Hikmat, producer of the upcoming high-budget production, to ask about the film’s release considering the current scenario owing to the spread of Covid-19.
“We were all prepared for an Eid ul Fitr release but looking at this unfortunate and uncertain situation, we can’t commit the film will see an Eid release,” she shared. “It’s not just local releases, worldwide major titles have been pulled from release so we would wait till the time is right.”
“Also, we were planning to release the trailer three weeks before the release but since the film’s release isn’t possible at the moment, a trailer doesn’t make any sense either,” she furthered.
When asked about considering SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) as an option, if cinemas do not reopen anytime soon, or releasing the film on Eid ul Azha instead, the producer informed that they have been assessing the situation with every passing day and there is nothing concrete to share at the moment.
Likewise, the release of Tich Button that stars Feroze Khan, Farhan Saeed, Iman Ali and Sonya Hussyn in pivotal roles is also uncertain as of now, according to director Qasim Ali Mureed. He informed that they were planning to release the film’s trailer on March 23, 2020, initially but that did not materialize for obvious reasons. They even thought of launching it on Eid ul Fitr to give something to viewers who were anticipating the film’s release, but they changed their minds considering that concerts and cinemas will be the last ones to resume even if the lockdown ends.
“We are not even thinking about the release of Tich Button right now; we are more concerned about recovering from the virus first,” noted Qasim Ali Mureed, adding, “It is altogether a new world we are living in today. We do not know how are we going to operate and survive the after-effects of the pandemic.”
He continued, “Local cinema did really well in 2018 with some blockbuster films and was finally reviving in the truest sense of the word, which was very positive. Phases, like the one we are going through right now, are discouraging but we will have to give it some time. The government will have to intervene and play its part as well; entertainment taxes should be reduced. It is a very scary situation but my optimism says everything will be fine very soon. May be, once cinemas reopen in the next couple of months, we will be asked to sit at every alternate seat to maintain distance from each other within the hall. You never know. However, even if cinemas reopen in Pakistan, we will have to face international loss; cinemas across the globe are not going to operate till Christmas.”
Tich Button marks Urwa Hocane’s debut as a producer; we tried reaching out to her but she was unavailable for a comment.
We also spoke to filmmaker Nabeel Qureshi who was planning to release two films – Quaid e Azam Zindabad and Fatman – this year. The former that stars Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa in lead roles has been shot and will be ready for release on Eid ul Azha 2020, according to the director. He revealed that they are sticking to the original release plan for now.
“It’s too early to say anything; we are working on the same timeline right now,” informed Nabeel, adding, “It’s a big budget film and it has to release in cinemas. Let’s hope for the best.”
The filmmaker also informed that he is uncertain about resuming the shoot of Ahmed Ali Butt-starrer Fatman that was stopped in mid-March due to the outbreak of corona. “There are a lot of people in that film and some of them need to fly from abroad. Given the current situation, I can’t say anything at the moment,” he explained.
Given the huge budgets and stakes involved, producers/filmmakers are hoping that cinemas reopen soon so that they can release the films on the big screen instead of considering alternate platforms that may or may not guarantee recovery of their money.