The new era of Pakistani cinema has been an interesting road since its beginning, bringing an array of homegrown talent to the surface and keeping an eager public waiting in anticipation.
One such talent being eagerly awaited is Nadir Shah’s Project Ghazi, Pakistan’s first superhero movie set to hit the screens on 14 July of this year.
It tells a story of an advanced soldier project that spans over a period of 20 years. The film has a star-studded cast including Sheheryar Munawar, Syra Shahroz, Humayun Saeed and Talat Hussain among other names.
We at Pakistan Today are particularly excited about the film and certainly cannot wait to see what the team has created for us. Thus, to get an insight on the movie and the characters, we had a little chat with Sheheryar, who plays the role of Major Zain in the superhero movie.
“I had to follow an intense workout regimen twice a day that took place in a span of 6 to 8 months. I gained around 8kgs of muscle to get in shape for the role of Major Zain,” Sheheryar told Pakistan Today.
“Not only that, I ate 7 meals a day and my daily routine included court running, MMA training, weight lifting and script reading in between,” the star added.
“Shooting in the peak summer time for 2 to 3 months wearing a costume that weighed 15 to 20 kg was like being inside an oven and the sweat would add an extra 10 kgs to that weight,” he laughed.
He further continued that even though it got physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting it was something new and a different experience altogether that he and the entire team worked hard for.
Woah! Thats some intense workout regime! Hoping it pays off for everyone who worked hard for the movie! The cast and crew! Really looking forward to this one! @sheheryarmunawar @filmprojectghazi @walnutpk #saneelalaikes #ashortgirlsdiary #pakistanicelebs #projectghazi #shehryarmunawar #majorzain #pakistanimovie
While talking about the shoot locations which included Karachi, Lahore and the Northern areas; he said that the shooting in locations like Mangla was the best. He continued to say that interacting and meeting the actual troops was very exciting.
As we continued the conversation we were keen to know about his role as Major Zain. By not giving too much information away before its release Sheheryar said that there is a whole lot of genetical engineering involved and all the soldiers are super soldiers.
“Zain starts showing these ‘abilities’ years after Project Ghazi had suspended, so everyone is figuring out how to deal with the situation; as Zain experiences physical and emotional changes in him.”
Sheheryar plays the rookie soldier under the mentorship of Brigadier Salaar (Humayun Saeed) who was a part of the initial Project Ghazi.
“Basically it’s all about fighting some bad guys and kicking some butt,” Sheheryar chuckled.
The 28-year-old added that he and the director decided that he would perform the movie stunts himself as he recalled a motorbike stunt scene where he was driving it at 100 km/hour, crashed the bike and burnt his leg while performing the stunt.
“Initially I thought that being an actor I can perform the stunts myself, but boy it is a tough job doing the stunts yourself.”
Sheheryar made his film debut in January 2016 with Ho Mann Jahan (HMJ), which was a huge success across the country. Even though he was big on television, Sheheryar is always up for new challenges because ‘thats how you grow as an actor’. Now, with Project Ghazi, he is all set to do that.
“When I’m working in front of the camera the idea is to do things that excite me, to be able to learn different things,” the HMJ star said.
“It is an entire process for a year and each film/project leaves with you something new, whether it’s a new skill or something you learn about yourself.”
“When I was pitched this script, I knew I wanted to do this because it was so different with a multi-layered storyline designed to show that the same society creates good and the bad guys,” he said.
“Not only the core of the film is that before we point fingers we have to battle with the demons within our society. It’s not just intolerance towards a particular group but rather, amongst ourselves.”
According to the actor, he is a very expressive person on screen and off screen, so playing a soldier was very different and difficult to be in the zone where his character doesn’t let his emotions show.
Munawar added that the concept of nationalism was another reason why he signed up for Project Ghazi.
“The nationalistic aspect of the film was very exciting for me because I wanted to convey the message that you can be patriotic without hating or bashing any other country,” he stated, along with being the voice of the generation by saying “All we want to see is a brighter tomorrow/future, getting over the past issues and live peacefully.”
While talking about his experience working with Syra and Humayun, he said, “Working with Syra is always fun, because we can always have a laugh about something that is not working out on the sets.”
Sheheryar added that working with experienced actors like Humayun and Talat Hussain, one can always learn a lot.
“Humayun is such a positive guy and a gem to work with. He’s laid back, calm and so ‘thanda’.”
Project Ghazi being the first live-action superhero movie the actors had to work with new equipment for the first time. Talking about that Munawar said, “It was difficult to understand things initially because we had to shoot most scenes with Blue and Green screens where we had to imagine a lot of things around us.”
“We had to imagine and talk to a lot of characters around us, so there was a lot of make-believe situation going on.”
“This is the first time we are doing this in Pakistan and Hollywood has perfected this, but we still gave it our best shot and we are really excited for everyone to see it as well.”
“Just because this is the first time we have this genre in Pakistan, we shouldn’t look at it that way. It is just another film,” Sheheryar said, adding that people should be able to go and watch it, enjoy it and not compare it with the other films themselves because “We made a film. If you watch the movie and enjoy it then just celebrate it.”
Exploring this genre in Pakistan for the first time, we asked Sheheryar if Project Ghazi is to set a bar for future films, to which he said he is not the one to make any tall claims.
“I think one should try to do the best given the circumstances and the facilities. One should also have a strong work ethic and then just let people decide for themselves,” he said.
If we compare it to Hollywood standards, we know that we as an industry have a lot of years ahead of us and Hollywood had more than 100 years to do this, whereas Bollywood has been there since before partition.
According to the star, he says that we will get there slowly but till then we need to keep trying hard and bring the work ethic needed from all of us.
As of now, there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of infrastructure, policies and the steps taken towards it. The actor lauded the government’s effort in announcing a special for the industry and recognising its effort.
“If all of us (directors, producers, actors, media, government) in our small capacity do the best with good intentions, then we can hope that things will work out for all of us as a nation in the future,” Sheheryar concluded.
Watch the trailer here:
Project Ghazi is Sheheryar’s second film after Ho Mann Jahan and he is all set to shoot his third movie in August. Could Project Ghazi be a possible game changer for the future of Pakistan’s film industry? Looks like we’ll have to wait and watch.