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In conversation with Azfar Rehman

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WHEN DETERMINATION IS THE RULE OF THE GAME

Azfar Rehman is one of those male actors of Pakistan, who because of their director’s actor qualities, become the foremost choice of many projects. Born in Karachi to a Kashmiri family, Azfar started his career as a model when he was 16. After studies, he joined an exclusive English monthly of Pakistan as a journalist. He got his TV break as the host of a celebrity talk show in 2006 called ‘Spotlight with Azfar Rehman’, before turning to acting. Serials like Baityaan, Noor Pur Ki Rani, Dugdugi, Ladies Park, Sitamgar, Bunty I Love You, and most recent Aatish have given him much critical acclaim and praise from the audience. He has also gained label of film star by doing a cameo on ‘Manto’ and a supporting role in ‘Pinjab Nahin  Jaongi’ and now playing lead in an upcoming eid release ‘Chhalawa’. He is very content to work with director like Wajahat Rauf and actors like Mehwish Hayat and hope that this family entertainer will compel audience to come to cinema.

Here is the chat with this hardworking actor about his association and expectations from Chhalawa.  

Now you are a lead in Chhalawa. Are you excited or nervous?

To be honest, I feel a little nervous with this achievement as I believe I must not disappoint my fans and audience. Audience of film pay first before get entertained. So I think it is my responsibility that I should entertain them to my full efforts.

Have you made some extra efforts to become a film hero?

I have been coming as a hero or main lead in dramas for almost last 10 years, but the concept of a hero in a film is something very different. In film, you have to dance well and do fighting and action sequences. I had to go through a new whole training process for this film. 

From trailer, Chhalawa seems to be portraying Punjab. What is your character and have you also spoken Punjabi in film?  

My character in the film is of Urdu speaking boy, while both the heroines belong to Punjabi family. I can’t reveal much but there is full Punjabi tarka in the film.

How much you have danced in the film?

I have two songs on me, full with dance. I hope people will like them. I was a bit tense in beginning but I practiced and got extended training of dance. It was a very refreshing experience. Whab Shah was our choreographer. He has done tremendous job.

How was the experience of working with Mehwish Hayat?

Mehwish is an amazing person. We are family friends for last 11 years. So, being friends, our comfort level has worked a lot in this film. It is also a fact that she is much senior than me in experience as Chhalawa is her seventh and mine is third film, but she is very accommodating and supportive. You learn a lot from her. I never felt that I was working with such a big star.

How was working with Wajahat Rauf?

He was the most supportive in the whole team. He almost spoon feed us everything. I found him very distinctive with entirely different sensibility from the rest of the film makers of the country. His style is slightly westernized and mind-set is very open. Even Mehwish found him very different though she has a quite a good experience of working with many directors. She used to say sometimes during shoot that if she was doing film first time.

Do you think that you have done justice to your role?

I think I did that role quite easily as I am almost the same in my real life. So, I didn’t need to act very differently. There were some emotional scenes (like some heart breaker) where I really had to act.

Is there any specific character which Asfar Rehman wants to do in his career?

What I feel that someone (a writer) should think or design a specific character for me. It should be a character which they think that no other actor can do better than me. I think a good character is a team work or combination of writer, director and actor. A writer creates and develops a character, which is carved by a director for screen and an actor put some soul and life in it. Every legendary character in the history of film has these three forces behind it.

In what genre of films you like most to work in?

I want to do a serious love story, which is a little less depressing than Devdas and much more close to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Mien Ne Pyar Kiya. It should be something like a sheer fantasy love story. I want people to come to cinema to enjoy quality entertainment; laugh, get emotional a bit, listen to good music, watch dances and go home with a light and happy heart.

What do you prefer? Television or film. In Pakistan, we can never leave television as there are not many films being made here. So, to keep our regular earnings coming, we have to continue television and in my case I say yes to good scripts

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Music, Dance and Mehwish are Chhalawa only saving grace

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Rating: 2.5/5

Chhalawa is a story of a very traditional family. Chaudhary Rafaqat (Mehmood Aslam) has two daughters and a son. The elder one is Zoya (Mehwish Hayat) who went to city for higher studies and now wants to marry the love of her life Sameer (Azfar Rehman) whom she met during her studies. His second daughter Haya (Zara Noor Abbas) is a fired up girl, who usually lives in her own fantasy world of films, desperate to fall in love and loves to dance in her room on Lollywood songs. His son Haroon (Ashir Wajahat) is another character, blunt slightly manner less but loves his sisters.

From here, the age-old story begins that Chaudhary wants his daughter Zoya to marry his nephew, as it is a tradition to marry girls in the family, Zoya resists and conflict begins.

The first half of the movie is still bearable where at least some kind of story is developing, after interval; it nosedives and leaves the audience wondering what is happening. For example, first song makes sense but second was there because someone wants it to be. No effort was made to put some sense in it.

The story is simple, it is told several hundred times before, both in Bollywood and in Pakistani Cinema, and then extra level of creativity is required to make it interesting. Unfortunately, that is the biggest issue with Chhalawa. Scenes lasting for several minutes, borderline jokes and most of all, Zoya’s letters to her mother were a big question mark.

With a star like Mehwish Hayat, if the movie is still not able to pull the audience in, then to an extent it is a crime.

Wajahat Rauf’s Chhalawa is particularly disappointing for many, because people considered it a third time charm. Surprisingly, all the actors in the film performed very well despite having a weak script and practically limited room to perform.

The biggest surprise is by far the Zara Noor Abbas who played Haya, Mehwish’s younger sister. Zara turns out to be someone who handles her comic timings well, she is sharp and witty, and yet cute enough to keep the audience engaged. She danced quite well in couples of scenes. Ashir Wajahat also performed better than expected, although his character did not have much to do except for a scene or two.

Although, Azfar Rehman looks good on screen, however I am unable to understand his character, at one time he wants to commit suicide, then he plans to win Zoya’s father heart, then he just runs away when she asked him and without making a scene leaves her when she asked him to do so.

Mehmood Aslam in his role is picture perfect until the climax where he insisted on carrying out his daughter’s Nikah after he was shot.

Mehwish Hayat as usual shines bright even in this very limited role. She did well when she was playing a lover, arguing with her father, running away from home and coming back and again succumbing to her father pressure, but her biggest wins are two songs i.e. ‘Chhalawa’ and ‘Chiriya’ where she danced her heart out. Wahab Shah’s Choreography was engaging and full of fun, that is the only positive that you can come out with in the entire saga of over 2 hours.

Only thing that can save this film is music; Shiraz Uppal did very well giving not one but two already hit songs to Pakistani Cinema.

This is the weakest ever Mehwish Hayatfilm by any standard, with films like Na Maloom Afraad, Actor in Law, Punjab Nahi Jaungi the superstar stumbles at the last ball of the over.

You can opt to watch Chhalawa if you like song and dance numbers and that too from Mehwish Hayat and if you are ready to leave your brain outside the cinema hall.

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ART Alert!

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Escape Through Art II curated by Mahaa Malik. Featuring the brilliant artists from all over Pakistan!

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I Wanted To Come With A New Story This Time

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Wajahat Rauf is a well-known Pakistani director, actor, screenwriter, producer, singer and host. He has the credit of many firsts of Pakistan on his shoulders from becoming the head of first youth-based entertainment channel AAG TV to the director of first Pakistani web series Enaaya starring Mehwish Hayat, which was shown on Eros International last year. Wajahat has established his own production company Showcase Films under which he has produced two successful comedy feature films Karachi Se Lahore (2015) and Lahore Se Aagey (2016) and over 25 television dramas. He has also started his youtube channel ‘Showcase Tv’ on which he is hosting a very popular satirical/comedy show ‘Vice Over Man’ in which he invites top notch showbiz celebrities of Pakistan and ask them some witty and funny questions. Being a staunch music lover, Wjahat has also produced many music videos; the recent one is Talaash also featuring his son Aashir Wajahat.  

His upcoming film, Chhalawa, releasing on Eid al-Fitr, is a “lighthearted love story” that is directed, produced and written by him. We talked to this multi-talented man from the idea casting and storyline of his upcoming flick.

We were expecting Karachi Se Lahore 2 this year but instead you have come up with Chhalawa?  How this idea came into your mind?

I had this idea in my mind for last three to four years. I discussed it too with to a few people. Then I shelved it for some period as I became busy in Karachi Se Lahore 3. I wrote the script of KSL3 and did some rehearsals but in the end I thought that it was going to be exactly as same as my first two movies. So, instead of presenting same type of story that is about road trip and comedy for even the third time consecutively, I thought it was better that I make a family rom-com film. Chhalawa is a family based story focusing more on sibling and father-daughter relations including romance and comedy.

You choose the super stars of industry as the heroines (female lead) but avoid casting a super star as heroes (male lead) of your films. Any big reason?

I think if you want to play in main stream cinema, one lead (from hero and heroine) of the film should be stronger, bigger and larger than other. It can be a female lead or male lead. Cinema needs a pull for the audience as ticket prices are high up to 800. So the factor of big names like Mehwish Hayat and Saba Qamar attract cine goers. So you need to have a one big star in a movie to pull the audience. I might change this formula in my next film where I cast a big name as hero (make lead) and a new comer as heroine (female lead).  But what I think is one big star is necessary or enough to pull audience towards cinema or for a successful film.

It doesn’t mean that film industry will not welcome new comers. My whole career is based around and introducing new talent.

You have shown a Punjabi culture in the film. Where have you mostly shot the film?

Surprisingly, most of our filming is in Karachi and Sindh. Locations include a haveli in Badin, and many more places of interior Sindh. We had our shooting in Punjab as well but for a few days only.

How many songs and dances in are in the film?

There are four songs in the film, in which two are dance based while other two are montage based. Whab Shah has choreographed the dances. He has done an excellent job. One dance number has been included in the trailer and second one is Chirya.  

Lasltly, tell us about your character in the film. We have not seen any glimpse in the trailer? Is it a surprise? My role? (Laughs) I am actually not fond of acting but there is a surprise about me in the film.

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