Shoaib Mansoor plan a sequel to the flim Khuda Kay Liye

Khuda Kay Liye

Surprisingly the Pakistani fundamentalists also kept their peace. “The majority of the audience reacted so positively that they didn’t have the guts to raise their voice. Also, I covered my bases well. If Naseeruddin Shah’s anti-fundamentalist rhetorics had any flaws I’d have been hauled over the coals. I’ve a fair command over my religion. However if you ask a maulvi about it, he would say I am not Muslim at all specially after seeing my film. But I’d like to say I’m a far better Muslim than any maulvi. Just as they say, they’re doing a Jihaad I’d like to think I’ve done Jihaad through my film. If I’ve shown so much courage and taken such a personal risk to depict the true meaning of religious faith it’s a form of Jihaad born of strong convictions.” It isn’t as if Shoaib Mansoor thinks it’s all peaches-and-creams in the Land Of Dreams. “If you and I travel together you can sail through customs. But I’ll be grilled although I dress conventionally. Intolerance is a way of life in every culture. Even today, women are treated as commodities in many countries. Through my leading lady Iman Ali I wanted to show how women are treated.”

And now Shoaib Mansoor plans a sequel to Khuda Kay Liye. “But I wonder if I’m equal to the task. I had members of the cast who didn’t behave well during the shooting. How can I work with them again? My lead actor Shan gave an interview before the release of Khuda Kay Liye where he said I had made the film only for myself and for my close friends. These commercial actors believe audiences actually want potboilers.” So did Shan apologize after Khuda Kay Liye succeeded? “Apologize? He hasn’t called me once since the release. The whole of Pakistan has changed their mind about Shan after my film. I Believe I could only realize 50% of my script. I don’t want to go through that suffering. Whatever I make, it would’ve a powerful message. I feel I’ve to use the cinematic medium to say something meaningful.”

Apparently the leading man Shan who’s a major star in Pakistan gave Mansoor hell. He evades the question. “Maybe these stars behave the same way with all directors. Later I found out that these stars were being far more disciplined with me than with other Pakistani filmmakers. I wish they’d have looked at Naseeruddin Shah. What convictions and integrity he has! After hearing my script his first condition was, ‘I’d do it for free’. My other actors first wanted to know how much money they’d get.” Interestingly all the actors except Naseer and Shan in Khuda Kay Liye were feature-film firsts. Shoaib’s next film could be an Indo-Pak production. “I’d like that. I feel the predicament regarding religious bigotry is the same in both countries. I feel Pakistan and India are casualties of wrong policies. I wish to address my films to these issues. It’s important to bring about an awakening in people. Not that I feel cinema can change mindsets. I don’t think Khuda Kay Liye has revised Muslim bigotry.”

Shoaib is gung-ho about Jodhaa-Akbar. “The effort and the funds are evident. I was awed by the film’s magnitude. I wish I could make a period film like this. History and fiction are my lifelines. I’m very interested in the life of Akbar. And I’m very impressed by Jodhaa-Akbar. My only grouse is that Hrithik Roshan is miscast. It was important to make sure that the actor who plays a historical character is correct in posture and bearing. In my own film too some actors were miscast. But then I wasn’t in a negotiable position.”

Shoaib admits Khuda Kay Liye got recognition outside Pakistan only at film festivals. “The film went through a nightmare in the US. I had no distribution setup. So I negotiated with some people on the e-mail. On trust, I sent them the prints of the film. They ran the film for a month in the US. And then vanished with the funds and the prints. In fact, I should make a film on my experiences while making the film. For example, the actor whom I initially wanted in the lead Junaid Jamshed was my close friend. I introduced him on television and promoted him to become a top musician in Pakistan. When I offered him the role he said yes eagerly. But then he became a mullah and lost nerve. I lost precious eight months in his dillydallying.”

Reacting to the film’s box office performance in India, Shoaib says, “I keep myself away from such things. But I wish the film’s Indian distributors had treated it with more importance. It’s the costliest film ever made in Pakistan. And I raised the funds somehow on my own.”

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