Getting to know the voices behind ‘The Donkey King’
by Kaukab Jahan
Animated Pakistani film The Donkey King released on Friday, generating a lot of hype among the masses, especially in the younger section of the society. The film opened to a positive response as people flocked to cinema halls to catch a genre which is less easily available in the country.
Directed by animated commercial filmmaker Aziz Jindani, with some scenes helmed by Ahsan Rahim, the film has an interesting star cast which includes the likes of Afzal Khan, Shabbir Jan, Sarmad Khoosat, Hina Dilpazeer, Jawed Sheikh, Ghulam Mohyuddin, Irfan Khoosat, Ismail Tara, Adeel Hashmi, Irfan Malik, Faisal Qureshi, Ahsan Rahim and Shafaat Ali.
In this conversation with Pakistan Today, the two leading characters of the film, Afzal Khan and Ghulam Mohyuddin, give us some hints about their roles in the film and how they feel about working in this genre.
Tell us about a little about your character in the film?
Well, I am the ‘Donkey King.’ My name is Mangu and my character is a donkey from the jungle who works as a cleaner or janitor but one day accidentally becomes the king. On what happens next, you will have to see in the cinema.
Where did you get your inspiration from for the character?
Actually from myself. ‘Mangu’ has been inspired from my debut role, ‘John Rambo’ in a PTV play Guest House which aired in early 1990s. The animated character of donkey is even wearing the same clothes (a black t-shirt and orange trousers) that John Rambo usually wore. And as one must have noted in the trailer, Mangu is calling himself ‘John Mangu’.
How difficult was it to act without seeing your character?
I’ve done almost 150 films and the practice of dubbing has helped me a lot in this film. In animated films, we dub the voice first by seeing some sketches or details of our characters. The scenes and actions are created later according to the voice over.
How long did it take for you to be the Donkey King?
It took about a year and a half to complete this film. In beginning, the director Aziz Jindani wanted to make a film for children as there was very little work being done in this sector in the country. But as we worked along, the film developed into something that could be enjoyed by adults as well. The Donkey King will attract every age group.
What character are you playing in the film?
I am the king (lion) of jungle. Which is an important character after the donkey king. Actually, I am the one against who the donkey becomes a king. The script is very interesting has many surprises in store for the audiences.
How was your experience of doing an animated role?
As per the procedure of animated films, you first record the voice and then create images. My experience of working in the radio helped me a lot in the film, where the character is only written on paper and you have to play it with your voice. Moreso, this is my second animated film.
Watch the trailer below:
ALL SET TO STEER THE SHIP: SHAYAN KHAN
Sitting in the dining lounge of a plush hotel over breakfast, Shayan Khan looked nothing but a composed and determined person. We chatted casually; Shayan only chose to eat boiled eggs and a bowl of porridge as he thoroughly took care of his nutrition and thus a fit body of an actor. After the breakfast, we moved to a quiet and comfortable corner of the lounge so I could take some notes while talking to him in detail about his on-going projects, his upcoming tasks and of course about himself; Shayan Khan.
At the moment, he is busy completing various projects simultaneously under his production company ZASHKO Films. Shayan is committed to producing good content in the Pakistani entertainment industry.
Shayan has just finished his shoot of Mandi, a six episodes web series, based on the political scenario of Pakistan. Starring Saba Qamar, Mikaal Zulfiqar, and himself in leading roles, Mandi is very close to Shayan’s heart. He portrays a police officer in the series for which he has grown moustaches as well. The actor’s enthusiasm was obvious when I got a chance to witness the shoot of Mandi, where on a dark and cold night of December at Lahore Cargo Railway Station, Shayan was doing stunts in a police uniform.
Written and directed by Awais Khan Mandi is supposed to be on an US-based VOD platform in the summer of this year, Shayan confirmed.
MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
But before Mandi, Shayan is eagerly waiting for the release of his project on coming eid, Money Back Guarantee, written and directed by Faisal Qureshi and stars Fawad Khan and Wasim Akram in leading roles.
Shayan is very optimistic about the success of MBG, “My first film Na Band Na Barati was mediocre as I didn’t have the idea of the craft of filmmaking. So, for my next project, I read about 30 to 40 scripts and MBG was 31st one of them.”
About the casting of MBG, in which Shayan also plays an important role, the actor explained he completely left it to the director.
“I didn’t even know in which role he was casting me in. I asked him for the role of Pashtun (in the script) but he offered a different character to me. So, I didn’t pressurize him even a little as I had faith in him as the captain of the ship.”
He is up on two other projects as well; one is a political satire comedy film Head Mein Kachra, also written and directed by Faisal Qureshi, while other is Gama, a story on the life of unbeatable wrestler of Sub-continent, Gama The Great or Rustam-e-Hind, being written by veteran Nasir Adeeb.
Why he chose Gama as the topic of his film, the actor explained, “It is actually my childhood inspiration. I have been working out since a very young age, and also fond of boxing and wrestling. And if you are into these things, you eventually end up knowing about Gama. When I started reading about Gama, I came to know who actually was. The icon was just an ordinary man in the beginning, not like the one who was born with the abilities of a professional wrestler, but just from the power of his mind, built himself so strong that nobody could defeat him. As I personally believe in the power of mind, he remains my motivation till now.”
SHAYAN: FOCUSSED, ACHIEVER
Shayan Khan permanently resides in Houston, USA, where his primary business is in real estate. How he came into showbiz, is a long story, which started from his childhood, when he was studying in junior grades at St Michael’s school at Clifton Karachi,
“I was a very shy and quiet student, but despite this reluctance, my teachers always picked me for the performance in school functions. And once the actor in me was on stage, I began to get in love with the art of performance.”
Shayna’s father was also very fond of films, hence encouraged his growing son (also because of his looks and height) to go into acting.
When Shayan moved to the USA in 1999, still in his early teens, brought his love of acting there as well and wanted to join acting school but at the time, his family’s financial conditions became unstable, so had to leave his passion for earning money.
“I was not privileged enough to spend all my time in auditions to get a chance in Hollywood while my parents were struggling for money. So, I decided to first establish my business, and then opt for acting.”
Surprisingly, Shayan never vied for fame but always enjoyed doing different challenging things in performing arts. The young enthusiast kept trying in acting when was still struggling in business. He participated in Mr Pakistan competition which he finally won and did a few theatres and commercials.
IN FILM BUSINESS
Why did he decide to make his own film, Shayan’s reason is quite interesting and makes sense too. “I can’t be hired for months for a project as it will detract me from my primary responsibility as a CEO of my company in the USA.
“If I come to Pakistan just to act in dramas or films and occupy myself for three to four months, I would lose a lot in my already established business back in the USA. So, to satisfy my passion of acting without losing anything, I bet on financing my own projects and hiring myself as an actor in it. In this way, I can do both traits simultaneously; as a producer on the back which is purely a profit making business and as an actor on front focusing my entire mind to my art. It will be viable as it would pay for my time and money in the end”, he explains.
Besides production, Shayan also wishes to make a market for Pakistani films in the USA. His production company ZASHKO has distributed Pakistani films like Superstar, Heer Maan Ja, and Durj in USA. So with ZASHKO, Shayan is full circle in the film business from acting to production and to distribution.
STRATEGY AND PLANS FOR FILM INDUSTRY
Despite all his passion and enthusiasm for Pakistani film, he believes that one should avoid investing money in a very first project just to get into the industry.
“I know it is not that easy to enter into the industry and gain its trust but in any case, go artistically. You have to do your research, read 1000s of scripts, pick a couple of good ones, get involved with the right people of the industry and then bet your 100 million on it. If you go this way, you can double your profit.”
Shayan entered film making in 2016 with Na Band Na Barati and it took almost six years for him to produce viable projects. Now, he claims to know who is who of the industry; who can write well, and which director can do better on specific scripts.
A PASSIONATE, A BELIEVER
Shayan firmly believes anything is possible if one puts their mind into it.
“If I am in the Pakistani film industry today it is just because of my passion and determination. I didn’t even know how I would reach there but I believed in my dream then God also helped me and made ways for me.”
Having a strong belief in him, Shayan once wanted to be a cricketer, “I wanted to be the best cricketer. So I became the fastest bowler in my area in Karachi, but in the USA, which is not a cricket nation, my priorities changed, and instead of learning another sport, I targeted my focus on business and profits and eventually got success.”
GIVING IT BACK
Despite having a successful business empire in the USA, money was never a greed for Shayan, as he took money as an object which can take him closer to his purpose of life.
Financing in the film industry, Shayan is setting an example for hundreds of other successful business persons in the USA, who want to invest in the film industry of Pakistan but are not sure of its return.
Khan believes that if he has got the chance to become successful in the USA then it is his duty to give it back to people in Pakistan.
“USA has everything, what more I can give to them. My passion is more towards my people. Whatever you do and wherever you go, you always belong to your roots.”
“I would love to take Pakistani artists to the USA to introduce them to a world stage. I hope we will go to Hollywood and work there as well.”
A FAMILY BOND
Shayan is very close to his mother and wants to provide her all the comfort of life, “I didn’t want to see my mother working day and night for a living. I knew she wanted a big and comfortable house. And I am thankful that I made her dream come true.”
Besides his mother, Shayan keeps a strong connection with his siblings, especially his brother, who supported him all the way through this entire journey. He finds it fortunate that money has never come in between their bond.
Talking about his family, Shayan had an unconditional love for them in his eyes. They even have named their company ZASHKO Films on the first two initials of the names of three siblings; it is ZA from his elder brother Zain Farooqi, SH from Shayan, and KO from Komal, their younger sister.
After establishing a viable business, Shayan is also helping his larger family by inducting them in their business in the USA from Pakistan.
“Our entire family is very close, so when we went to the USA; it was really a tough time for us to settle in a place where we hardly knew someone. In 1999, Houston was like a Jungle, with only small pockets of neighbourhood. But with these difficulties, we also enjoyed financial success. After establishing our business, we needed to engage others in it as well. Then we decided to start with family. So, first my khalas and mamoos came, then my phuphos. Then there came our parents’ cousins and their children. Now most of our immediate and distant family is in Houston.
WHAT FOR HIS NEXT GENERATION
Would he encourage his children to come into the field of showbiz, Shayan desired them to decide their profession on their own.
“They are still very young so I cannot say at the moment how much they would be passionate for showbiz, but if they want to come into this field, they would obviously have some assistance from me while the rest will have to be prove by exploring their own ways and yes, by completing their necessary education. In today’s world, it is much easier to express your talent through social media and I think my children are already exposed to it at a certain level.”
WHAT MORE IN FUTURE
Shayan has all the plans for a regular or permanent economic activity in the film industry of Pakistan.
“Besides, our production houses in Karachi and Lahore, we also have an IT company in Pakistan. So I am already doing a lot of things in Pakistan but yes, my new goal is to work more in films by making more content, dealing directly with America for the platforms like Netflix, Amazon or Disney Plus, without going through some other country. At the moment, we have to go through to India or Dubai.
As far as the university or academy is concerned, Shayan would love to contribute to the already existing infrastructure of art studies in Pakistan. “Actually at the moment I am still learning the traits of acting and production and want to reach the level of perfection not least than Zia Mohyuddin Saheb. After that I would love to establish a whole institute for art education.”
Gama Will Set New Standards: Nasir Adeeb
The writer of Pakistani feature film Gama, Nasir Adeeb spills beans on what his new venture would probably have for the audience, who have high hopes from him after witnessing amazing work from the playwright, the feature film The Legend Of Maula Jatt.
Based on the life of the Sub-continent’s undefeated wrestling champion of 20th century, The Great Gama or Rustem-e-Hind, Gama, produced by Shayan Khan of ZASHKO Films, would purely be a commercial film, in which the important incidents of Gama’s life would be portrayed in possible real manner, according to Adeeb.
The real name of Gama was Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt, who was born in a village of Amritsar District of Punjab, the then British India in 1878. He is considered one of the greatest Indian wrestlers (pehelwan) of all time and remained an undefeated wrestling champion, throughout his career, spanning more than 52 years. The legendary wrestler migrated to Pakistan, after the partition and died in the city of Lahore in 1960.
Here are some interesting aspects of the Gama, right from the mouth of the writer, which might be if interest of cine-lovers.
Talking more about the film, the writer said, “The Gama would be biographical account on the life of of The Great Gama but it will be written within the format of a feature film. The main highlight of the story is the portraying an undefeated wrestler in the entire world. Moreover, we put commercial elements like romance and interesting aspects of the personal life as well to fulfil the requirements of a commercial film”.
The language of the film is Punjabi but according to Adeeb it will be entirely different from his last films especially the recent one TLOMJ. In most of his Punjabi films, the characters keep challenging the system, but Gama is set in a different environment, which depicts the life of the wrestler spanning over the eras i.e. pre-partition and post-partition of Sub-Continent.
He said that though so much happened before and during the life Gama, on local and international fronts but the film would not be a political or social drama.
He added that when writing a biopic, it is necessary to keep in mind the specific era and its incidents happened around the life of that specific personality and Gama’s life witnessed a lot of big incidents like Indian Rebellion of 1857, 20 years before the birth of Gama, WWI and WWII, and the establishment of Pakistan, so the film would need a hefty budget to not only create the aura of 19th and 20th century but also to show those historical events to supporting the story of the film.
How much outrage, the trademark of Adeeb’s films, would Gama have
Talking about the violence in the film, as most of his movies have, The Wehshi Jatt writer said, “Most of my Punjabi films has a kind of violence in them, as they are against the corrupt system, but Gama lived in an entire different era, and moreover, the film is more focussed on Gama’s professional life as a wrestler, it is obvious there would be a lot of action in the film instead of violence.
The Romance In Gama
Adeeb also assure about the presence of romance in the movie, as that era was a quite peaceful period overall.
Whatever account was available on the life of Gama; the writer has gone through all of it and extracted what he needed for his story. He has only chosen the wrestler’s three to four highlighted fights, on which the entire film would be based.
He also specified that no one from the family of the wrestler has contacted him nor he had called them for any information but added that whenever in future, they contact the production tem, they will definitely meet them.
Adeeb believes as Gama is a universal personality so any one can make anything on him and assured that his film would promote the image of legendary athlete in a positive manner and nothing in the story is going to put the wrestler in any negative light.
What are his expectations from the film, once the script is completed, the writer said, very high.
“Why I agreed to write it when Shayan told me about making of film Gama because I believed what standard and fantastical world Bilal Lashari has presented in TLOMJ, other film makers would follow that.”
But yes, it needs an ample amount of budget as it this film is a film, depicting the period in which many important and crucial incidents took place, he added.
Adeeb’s first choice to direct this film is Bilal Lashari while the second option is legendary Hasan Askari. He has no third option in his mind for the director of this film. He believes in the skills of Lashari and also trusts Askari, who till this age, has a potential and vision to make a larger than life, but leaves final decision on producers of the film.
Who Would Play Gama?
Replying to, who did he think would be the most suitable actor for the role of Gama? Nasir said he was sure that whoever would do this character; have to keep him under observation for at least four to six months in order to make a muscular and bulky body and gain a lot of weight to look more like Gama.
“At the moment all our male actors are slim. They go to gym to have a muscular body but they look healthy not bulky like a pehlwaan. There is a difference between a muscular body and a wrestler body. Like Amir Khan put a lot of weight for his role in Dangal, so let’s see who would be ready to do this for Gama.”
The writer further added that in his opinion, if Shayan Khan himself takes the risk of gaining weight, he could also be a good choice do the character of Gama.
IMGC Announced Upcoming Film Under Its Banner
The renowned film distribution company of Pakistan, IMGC has recently announced the films going to be distributed in the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year under its banner.
Now when the cinemas all over the world are functioning fully after the closure of almost of 20 month after the closure of almost 20 month Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, Pakistani film industry is currently relying on the backlogs of films which were supposed to be released in last two years.
The films which would be distributed by IMGC are films form the backlog have been made under the big banners and are waiting in line to be released at right time.
Here are the list of films that has been and announced to distributed by DC after the reopening of cinemas.
Kamli (3rd June 2022)
Kamli was released on 3rd June 2022, stars Saba Qamar, Sania Saeed and Nimra Bucha as leads. Directed by Sarmad Khoosat, the film is a story of the emotion and desires of a woman which she mostly keeps secrete in our society. The film did decent business in the genre of an art film when the flow in cinemas was low firstly because of its off season release and secondly the reluctance of people to come habitually to cinemas after lockdowns.
Intezaar (19th August 2022)
Intezaar was thefilm, which actually cancelled its already announced plan of release because of lockdown in March 2020. It was finally released on 19th August 2022. Intezaar stars Samina Ahmad, Khalid Ahmad and Kaif Ghaznavi in major roles. Intezaar is directorial debut of veteran actress of Pakistan Sakina Samo. The film as the name suggest is tale of wait for something good and happy in the life of every character in the film.
Zarrar (25th November 2022)
The first date of the release of the film was announced 23 September 2022 but due to the emergency situations all over the country after recent floods, Shaan Shahid the lead cast and the writer and director of the film delay the release for one week. Now it will be in cinemas on 25th of November 2022.
The film is produced by Ejaz Shahid and Adnan Butt under the banner of Jehan Films. Zarrar is an action thriller about the patriotism and love of mother land. Shaan in the titular role of Zarrar is a secret agent, who is on a mission to solve the seemingly endless cycle of threats against his homeland of Pakistan.
Other cast of the film includes Kiran Malik, Nadeem Baig, Natyyar Ejaz and Shafqat Cheema in supporting characters.
Development of Zarrar started in 2016 when behind the scene shots of the film were shared by Shaan himself.
Neelofar (23 December 2022)
Neelofar would be the second film of Fawad Khan and third film of Mahira Khan this year. Both would have The Legend Of Maula Jatt releasing on 13 October on their credits, while Mahira who starred in Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad opposite Fahad Mustafa on eid-ul-fitr would celebrate Neelofar as her third film released in 2022.
The film is written and directed by debutant Ammar Rasool and a co-produced by Fawad Khan and IMGC.
The film lovers would also witness pair of Mahira and Fawad Khan on screen together third time after Hamsafar (2011) and The Legend Of Maula Jatt (October 2022), though this pair often appears together in many television commercials and fashion shoots.
Mahira Khan is playing a role of a blind girl in the movie. The principal shooting for Neelofar was completed in December 2020.
Aasman Bolay Ga (January 2023)
The final release date of the film has not yet been confirmed, but according to IMGC, it would most likely to be released in the first month of the next year.
ABG is written, directed and produced by veteran Shoaib Mansoor, under his company Shoman Films. Mansoor has given us block buster like Khuda Ke Liye (2007), Bol (2011), and Verna (2017). The film also seems to be the last instalment of his series which started in 2007 with KKL. According to Amjad Rasheed, all four instalments link each other as far as their names are concerned i.e. Khuda Ke Liye, Bol, Verna, Aasman Bolay Ga. All films highlighted the political and social issues of our society.
ABG stars Maya Ali and Emmad Irfani in lead roles. The title teaser of the film was released a couple of months ago by Shoiab Mansoor on his social media. In an interview to Dutche Welle last year Maya Ali revealed that she would be playing the role of a journalist in ABG.
Money Back Gurantee (21st April 2023)
Money Back Guarantee is a multi-starrer heavy budget Pakistani film produced by Zain Farooqi. The film, which has already created lot of buzz around the film circles, is directed by versatile Faisal Qureshi, who has released the first poster of the film digitally on his social media. Teaser of film will be released on 9th September and movie will hit the screens on 21 April in 2023, which would fall on the days of eid-ul-fitr.
The film which is under post production at the moment claims to be based on a novel concept, which covers a theme full of humour and suspense. The star cast of the film includes the leading stars of current era including Fawad Khan, Ayesha Omar, Mikaal Zulfiqar, John Rambo, Javed Sheikh, Hina Dilpazer, Mirza Gohar Rashid, Shayan Khan, Mani, Kiran Malik, Ali Safina, Shafaat Ali in important roles. Another surprise of the movie is the presence Sultan of Swing legendary cricketer Wasim Akram and his wife Shaniera Akram as actors.
The film was scheduled to release on 22 May 2020 (eid-ul-fitr); however, due to Covid-19 pandemic, the release of the movie was postponed.
Started as Distribution Club (Pvt) limited in 1953 by late Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, the company, since then has cascaded numerous (about 450) Pakistani and international films in country. Rasheed also established Independent AR Films in 1964 extending the operations of company.
The legacy continued when his son Shiekh Amjad Rasheed took charge of the affairs as the chairman after his father and established the group of company IMGC in 1985 with increased functions and a turnover of approximately 200 million US dollar. For last four decades Amjad Rasheed has been in a thriving business of film production and distribution and has the privilege of heading the Film Producers Association as Chairman two times to date.
DC also has its esteemed clients and partners both locally and globally like EROS, Yashraj, YTV, FOX, Zee, Red Chillies, Madhu, Balaji, Grand Showbiz, T-Series, Disney, Reliance, Shree International, Mahesh Bhatt, Rhythm Boy and White Hill etc.
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