2016 has seen a drastic change in the Pakistani film industry with local filmmakers experimenting with new methods and genres and releasing hits like ‘Ho Mann Jahan’, ‘Maalik,’ etc.
The woman of the hour, however, is two-time Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who is all set to release the sequel to Pakistan’s first animated feature film ‘3 Bahadur’.
The sequel, 3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam, follows the story of children Saadi, Amna and Kamil on their journey to fighting evil.
Pakistan Today landed a chance to get an exclusive interview with the famed filmmaker herself, who tells us about the sequel, what to look forward to in the sequel.
More than 20 people worked behind the scenes to make the animation, including the Head of Animations who is the Animation Director for the film.
Kamran Khan, the scriptwriter, Salman, who has worked on illustrations, Wasif, who worked on casting and Husain, the story editor.
These guys together have formed a unit that has worked very well for this film.
Pakistan Today (PT): Tell us about the sequel.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (S.O): 3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam hits theatres on December 15th, 2016. In this film, it’s a fight between good and evil where the children set off on an adventure to another world to fight evil.
We experimented a lot with special effects, had voice actors on board that people love and recognise, and instilled a lot more humour in this than the prequel. We have really taken great risks in creating a whole different dimension, where the 3 Bahadurs travel to, and I believe this will resonate profoundly with our younger audience.
PT: You’re known for making social commentary documentaries – what made you branch out to making animations?
S.O: When I was growing up in Pakistan, there was only PTV, and a lot of children’s programmes like Sohail Rana’s songs, Uncle Sargam, Ainak Wala Jinn. Currently, though, I feel that our children lack those same connections, characters, and a familiar association to our mother tongue.
I feel it necessary to create characters that children can see themselves in, instead of watching mainstream western cartoons and shows where they don’t see their ethnicity represented positively.
Now, when our children grow up, they will have the ‘3 Bahadurs’ to look back on.
PT: What issues does the movie deal with?
S.O: I think the inspiration behind ‘3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam’ is that we wanted to tell children that people are not inherently bad, that everyone has good and bad in them and that they just have to channel the good out in them.
We also wanted to talk about unity, love, we wanted to talk about having a relationship with your parents, where your parents also trust you.
You can see in the film that there is a lot of screen time spent between parents and children, where parents learn from children and vice versa, that relationship is something that we have explored a lot.
PT: What message do you want to send out to the audience?
S.O: I think it’s critical that children come to the cinema and watch the film. The parents come and watch it as well, so it can become a family experience. We have very few films in Pakistan that are very family oriented, where grandparents can take their grandchildren, where parents can take their children and go as a family unit.
We are hoping that this December during the winter holidays parents do go out. It takes a lot of time and effort to make films. Not only that, the filmmakers will only continue to take risks if audiences will at least continue to fill the seats, to go watch the film.
PT: Do you think these animated movies will be able to make a successful impact on the younger generation of Pakistan?
S.O: Absolutely – everyone loves to watch cartoons. It is the best form of entertainment when it comes to children. Not only that, because children are very honest, they are the barometer of whether a film is good or not.
With 3 Bahadur Part 1, children came out of the cinemas happy and satisfied. Furthermore, the lessons from the movie have had a positive impact on many kids as they still remember the lessons. This is why the kids are eagerly awaiting for the next part.
PT: What challenges did you face while directing ‘3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam’?
S.O: The challenges that one faces and the difference in making an animated film is that we are hampered by the technology, the weak infrastructure needed to make a top-quality film. We also don’t have specialised animation schools of a high calibre, as students are not taught the VFX, the effects that one needs to create those special moments in the films. This is probably the reason why many people haven’t ventured into this genre.
Furthermore, we have frequent electricity breakages. Our servers are not at the level that they would be international, our computers are not what one would expect to make a feature length animated films. But, despite all these obstacles, I think we have been very successful.
PT: What steps were taken to make the animation relatable to the audience?
S.O: When we conceived the idea of ‘3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam’, the team went out in different areas across the city and across many cities, taking photographs of the streets, recording sounds on the streets, and speaking to children.
We wanted to create a very real world, so when children see it, they know it’s their world. We knew that if we created their world, things they are familiar with, they would feel an instant connection to it. A lot of pre-production work has gone into creating this.
PT: ‘3 Bahadur’ got a great response from International media like The Guardian, BBC etc. What is expected from the sequel?
S.O: We’ve already had a lot of national press on ‘3 Bahadur: Revenge of Baba Balaam’, and we are hoping that once the film releases, there will be international recognition as well this time around.
We are making sure that we reach out to the right people so that internationally people realise that quality content is being created in Pakistan as well.
PT: What do you think is the current status of animation in Pakistani industry?
S.O: There are some wonderful people working in animation in Pakistan, unfortunately, most of them are creating content for other countries in Asia or the Middle East.
I think that Haroon, with his Burka Avenger and Usman who has MANO Studios are both experimenting animation, and I have high hopes with them taking the animation field further.
PT: Will it be able to compete against the international industry?
S.O: We are creating the infrastructure and pipeline at WAADI Animations to one day compete against the international industry. It’s going to take us a little bit of time in order to do so.
I hope that one day our animated films reach the Academy Awards and win accolades there as well.
PT: A message for your fans?
S.O: Right now with fewer people making it into cinemas because of the self-imposed ban on Indian content, I think that fewer people are coming to theatres, it is a very critical time for Pakistan film industry and it is important for people to keep sharing the magical cinema experience together.
This can’t happen when you watch the movie at home or on DVD. Going to the cinema is a critical part of creating that magic.
The film is set to release on December 15th, 2016. It stars Fahad Mustafa, Sarwat Gillani, Ali Gul Pir and Behroze Sabzwari as the main voice actors.
Watch the trailer here.