GT Film


The celebrated actors talk to Haider Rifaat about their upcoming project SherDil. Releasing close to Pakistan Day, the movie pays tribute to the Pakistan Air Force.


Tell us about SherDil and what you love most about the script?

I think most boys dream of becoming fighter pilots while growing up. This was true in my case at least, as I was obsessed with the idea until I was five or six years old. I didn’t get the opportunity to pursue flying professionally but SherDil allowed me to live my childhood dream on camera. The movie focuses around the professional and personal struggles faced by the character I portray. His unwavering grit and focus are truly inspiring; there was no way I could say no to the film.

“We want people to be aware of the exemplary valour of our air force pilots and the reverence they truly deserve. We also have a strong message for the world regarding Pakistan’s resolute strength; no force can undo this country. Pakistan is and will always be”

How is your role in SherDil different from the characters you’ve portrayed before?

I’ve been fortunate enough to play a wide range of roles through the course of my career as an actor, but this was the first time I played an army officer. The production of a feature film is a lot different than drama serials and in that respect I feel this project allowed me to push my limits.

Is there any specific goal the team is trying to achieve with this film?

Yes. We’ve tried to depict the might of the Pakistani Air Force and the JF-17 Thunder. We want people to be aware of the exemplary valour of our air force pilots and the reverence they truly deserve. We also have a strong message for the world regarding Pakistan’s resolute strength; no force can undo this country. Pakistan is and will always be. We are not aggressors but if someone provokes us, we are fully equipped to defend ourselves, as witnessed recently. In view of our current relationship with India, I feel the timing of SherDil’s release is perfect. Pakistanis are extremely patriotic and they have undying love for its air force. The movie pays homage to that emotion.

As tensions continue between Pakistan and India, do you think there is more responsibility on the makers of the film?

“Spending time with the Air Force and witnessing their grit and passion inspired me to look at life in a different way as well. I’ve pushed my limits as an actor. It’s been a truly humbling and enlightening experience”

There’s responsibility not only on SherDil’s team but filmmakers in general, in fact everyone in the media. Situations like the current one are extremely sensitive and must be addressed prudently. Our film has covered tensions on the border beautifully. Coincidentally, the plot also revolves around India infiltrating Pakistani airspace—an event that actually transpired.

What appears to be the film’s greatest strength is visual effects. Is Pakistan’s entertainment industry headed in the right direction with the introduction of new VFX artists?

We had Hollywood teams working with us on this movie, but yes, our industry is getting better at visual effects. Pakistani professionals have great potential and if they’re equipped with the right technology, there’s no way our films won’t be of international standards. I’m extremely proud of SherDil’s visuals and believe local VFX artists will be able to find inspiration. However, there are many authentic scenes with no visual effects that have been captured just as remarkably. I took several flights myself, maneuvering fighter jets and it was definitely a thrilling experience.

I completed an hour-long mission with the Pakistan Air Force in Sargodha, where we got the chance to fly fighter jets in fog for a fight sequence—it was dreamlike.

Share your favourite dialogue from the movie for our readers.

“If I don’t return, tell my father martyrs never die!” This dialogue appears at the end of the trailer. We often assume the lives of our officers are only on the line in a state of war, but that’s extremely untrue. Every time an air force pilot flies out in his jet, they are at risk. I have huge respect for how they put everything at stake for our country.

Has your journey with SherDil impacted you as an individual?

That’s a very interesting question. I think spending time with the air force and witnessing their grit and passion inspired me to look at life in a different way as well. I’ve pushed my limits as an actor. It’s been a truly humbling and enlightening experience.

What else is in the works?

I’m shooting a drama serial (tentatively titled “Zard Bahar”) opposite Sana Javed.

I also have another film, “The Trial” set for release later this year. This is a period film, set in 1971 and centres around the fall of Dhaka.

Moving on to your personal life, how do you think fatherhood has changed you?

The first thing that happens to you when your child is born is acquiring newfound respect and appreciation for your own parents. I remember calling my mother a few months after I first became a father to ask her how she managed four children, I couldn’t even seem to handle one! Parenthood is a beautiful experience though. I began questioning life and my purpose a lot after turning twenty-five. The monotony of daily life had really started to get to me, but once I had my daughters, my life suddenly had meaning again. They gave me the drive to excel so I can provide them with all the comfort they deserve.

If there’s any one piece of advice you could give your children, what would that be?

My daughters are very young right now so I try to discipline them a lot. I’d want them to grow up with the same values my parents instilled in me and to try and be good humans and Muslims.  I’ve been taught to be loving towards those younger to me and respectful towards my elders. I hope my children do the same.

When have you felt the most proud of yourself?

I feel immense pride right now with the release of SherDil. It was important to me that I bag a successful movie and even though it isn’t out yet, I’m very confident about it. Apart from this, every time I’ve been given an award, I felt recognised for my hard work. In my personal life, the proudest moment for me was the birth of my children.

How do you unwind?

There are many ways I unwind. These include spending time alone, detaching from social media and just playing video games or watching a movie with friends, going on a drive or on vacations. I also enjoy playing


Tell us about your character in SherDil.

I portray an Indian pilot (not inspired by wing-commander Abhinandan Varthaman). The producer of the film, Noman Khan, helmed the entire project beautifully and I’m ceratin it’s unlike any we have seen in our country or across the border. Despite touching upon a senstive topic, there is no hate for anyone. I’m lucky to be a part of this movie.

What response are you expecting from the audience? 

Pakistan’s air force has an undeniable charm that everyone in the country respects. SherDil will further stir that emotion. I can say confidently that our team is setting a new standard for the Pakistani film industry.

What direction do you see your career heading in?

I hope to challenge myself further as a performer. I want to be part of projects and portray characters that allow me to experiment and push my limits. My dream role would be a heroic one, but with multiple layers. I want to perform well to gain the confidence of film and drama producers; I try being as professional and responsible with my job as possible.

What one thing about this industry frustrates you?

There are many things. I’ve learned from my experience to maintain a safe distance from negative people and instead stay around optimistic ones. Above all, I think it’s very important to appreciate the good in others. As a nation, we’re very critical of one another and always seem to focus on each other’s flaws. This trend seeps into the entertainment industry as well. If we’re able to undo this, it would feel as if light has overpowered darkness.

Tell us about your family.

I belong to a Niazi household, but I’m the only one affiliated with the entertainment industry. The rest of my family members are either doctors or army officers.

Biggest fear?

I don’t fear anything or anyone, except God.

Final words?

Love Pakistan and our air force!

Bin Roye


gi5 Faisal-Qureshi---13_resize

Bin Roye is a romantic drama directed by Momina Duraid and Shahzad Kashmiri and stars Mahira Khan, Humayun Saeed, Armeena Rana Khan, Zeba Bakhtiar and Javed Sheikh amongst others. It is an adaptation of Farhat Ishtiaq’s novel, Bin Roye Aansoo which is soon to be a HUM TV drama serial also.

A classic love story involving Irtaza (Humayun Saeed) and Saba (Mahira Khan), the story takes a turn for the predictable as Irtaza makes his transition from desi to pardesi when he leaves to go abroad for his studies. The triangular love story evolves with the entrance of Saman (Armeena Rana Khan) who lures Irtaza with her modern and Western styling choices and values with Irtaza responding favourably and losing his indigenous footing.

Finding out the fate of the three lovers is probably the most interesting thing in the movie, followed by the songs and dance performances. Balle Balle, from which we had expectant hopes, is just short of a Tarang ad, with nothing new brought to the table except for the debut of Adeel Hussain’s spectacular dance skills.

Wrong No.



Wrong No. is a romantic comedy film directed by Yasir Nawaz and starring Javed Sheikh, Danish Taimoor, Nadeem Jaffri, Danish Nawaz, Shafqat Cheema, Sohai Ali Abro and Janita Asma amongst others and is scheduled for local release on July 18, 2015.

An ambitious Danish Taimoor is the bratty and spoiled golden son of Javed Shaikh, a butcher by trade who owns his own shop. Smothered by his mother and given false hopes of confidence by his father, Danish aspires to be a movie star and wants nothing to do with his father’s smelly, dead-end butcher shop. Danish is betrothed to and relentlessly pursued by Sohai Ali Abro, whom he detests. All in all, the walls of responsible adulthood seem to be caving in on him, because of which he hits the road. He subsequently experiences a pleasant reversal of roles, not dissimilar from Trading Places (1983) featuring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd and the rest is for you to find out.

Wrong No. has many an entertaining moment specifically held up by Javed Sheikh and his dysfunctionally entertaining family: from funny instances like a little boy’s circumcision proceedings to deciding whether to cook champay or koftas. There is a featured band of three fat ghundas who are fumbling all over the place and who provide much comic relief.

Taking much from Na Maloom Afraad in the way of chasing scenes around Karachi’s city streets and dreams of being rich, Wrong No. is an entertainer with some good jokes that doesn’t take itself very seriously. It does have the privilege of coining #selfiyaan which is sure to create some shaadi song skits and spinoffs come this year’s shaadi season.

Dekh Magar Pyar Se


Dekh Magar Pyar Se is an upcoming Pakistani romantic comedy film directed by Asad ul Haq and starring Humaima Malick and Sikander Rizvi and is set to release on Independence 14 August 2015.

Set in Lahore, Dekh Magar Pyar Se takes its name from the slogan commonly popularised by the truck, bus and rickshaw industry across Pakistan. Steeped in familiar cultural phenomena, the trailer exudes realism, set in gritty real locations and deep inside complex emotional sequences, not very dissimilar from the cultural projection in Bollywood’s Dev. D starring Kalki Koechlin and Abhay Deol.

Sikander Rizvi’s acting debut has been much anticipated as has Humaima’s acting performance in a local film since she’s stepped up her game last year. Dekh Magar Pyaar Se will most likely be the stop for the-harder-to-please cinema goer this summer season.

Karachi se Lahore



Karachi se Lahore is an upcoming comedy road film directed and produced by Wajahat Rauf starring Shehzad Sheikh, Ayesha Omer, Javed Sheikh, Mantaha Tareen Maqsood, Yasir Hussain, Ahmed Ali, Eshita Syed, Aashir Wajahat and Rasheed Naz and is set to be release on July 31, 2015 locally. It is famously Pakistan’s first road-trip film which covers in real time the 36-hour journey from Karachi to Lahore by road.

For those left wondering about the road trip phenomenon, think Little Miss Sunshine and We the Millers. Karachi se Lahore is expectantly packed with the fun-isms and unaccounted twists and turns one can only (not!) expect when on a road trip with so many people and with such an agenda. Shehzad Sheikh’s beloved is always threatening him with getting married off by her parents to which he responds by making an impulsive and passionate plan to stall the wedding.

The Noori clan makes its way back into the mainstream with Shiraz Upal for the music. Ayesha Omer’s item number is actually not an item number but a stand on empowerment for women and their ability to use their cunning and strengths for the greater good. Karachi se Lahore also promises to showcase some rich cultural diversity, something remaining amiss from much local cinema nowadays. A good one to catch with the whole family!

A new documentary featuring Pakistani superwomen

Having toured across the United States, “Pakistan Four,” a heartwarming documentary, is finally making its way to the motherland. Director Shehzad Hameed has taken the ongoing slew of negative media that surrounds Pakistan and has turned it on its head, shedding light on the inspiring acts of determination as exemplified by four young Pakistani women.

A fencer, a heavy weight lifter, a chef and a comedian: these are the women whom the documentary follows.  Their professional lives and aspirations are showcased alongside their lives at home within fairly traditional Pakistani families. “I was very emotionally involved myself while making the film”, Shehzad told me. “I wanted them to win and was supporting them while I was filming. I was there at every match and screening and tournament.”

The four featured women — Hareem (the saber fencer), Fatima (the sous chef), Kulsoom (the weightlifter) and Nadia (the actor) became known to Shehzad one by one through Facebook, personal friends and the internet.  Hareem turned down her previous career as an investment banker to pursue her passion for fencing and trained to become a professional fencer. She is shown revelling in glory at the Fencing World Cup in Chicago and then later, giving fencing classes in her spare time to girls from underserved communities. Fatima fought hard to break the shell of her traditional background to become a chef. She is shown becoming the Chopped champion, a national competition that is also a popular reality television show on The Food Network. There is a moving moment where, after having been announced the winner, she says how winning was so important to her because it solidified her own faith in her chosen path. “It is a huge stamp of approval.”



Kulsoom, who practices strict hijab, is shown in her home, cooking with the women of the household. Next she is shown struggling with the national weightlifting regulations that decree that the arms and legs must be bare. But Kulsoom perseveres, building a case for why a hijabi can also be a weightlifting champion. (She wins the Emory Weightlifting Championship after having been allowed to compete). “It wasn’t just an individual challenge, it was a global one that was going to affect women in many countries,” said Kulsoom, who has been the only one representing Pakistan twice at global tournaments. She was later hosted at a reception by Hilary Clinton where she spoke about the growth of Pakistani women in national sports. Nadia, the actor, is featured working on a play where she chronicles the experience of coming from a conservative Pakistani family in England. The play is full of familiar hilarity, scenes documenting what it’s like to be a Pakistani who is raised abroad. But the documentary also shows the darker side of strict parenting and confused cultural identities.

Fatima is shown becoming the Chopped champion, a national competition that is also a popular reality television show on The Food Network

“When asked what it was they want to do with their lives, many of my Pakistani friends would say ‘get married,’ and I always wondered why that was the only thing they seemed to want to do,” Shehzad told me. Certainly, as part of Pakistani society, locally and abroad, we tend to believe there are certain roles for men and women. Not only are women supposed to play the specific roles of mother, sister and  daughter, men too are stereotyped into the various roles of breadwinner, patriarch and homeowner.

“This is the message I want to convey to Pakistani women: If these women can do it, you can do it too,” says Shehzad. At the screenings in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, Shehzad is curiously awaiting the audience’s reactions.




Shehzad hameed


Mehek Raza Rizvi goes to Chandigarh and talks to the real Milkha Singh


On my recent visit to India, I felt like everyone was talking about the same thing: the sports biopic ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,’ starring Farhan Akhtar. The movie traces the life of former field and track sprinter Milkha Singh, also known as The Flying Sikh – a sobriquet given to him by former President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan. Famous for his vim and pizzazz, Milkha Singh is much talked-about in his small and beautiful hometown, Chandigarh. From incidents at the Chandigarh Golf Club to his fitness, almost everyone I met had something to say about him. Yet hardly anyone knew his real story until filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra decided to make a movie about it. And what a movie it is.


On my way to watch the movie, my hosts told me I wouldn’t register how quickly time would pass. They were right. The movie explores Singh’s rousing struggle to rebuild his life after his parents and siblings were butchered in front of his eyes in the carnage that preceded Partition. Traumatized and distraught, twelve-year-old Milkha Singh fled from his village, Govindpura (now Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan) and reached Delhi where he united with his sister. From the impoverished refugee camps, which were his home for a long time, Singh learned how to face all odds and take responsibility for his life.  In 1951, at his fourth attempt, he was recruited in the Indian Army at the Electrical Mechanical Engineering Centre. This was where his career as an athlete took off.

Sonam Kapoor, Milkha Singh & Farhan Akhtar

After making it to the top 10-winners list in a race, he was selected for service commission and eventually sent for the selection of the Olympics team. Amusingly, Milkha’s motivation to win this race were the milk and eggs that were to be given as a reward to the winners.  He went on to break the 400- meter-race world record and represented India in the Summer Olympics in Melbourne (1956), Summer Olympics in Rome (1960), Asian Games in Tokyo and the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.

Singh expressed his deep unhappiness at the fact that ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ was banned in Pakistan

He was also awarded the Padma Shri which is India’s fourth highest civilian order.  Out of the 80 races he has participated in, he has won 77 and owns numerous medals, trophies and awards. However, his ultimate brush with success and global recognition did not come effortlessly. He trained tirelessly to increase his stamina and skill. His coach Havildar Gurdev Singh guided him through a training regime so intense that sometimes the young athlete would vomit blood.  But mentioning his fatigue, bruises and injuries would be like detailing the everyday.

Milkha Singh standing next to a poster of the film

After the movie ended I knew I had to meet this man in person.

Two days later, I found myself sitting in Milkha Singh’s drawing room for an interview arranged by a dear friend (who happens to be Singh’s neighbor).  Larger than life, gracious and genial, my host greeted me with a huge smile and offered refreshments. Around twelve journalists had just left his house and more kept calling throughout the course of our interview. After exchanging pleasantries I expressed my utter shock at how similar he looked to Farhan Akthar in the movie. “Yes, I get that a lot,” Singh laughed. “One of my daughters met Farhan while the movie was being shot and was just as stunned. Farhan is a wonderful actor and has worked very hard for this movie.

Milkha Singh & Rajinder Chhibbar

He’s done a great job.” I couldn’t agree more.  Farhan Akhtar outdid himself. His performance was convincing and impassioned. I asked him how much of the movie is actually true and he told me it was complete truth. One of the most endearing parts of the movie was Milkha’s love affair with Biro, played by Sonam Kapoor. When asked about Biro, he smiled. “When you’re that young love is a very fascinating thing. She used to come to a tube well nearby to fetch water and I would follow her.” This romance however did not last as Biro got married to someone else and Singh got busy with his newfound love for running.

Milkha Singh with family

Milkha Singh got married to Nirmal Kaur, former captain of the Indian Women’s Volleyball team in 1962. The couple first met in Ceylon in 1955. Together they have three daughters and a son, Jheev Milkha Singh. Jheev is a renowned professional golfer and the first Indian golfer to make it to the European Tour.  Clearly these athletes form a family of high achievers.

After exchanging pleasantries I expressed my utter shock at how similar he looked to Farhan Akthar

Singh expressed his deep unhappiness at the fact that Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was banned in Pakistan. “If you watch the movie rationally you will realize that in no way does it put Pakistan down. I was left scarred after my family was butchered right in front of my eyes, isn’t that natural? The movie depicts my sentiments at that time truthfully. This doesn’t mean I think of Pakistan as an enemy. I’m sure a lot Pakistanis my age went through the same trauma during partition, so they would understand this best.  That was just not a good time.”

A young Milkha Singh
A young Milkha Singh
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh

Talking about Abdul Khaliq, the Pakistani sprinter he beat in 1960, Singh shared that during the 1971 war when Khaliq was imprisoned, he went to meet him and made sure he was treated well.

 “When you return to Pakistan please give my message to everyone back home. I am very fond of Pakistan,” he said. “I was born in Pakistan and it is where I got the title ‘the Flying Sikh.’ After my race in Pakistan against Abdul Khaliq, President Ayub Khan told me that I did not run, I flew, and gave me this appellation.”

Milkha Singh has lived an inspirational life from which both Indians and Pakistanis can learn a thing or two. His discipline and passion are admirable and perhaps the key to his success and youthfulness. But most importantly, his story testifies to the fact that hard work and dedication go a long way.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Milkha Singh, Prasoon Joshi, Sonam Kapoor & Farhan Akhtar at the screening of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in London

Pages-from-FinalPaar Chanaa De by Arif Lohar and Saleema Jawaad: An ingenious reworking of the popular folk song. It’s pulse is the comforting lilt of the earthen ghharha. First-time recording artiste Saleema Jawaad’s vocals are like a wonderful cawing — think of a younger, more soulful Ila Arun — and give this song its emotional undertow. Arif Lohar is surprisingly tender; and the flute at the end is absolutely devastating. The crowning glory of ZB’s soundtrack.

Rating: 5 stars

Pataa Yaar Da by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan: Composer Sahir Ali Bagga has called this an experimental qawwali. It is certainly unusual in its choice of beat-cycle, which gives it an interesting, lopsided feel. Otherwise it’s laden with curvy tabla, a wailing harmonium and lush, creamy vocals — all of which makes it a standard Rahat Fateh Ali Khan number. Hummable and unremarkable.

Rating: 3 .5 stars

Paani da Bulbula by Abrar ul Haq: Playful, capricious, fun-poking, happily facetious. The endless-ridiculous rhyming (“Peeli batti wala paan, Coca Cola te Shezan, Rab tera nigehbaan”) give it the feel of a children’s limerick. Charming, clever and winsome, with Abrar at his wonky best.

Rating: 4 stars

Saari Saari Raat by Sahir Ali Bagga and Farah Anwar: This earnestly tragic song is the least interesting on the score. Sahir Ali Bagga’s vocals are muffled by their own emotional strivings; Farah Anwar’s are too high, and make her sound like a cartoon character.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Kurri Yes Ai by Amanat Ali and Iqra Ali: Confident, triumphant, sexy. Amanat Ali’s nasal croaking is edgy and lustful, though they make him sound suspiciously like Bollywood singer Mika Singh. The female vocalist, Iqra Ali, gives as good as she gets, and with twice as much attitude. The dhol and trumpet combination works wonders. Destined to blare from the woofers of fast cars everywhere.

Rating: 4 stars

Dekhein Gay by Jaabar Abbas: Nobody can believe that the voice on this track belongs to Jaabar Abbas from Geo TV’s ‘Hum Sab Ummeed Se Hein‘, and not to Bollywood crooner Sukhwinder Singh. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure; all I can say is I was waiting for Abbas to trip — to let in a quiver of distinctiveness — but he remained freakishly faithful to Sukhwinder until the end. Otherwise: this is a satirical song, written by novelist Mohammad Hanif, who evidently does dialogue with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s nazm of the same name, though in a decidedly less polished register. A grittier ‘Chhaiyya Chhaiyya‘, if you will.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Taariyaan by Sahir Ali Bagga: With clean beats and a jumpy, festive vibe, this is the perfect club anthem, seamlessly combining the warmth of Punjabi revelry with the anonymous carnality of a discotheque. Simple and additive, this song will keep you dancing through the night.

Rating: 4 stars


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