Ho Mann Jahaan, a coming-of-age musical drama film set in Karachi, is slated for a New Year, January 1st release. the team, lead cast members: Mahira Khan, Shehryar Munawar, adeel husain and Sonya Jehan, as well triple threat, director/writer/producer Asim Raza chat with GT about what it was like working on this highly anticipated film

You are offered many roles, how do you choose which roles you want to do? What are your vetting criteria?

Mahira Khan: At the end of the day, when it comes down to picking a role/project, there are a few factors I consider — script, director, time lines, location of the project, etc. I have tried to do one project at a time, so at times that also forces me to let go of certain roles.

When reading a script, a scene could do it for me, or a quirk of a character. I also try my best not to do a similar role twice. Right after Bin Roye and even while shooting for it I was very eager to do a contemporary film. I’m glad Ho Mann Jahaan came my way.

I must ask this, what has been your experience of working with Shahrukh Khan? Any interesting stories?

MK: Lots, but I’ll save that for the time Raees is releasing. Needless to say, it was a pleasure and an amazing learning experience.

How has working in India been for you? 

MK: It’s been good. I was nervous initially as I wasn’t in my comfort zone, but the team was great! They made me feel so comfortable that I settled in easily.

Having worked in Pakistani as well as Indian films now, what are some key differences and similarities?

MK: Well, cinema is cinema. The team is key! If your team is good the experience is good no matter where in the world you’re working. The major difference was the scale of the industry. It is a bigger industry thus has bigger teams, etc. Other than that whether it’s here or there, everyone on set is working towards one goal, which is to make a good film.

How was the Ho Mann Jahaan on-set chemistry? Share some interesting anecdotes with us.

MK: It was crazy, manic, magical to say the least. We were like a joint family living in a house. There was lots of love, minor arguments, lots of breakups followed by makeups, hugs and laughter, lots of tears. Let me tell you something about this team — we cry a lot. We saw the teaser all of us, crying and hugging each other. Someone gets upset with someone, we cry. Adeel and I did a scene/song up in Chitral and when we came back to the monitor, Asim had tears in his eyes—of happiness. Emotions ran high on this set. Also the crew was so much fun, it was the smallest most efficient crew!

You have been working on back to back projects. What’s on your 2016 agenda on the personal front?

MK: Actually, I didn’t expect Bin Roye to take so long. Otherwise the idea is to work on one project at a time. Nor did I expect to work on Raees this year. So yeah, it’s been a busy one. I’m hoping that next year is a good one inshAllah; I’m nervous for the film releases, wishing for the best. At the moment, I’m not taking up any projects. In fact, I’ve been chilling since July at home 🙂

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

MK: Five years? Would the next five minutes do? I’ll probably be reading a story to Azlan in bed, his favourite one, The Amazing Spider-Man 🙂

How was the Ho Mann Jahaan on-set chemistry?

Sheheryar Munawar: Saying, it was amazing would be an understatement! We are all great friends and so we worked hard and partied harder.

You are offered many roles, how do you choose which roles you want to do?

SM: Frankly I don’t want to do television–it’s a personal decision that I have made. That automatically narrows down to a few film scripts that are on offer to me at this point. The idea is always to choose quality over quantity. When I look at a project holistically, the script has to be good, there has to be something for me in terms of experimenting with new characters, the overall production value should be high and of course the director is important.

You have garnered much popularity amongst young women as a sex symbol. How does that make you feel?

SM: I don’t know how should I feel, but it should make me slightly richer. Can somebody please pass on this observation to top beauty brands.

Any plans to go to Bollywood like Mahira and Fawad?

SM: My primary focus is to produce high quality work whether it’s in the front of the camera or behind, in Pakistan or internationally.

How was the Ho Mann Jahaan on-set chemistry?

Adeel Husain: We worked and lived as friends and colleagues. Our initial relationship dynamics have evolved through the process of the film and that’s a special thing. We’ve shared good experiences on this ride together and our time on set has left us with a sense of togetherness. It’s really about other actors making each others’ jobs easier.

You are offered many roles, how do you choose which roles you want to do? What are your vetting criteria?

AH: It’s instinctual. The combination of a good script in a competent director’s hand is what one has to look out for. Many other key details about a project also play at the decision of whether you can take it on or not, or should. I usually have a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ inside my head in the form of a feeling and just go with it.

This is your debut film. How has this been as opposed to acting for TV?

AH: Ho Mann Jahaan has been a unique and special experience and I definitely won’t be comparing it to anything else. The Vision Factory led by Asim is a hard working team. I’ve enjoyed the space that got created for me to do my work on a daily basis and have enjoyed the camaraderie within the cast and crew. In the end, we are pushing forward in film and should do the same in television by executing better stories.

Any plans to go to Bollywood like Mahira and Fawad?

AH: No plans. I’m very happy with the momentum here and my hands are full. I would like to continue to contribute to the development of more films, and, if lucky, one day work in Hollywood. Who knows what the future may bring?

What are your upcoming projects?

AH: For now, it’s Asim Raza’s Ho Mann Jahaan and Mehreen Jabbar’s Dobara Phir Se. This has been an exciting year for me.

How do you find living in India with your husband Vivek Narain? Was it a difficult transition?

Sonya Jehan: Moving to India permanently was not my intention. I went for a project, but then I got married to Vivek, who I had met in London, after I graduated from college. I have now been there for 13 years, and it has been easy as lots of my college friends live in Delhi. I now also have a family of my own. There is not a huge difference between our traditions, so it was easy to blend into life there.

Tell us about your life there.

SJ: I live in New Delhi and my life there is not as glamourous as people may think it to be. I have two children: Noor will be 8 and Nirvan is 4 and a half. They take up a lot of my time. I wake up early with the kids, go to the gym, work and am normally in bed by 9 p.m.with a good book or movie. Weekends are a time for me to catch up with friends and enjoy what the city has to offer.

Earlier you had some issues with getting an Indian work visa. How did you sort that out?

SJ: Getting visas nowadays for anywhere in the world is complicated, and with my work being more freelance, it was challenging. However, it has been 13 years now. I have a work permit, which was granted to me on the basis that I have family in India.

You have worked with Hollywood actors in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, as well as Bollywood and Pakistani ones. What are some differences in the work style that you have encountered?

SJ: Every time I do a project, it’s a whole new different experience. The Ho Mann Jahaan team is like a family and I have known Asim for a long time. It’s my first film in Pakistan, so I am really looking forward to it. Bollywood is a lot more commercial. They don’t waste time. It’s intense. Hollywood I cannot comment on as I’ve not really done a film as such, but I did an opening scene for the Reluctant Fundamentalist and it was an enriching experience.

Which film have you most enjoyed working in to date?

SJ: Every film has brought its fresh set of joys and challenges. Taj Mahal was my first; it was very exciting and humbling, plus I had a huge role. Khoya Khoya Chand was a small budget and everyone had to pull their weight; it was a good laugh. My Name Is Khan was very commercial, yet it was daunting to work with Karan Johar. Shahrukh Khan and Kajol are lovely people and I enjoyed working with them both. And, ofcourse, Ho Mann Jahaan holds a lot of weight and is close to my heart. It is my first Pakistani film, plus I have returned to the big screen after a hiatus of four years following the birth of my son.

How was the Ho Mann Jehan on-set chemistry?

SJ: Fun and young! It was like working with a family. After shooting this movie, I feel like I have extended my family and circle of friends.

You have been directing commercials and music videos and this is your first feature film. Describe the transition. Asim Raza: Frankly speaking, all my training and experience in ad film-making has certainly helped me alot in preparing me for a feature film, but film is a whole other ball game altogether. There are overlaps when it comes to shooting a commercial and shooting a feature, but the whole process of making a feature film was a completely new experience for me and I must confess it took me a while to get a grip on it. Having said that, I must also confess that ad films and music videos gave me the confidence in who I am as a storyteller and where I stand today.

You are the script writer, director and one of the film’s producers. You must really believe in this project. You have also said that this story has autobiographical elements to it. Share with us why you feel so strongly that this story needed to be told.

AR: When I said that this story has realities in it I did not mean that it is my own story, but I do feel that I have seen all of this happening to either me or the people around me. I have always believed in real stories, so that people can connect and associate with them easily and see their reflections in the characters. Therefore, I wrote this keeping my people, surroundings and society in mind.

What was the on-set camaraderie like between cast and crew? What kind of atmosphere do you like on your sets, i.e. ultra focused and professional, relaxed and jovial or a combination?

AR: The camaraderie was the only reason why we could actually make this film happen. As I said earlier, film is something which can become almost impossible for beginners like me if you do not get the support from a strong team, and for Ho Mann Jahaan that surely was the case. I am most thankful to my team, who stood by me through thick and thin and made this project happen.

I like a combination of both. While I want my team to give complete focus to work, I also want them to make it the most fun moments of their lives and mine too.

What are your upcoming projects?

AR: Ho Mann Jahaan. Jokes aside I have not worked on anything else, neither commercials, nor music videos for the last 18 months. I wanted my complete focus on my film. INSHALLAH once it is out, then I will start to think what to do next.

Good Times

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