Touted to be the most expensive Pakistani film of all time, Teefa in Trouble is all set to hit screens across the world on July 20, 2018. The teaser, trailer and music of the film, released in recent weeks, have garnered tremendous praise and after several duds churned out by the cinema industry, audiences are looking forward to the film which currently feels like a breath of fresh air. Amidst all the enthusiasm and fervor, the director of the film, Ahsan Rahim sat down for an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today and talked at length about his first feature film as director.
1. Like yourself, a number of experienced Pakistani directors of commercials have gone on to make feature films. Is the transition from making commercials to movies difficult?
Yes, it is. The two mediums are very different and have few if any, similarities. A commercial revolves around a product whereas a feature film tells a story. It is easy to keep an audience engaged in a thirty-second long commercial but keeping viewers interested and involved for two to three hours is quite a challenge.
2. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of a good film director?
The ability to tell a story is an essential quality of a good film director. All other qualities are supplementary. If a director cannot tell a story effectively, he cannot make a good film. Everything else – the construction of scenes, creating beautiful images, filming entertaining songs, capturing powerful performances, creating the right mise en scène, choreographing exciting action sequences and the like – fails in the absence of good story-telling.
3. Are you happy with Teefa in Trouble?
A great number of highly talented individuals have put their heart and soul into Teefa in Trouble. I believe that the hard work of the cast and crew has yielded great results. The end result is good and I am happy with it. It is difficult to be fully satisfied with one’s own work, but I am glad to have given Teefa my very best and am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with some of the finest people in the business.
4. What are the strengths of Teefa in Trouble?
Teefa in Trouble has many strengths, but the single biggest asset of the film is the star at the center of the film. Ali Zafar’s charisma, charm and talent makes the film truly extraordinary. He has tremendous presence and lights up the screen every time he appears onscreen.
Maya Ali has also given a brilliant performance. She adds a lot of energy, glamor and allure in the film. All the actors are on the top of their game. I firmly believe that the film will be recognised for the strength of the performances of the actors. In addition, the music of the film is very good and, perhaps, its greatest strength. The dances have been well choreographed and, the film features some very well-executed action sequences.
5. Is it true that Teefa in Trouble is the most expensive Pakistani film of all time?
Yes, it is the most expensive Pakistani film of all time. The entire team of Teefa in Trouble was committed to excellence. Ali Zafar went all out, sparing no expense and cutting no corners in his quest to make a film that excelled in every single area of filmmaking. The maestros were hired for cinematography, editing, art direction, set decoration, scoring, sound engineering, colour grading, visual effects, wardrobe, grooming, and everything else. No one thought about the money, effort and time involved but instead focused on getting everything done in the best possible manner.
While I don’t have the exact figures but the action sequences that were shot in Poland were probably the most expensive.
6. Ali Zafar is known for being punctilious, particular and fastidious. Indeed, there have been rumors of the two of you butting heads during the making of Teefa in Trouble. Is there any truth to the rumours?
No, there is not. Ali and I worked very well together. All major decisions regarding the film – from casting to writing, editing to shooting, and budgeting to scheduling – were taken together. We were singularly focused on making Teefa in Trouble a quality film. No one had the time and energy for arguing and butting heads. I loved the collaborative manner in which everyone worked with each other. The rumours would be amusing if they were not so annoying.
7. So then did you enjoy working with Ali?
Ali gave me a lot of space and freedom to do as I pleased. He trusted my vision and ability and did not stifle my creativity by unnecessarily interfering in things. I remember a discussion that we had when we started talking about making the film. I told Ali that every member of the cast and crew of Teefa in Trouble would look up to him because he was the force at the center of the film. If he was positive, optimistic and cheerful, others would be so as well. I think he took the conversation to heart and lead the entire team with a great deal of energy, passion and positivity. His enthusiasm during the making of the film was truly contagious.
8. The trailer of Teefa in Trouble was positively received. How much effort did you put into making the trailer?
Making the trailer of a film is not an easy task. One has to be very careful with the trailer; you have to strike the right balance. You cannot give away too much of the plot because doing so takes away some of the mystique of the movie and damages the viewers’ enjoyment of watching it. At the same time, one cannot be too cryptic in a film trailer.
Without joking, it took me twelve days to come up with the right structure for the trailer. My childhood friend, the very talented film director and writer Syed Riaz Hassan, helped me assemble and put together the trailer. Aravind Vijayakumar’s sound engineering, Kashif Ejaz’s foley work and Shani Arshad’s score helped give the trailer the energy and verve I wanted.
9. Are you concerned that the trailer may have unfairly raised the expectations of the film?
The trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to the film than what you see in the trailer.
10. People have very high expectations of the film’s music considering they were composed by Ali Zafar. What do you think of the songs of the film?
The music of Teefa in Trouble is superb and one of the film’s greatest strengths. I was blown away by the songs when I first heard them. They are catchy, melodious and unique, and capture the playful mood of the film perfectly. Their simple lyrics, rich emotional content and charming musical structure put them in a league of their own.
11. Ali and Maya have an electrifying onscreen chemistry. Did you contribute to it in any way?
I would love to take credit for Maya and Ali’s remarkable onscreen chemistry but the truth is that the two are very good-looking and talented actors and have hence generated it largely on their own. Good casting, cinematography, lighting, framing and make-up has also contributed to their chemistry. But at the end of the day, the credit still goes to Maya and Ali; they are phenomenally good actors.
12. Teefa has generated a lot of positive buzz and appears to have a very high entertainment quotient. Do you think that the all-out entertainer will receive critical acclaim, as well?
I think and hope that it will receive critical acclaim in addition to commercial success. There is no reason for it not to.
13. The government helped three Pakistani films that were released on Eid Al Fitr by blocking the simultaneous release of Indian films. What’s your take on that?
I’m not a big fan of the government’s current policies because, for one, they do not work. Two, they insult the merit of Pakistani films and demean the talents of the people in the business. Three, they prevent filmgoers from seeing films of their own choice. And, four, they kill meritocracy. That is patently wrong.
14. Lastly, are you worried that Meesha Shafi’s allegations against Ali Zafar will negatively affect the film?
I am not. The film has a lot going for itself and will stand on its own merit.