Waiting for Naseeruddin Shah

By Sonya Rehman

“I’m so sorry but Mr. Shah will not be available today, he’s out shooting a film, could you call back later on?” I hung up the phone feeling slightly perturbed. Three phone calls over a span of a week, and I still hadn’t been able to get a hold of Naseeruddin Shah for a few words on his Pakistani film debut in ‘Khuda Kay Liye’.

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But what could I have expected? The man is an absolute ‘star’ (in every sense of the word) and was bound to be globe-trotting for his art film shoots. Besides, I recalled a recent interview of his in which he stated his utmost aversion to giving interviews.

So instead of harassing a very frazzled Jairaj (Naseeruddin’s secretary), I decided to book three seats at one of the spiffiest cinema joints Lahore had to offer – “the one in Defence” (as everyone refers to it).
A few years ago, DHA cinema used to be a brilliant little auditorium that school and college kids used to avail for putting up private play productions, gigs and/or performances – and once you walk into the ‘now’ cinema, you’re bound to find yourself thrown slightly off balance. This is because the place has been totally transformed into a mini cinema pad; for one, the spiffy food bar (buttered popcorn, hot coffee and Redbull galore) that is situated right at the centre of the entrance and the cinema hall itself with its carpeted floors and deep red, sink-your-bum-in seats.
“Two hundred and fifty bucks for a ticket to watch a movie here?”, my brother commented as he glug-glugged down a Redbull, “not bad at all”.

“Yeah I suppose it is a little steep, but look at the crowd, you feel safe…I mean I could come down here anytime a good movie’s on with my girlfriends and not feel the least bit threatened”, Sara (a student at LGS) told me as she bought a bag of ‘Kur Kure’ and a cola. She was right, inside; the hall was full of families, women, children and teenyboppers.
And once we’d sunk into our chairs, the lights went out as three film trailers began screening – one such, featuring a grinning, rain-drenched Veena Malik, as she pranced atop hills and valleys into the arms of her beloved.
Peels of laughter reverberated within the hall and then…the film, ‘Khuda Kay Liye’, finally rolled out.
I’ll refrain from a long, droning spiel about the film, but allow me to state – for a pure, 100% Pakistani production, the movie is absolutely tops.

There were so many instances during the film which made one laugh and one’s eyes well up with tears as well – it was as if everyone present could relate with the film in some way or the other…and that ‘connection’ between film and audience is one of the main reasons as to why ‘Khuda Key Liye’ has been soaring at local box offices.
One particularly amusing part during the movie was when a bearded Fawad looked over at a stunned Iman and said: “Hamari shaadi ho rehi hay”, the girls in the audience broke out into such high-pitched giggles, that one couldn’t help but to laugh out loud along with them. It was endearing.

Another instance which was particularly hilarious was when the main FBI agent questions brawny Shaan why he likes Osama Bin Laden so much; “I don’t like Osama…maybe he likes me…maybe he’s gay or something” – the audience was in splits, truly.
From the acting, direction, soundtrack and script (most importantly), Shoaib Mansoor’s film is one fine creative undertaking.

“Andhar aag lagao, bahir khud bakhud ai gee”, Naseeruddin Shah said during his brief – but highly powerful – cameo appearance. What a line it was, and how it summed up the foundation of what ‘Khuda Key Liye’ is built upon.
Arriving back home – I opened my email inbox to find an email from Naseeruddin himself!
This is what it read: “I think Mansoor is making this film out of conviction and I share his feelings. As far as response goes, it is a broad-minded look at some aspects of Islam so I guess there will be the predictable objections by some.
However, instead of getting into a lather about a mere film, I would suggest to those who claim be ‘protecting the interests of Islam’ and those who are concerned about Islam to look at things which really matter to the community…and to do something about those.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

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