Movie “Streets of Karachi” Generates Excitement
By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui
Shoieb Yunus and Nadia Hussain
Adil Murad, Munnawar Saeed and Shoieb Yunus discuss the script
With all the notoriety that the city of Karachi has attracted during the past two decades in the international media and even within Pakistan, it is high time that somebody made an attempt to expose the religiously tolerant side of this vibrant metropolis. Those of us who grew up on the streets of Karachi look back with fondness at a time when our parents had little to worry about in terms of our safety or give a second thought to our cherished interactions with several minorities in our midst, especially the Christians, Hindus and Parsis (Zoroastrians).
A movie named “Streets of Karachi” from Precept Productions has recently been completed, so one just had to track down its producer and director Shoieb Yunus (SY) and ask him a few questions. The prospect of Karachi in celluloid (to use an old pre-digital term) has some of us quite excited. Let us see what we can find out about this project from Shoieb before we get a chance to view the movie itself.
Q. What can you tell us about Precept Productions?
SY: In August 2005, I co-founded Precept along with my friend, Jawad Qureshi who is Chairman of the company. Precept has its offices in San Francisco Bay Area, and Karachi, Pakistan. Precept Productions is a media division of Precept Global Access (www.preceptglobalaccess.com). Todate, we have produced 100 hours of entertainment programming for television in Pakistan. Our first television program – a music talent grooming show - titled, “Gaao Celebrity Bun Jaao” (in English, “Sing and Be a Celebrity”) was aired on Geo Television in Pakistan, and seen by the viewers worldwide. Our other programs have been aired on different television channels including ATV, Vibe and others.
Q. What attracts a couple of computer scientists (Jawad Qureshi and you) to the world of movies and film-making?
SY: We are both experienced entrepreneurs and have experience in starting new companies, building teams, creating value proposition and having an exit strategy. We believe one must redefine and re-engineer himself/herself to challenge one’s own limits and capabilities. Precept story and we venturing into this playing field are part of the same game plan.
Q. Your most recent effort is your first feature film “Streets of Karachi”, a movie in which you also make your directional debut. What inspired you to venture into direction?
SY: Storytelling can take various forms and shapes. Directing a film is a form of storytelling too. I have studied and observed “the filmmaking techniques” of a number of leading Hollywood filmmakers. Since I wrote the story and co-developed the script, I felt I must direct the film to do justice to the script. What truly inspired me to venture into direction was to present the stories of ordinary people onto the screen, with strong cinematic visuals that viewers can relate to.
Q. Now for the main reason for this interview. What can you tell us about the “Streets of Karachi” story?
SY: “Streets of Karachi ” is a drama about a man, who has achieved success in the United States but realizes that his success and the possession of material things are not making him happy. He visits his ancestral hometown of Karachi, explores the city, sees immense contrast on the streets, and realizes Karachi is a vibrant city as well as the backbone of his country, where people from all over Pakistan come to fulfill their dreams. And, then events take a turn.
There’s one more thing I wanted to highlight, and that was the fact that there’s tolerance amongst the people of Pakistan. In Karachi, people of different faiths such as Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis (Zoroastrians) live peacefully and practice their religion. In fact, during the film shoot we were welcomed at the Parsi Community Center on the occasion of Nouroz, and at the Hindu Compound in Ranchore Lines area at the Hindu Holi festival. We also visited a Sikh Gurdawara and met the local Sikhs there. I strongly felt without the participation and coverage of the minorities, we could not have captured the full essence of the story.
Q. We have heard that the concept and the storyline for the screenplay were also developed by you (co written with M. Dilawar Khan and Abdul Salam Naz). Is there a message that you are trying to convey in it?
SY: There are multiple messages that we want to convey: Karachi is a mega-city of 16 million people. It’s a modern and vibrant city, and it has its own set of issues just like any other mega-city in the world; for foreign filmmakers Pakistan could be an interesting place as a source of unique and interesting stories; Pakistan has got a lot of talent, it just needs to be honed and channelized in proper direction; for the American and European viewers, this film provides a portal into Pakistan, as they have a keen interest to know more about Pakistan in view of today’s geo-political situation.
Q. You picked Adil Murad as the leading man for this film. We were all big fans of his father Waheed Murad. How did you make the decision to choose him for the role?
SY: This was my second project with Adil Murad. I picked Adil because he perfectly fitted into the character. Adil’s character is a dynamic, educated and smart young man who is willing to undertake a project with a lot of unknowns and surprises.
Q. And now to the leading lady Nadia Hussain. Any particular reason for picking her?
SY: This was my first project with Nadia Hussain. Once again, I found her a perfect match for the character, an educated, confident and intelligent young woman who has family values, and may very well represent today’s enlightened Pakistan young woman.
Q. I will not ask the same question of Munnawar Saeed since he is a seasoned veteran. What role does he play in Streets of Karachi?
SY: This was also my second project with Munawar Saeed. I must say, he is a very cooperative and friendly person with a great sense of humor. He has played the role of Dr. Pasha, a retired university professor and father of Adil Murad’s character.
Q. Can you name a few movies that you have seen in the past five years that have inspired you to be a part of South Asian film entertainment?
SY: I wouldn’t put the time limit of past 5 years. There is a wide array of films, such as “French Connection” (directed by William Friedkin), “The God Father” (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), “The Sixth Sense” (directed by M. Night Shyamalan), “A Time to Kill” (directed by Joel Schumacher), “Taxi Driver” (directed by Martin Scorcese), “North by Northwest” (directed by Alfred Hitchcock), “Mystic River” (directed by Clint Eastwood), “Escape from Alcatraz” (directed by Don Siegel), “Broken Arrow” (directed by John Woo), have deeply inspired me.
Q. Do you think that the Pakistani film industry is now positioned for a turn around? And can we expect its production quality to improve?
SY: I think we have got a long road ahead of us. There is no short cut to the final destination. Most recently, Shoaib Mansoor produced and directed “Khuda Kay Liye”, and it has received shining reviews. I find it very encouraging for the entire industry and upcoming filmmakers. What’s most important is that filmmakers need to break out of conventional filmmaking techniques and below-average stories. Only modern filmmaking techniques, high-end professional-grade camera and lighting, sound design, unconventional directional and proper casting will produce high-quality production.
Q: When is the premiere of “Streets of Karachi” expected?
SY: The US premiere is to be held in Palo Alto, California on August 16th.
Q. Future film projects?
SY: I have started working on multiple film projects: a special-interest documentary film; a thriller to be shot in Thailand; and an English feature film for worldwide audiences. All of these projects are at different stages of planning and pre-production at the moment.
Some thoughts did come to mind after this interview. The full story of this film is not available to us, but we do have a few hints here. So to close let us hope that “Streets of Karachi” does justice to our precious memories of Pakistan’s largest city, the peaceful times that have passed and, more importantly, those yet to come.