At a time when top Pakistani actors and musicians are making a beeline for Bollywood, Indian actor Naseeruddin has quietly wrapped work for ‘Zinda Bhaag’, a Pakistani film that centres around the desperate urge of youth to find a better life abroad.
Besides playing a role in the film, Shah conducted a seven-day workshop in Lahore for young cast members who are appearing in a movie for the first time. Shah visited Pakistan’s cultural capital last month to familiarise himself with the city and to conduct the workshop.
Shah’s visits to the city were kept under wraps by the film’s producers as he wanted to work away from the gaze of the media. This is not the 61-year-old actor’s first appearance in a Pakistani movie – – he played a key role in ‘Khuda Ke Liye’ (2007) and that film’s director, Shoaib Mansoor, had wanted him for his next venture ‘Bol’ but Shah was unavailable.
“I came here a month ago for a week to practice my script and get familiar with the culture of Lahore. I came back to shoot for the film and my part wrapped up in five to six days,” Shah said before leaving for India on Wednesday.
Shah, who is fondly remembered in Pakistan for playing Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib in a television serial, said he could relate to the film’s script.
“‘Zinda Bhaag’ is a film based on the subject of illegal immigration. This is a big problem in Pakistan and India because overpopulation and lack of opportunities makes people desperate to flee to supposedly greener pastures,” he told The Express Tribune.
“There are people in this business who lure unemployed youth with false promises of money and luxury and send them abroad illegally. The subject of the film is very good and it deals with different issues that stem from the crime of illegal immigration.”
Shah plays an agent involved in illegal immigration. “He has different illegal businesses and one of them is to give hope of a dream life to youth, and (he) coaxes youngsters into giving him all their money. This is a film which is tailor-made for the Pakistani audience. It deals with the problems present in their society,” he said.
“Zinda Bhaag” has a mix of Punjabi and Urdu but Shah said his dialogue is mostly in Punjabi. He said part of his preparations during his visit to Pakistan last month was “to get a feel of the language before I start speaking it”.
Shah refused to drawn out on the issue of whether ‘Zinda Bhaag’ would be a commercial movie or an art film, saying there were only “good and bad” movies. He said Pakistani filmmakers were on the road to progress and he was extremely hopeful about the future of Lollywood.
“I am hopeful that’s why I am here. In India, many filmmakers make films to earn money but every once in a while when I get approached by young filmmakers who dream big, I help them in whatever way I can,” he said.
‘Zinda Bhaag’ is being co-directed by Meenu Gaur, who is of Indian origin, and Farjad Nabi and produced by Mazhar Zaidi. The directors are also responsible for the script. The shooting is likely to be completed in two more weeks and the film is expected to be released next year.