Bite the Mango Film Festival had barely ended as I set out to prepare
myself for visiting the film industries in both Mumbai (formerly
Bombay) and Karachi.
this was my fifth visit to Mumbai in as many years, visiting Karachi
was a novelty as I had previously visited this huge city only once
before. My mission was simple - to network the Bite the Mango Film
Festival and to invite prominent stars to Bradford in 2005.
first stop was Mumbai in India
out of the plane at six in the morning, an intense blast of heat
welcomed me to Mumbai as well as an instant invasion of mosquitoes.
After the onslaught of the dreaded insects, I was then surrounded
by over-friendly rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers demanding I use
their services. I had finally arrived in Mumbai!
chosen taxi driver drove me to my hotel which was situated in an
area called Juhu (India's version of Hollywood) where the crème
de la crème of Indian thespians reside. In the 30 minute
journey from Mumbai International Airport to the hotel, the chosen
one talked incessantly of current Hindi films, classic films and
his favourite stars and directors. The man had some serious knowledge
about the Indian film industry and came across as an Indian Barry
Norman driving a taxi.
at my hotel, the "Sun 'N' Sands" truly lived up to its
name - the sun was there and the hotel was overlooking the Juhu
tells Irfan about her experience as a Pakistani working in India.
first full day in Mumbai was difficult. The heat was proving to
be a deterrent and travelling was wearisome - a 5km journey could
take anything between 30 minutes to two hour. Hence, when I went
to see filmmaker and good friend Mahesh Bhatt, it felt as though
I had already been in Mumbai for the last few months!
is very respected in India. He has a unique personality and is never
afraid to speak his mind. He has visited the Bite The Mango Film
Festival on two occasions, the last being 2004 where he delivered
a scriptwriting masterclass and conducted a memorable interview
with Indian cinema legend Dilip Kumar.
into his office, the first thing that struck me was a long line
of men waiting to see him with the slender hope that he may offer
them a bit part in his film. Overlooking these men and adding to
their nerves are framed posters of Bhatt's landmark films - Arth
(1982), Naam (1986), Aashiqui 1990), and the autobiographical Zakhm
welcomes me into his office where he is sitting with his brother
Mukesh, producer of all his films. Though it has only been two months
since I last saw him, Bhatt never fails to inspire me with his inimitable
dialogue and piercing eyes. After a cup of Mumbai coffee, Bhatt
introduces me to Daboo Malik who looks strikingly like the Indian
music composer Anu Malik, composer for Gurinder Chadha's Bride &
a tan and looking a million dollars," Rupak (here, with
Imran) has now appeared in her first feature.
I'd like to introduce you to Daboo, he is the younger brother of
Anu Malik" says Mahesh whilst chatting to other filmmakers
on his two mobile phones trying to strike a deal for another potential
is a young music director who has worked on a handful of Indian
films, mainly with filmmaker Sohail Khan. He is also a very close
friend of Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan. Next stop - Salman Khan!
Mahesh in the comfort of his two mobile phones and the long line
of aspiring actors which has grown considerably as Daboo and I set
out to meet Salman Khan - the man who has wooed millions across
the globe since he made his lead debut in Sooraj Barjatya's Maine
Pyar Kiya in 1989.
quite nervous at the prospect of meeting Salman, my aim was to talk
to him about the festival and to entice him into visiting Bradford
coolness, Bollywood's so called 'bad boy' was calm, softly spoken
and surprisingly shy. We talked about the plans for the festival
and how much his fans in Bradford would love to meet him. Accompanying
him was his brother filmmaker/actor Sohail Khan. Brother Sohail
looks after all of Salman's schedule and as we departed, Salman
said, "See you soon!"
legend Dilip Kumar: "One can only look forward to the
book his wife encouraging him to write!"
following day I made my way to a film shoot at a derelict factory
called Mukesh Mills. Taking the better part of two hours to get
there, I arrived at the shooting of the film Nazar (Look). Nazar,
directed by Sonia Razdan (wife of Mahesh Bhatt) features newcomer
Ashmit Patel as the lead. Opposite Patel is leading Pakstani model-turned-actress
Meera. The stunning Meera tells me about her experience as a Pakistani
working in India and the other projects she is working on.
my way around the set I hear a Birmingham accent call my name. I
look around and see Rupak Mann, winner of the TV programme Bollywood
Star. Sporting a tan and looking a million dollars, Rupak (who appeared
at the 2004 Bite the Mango Film Festival) is appearing in her first
feature thanks to Mahesh Bhatt. Rupak plays the role of a Muslim
woman who acts as a guardian to Meera's character. Nazar is due
for release this February.
following two weeks were hectic to say the least with visits to
more film sets at Film City and the legendary Kamal Amrohi Studio.
final stop was at the residence of Indian cinema legend Dilip Kumar.
Kumar also attended last year's Bite the Mango Film Festival. Arriving
at his house, it was great to see this legend again. Accompanied
by his wife Saira Bano, he took me out for a meal at Joggers Park,
an exclusive club on the outskirts of Mumbai. Looking well and healthy,
the legend reminisced about his visit to Bradford and his rare interview
on stage. One can only look forward to the book his wife is encouraging
him to write!
the "bustling city that is at the heart of Pakistani
television and film"
personalities I met during my visit to Mumbai were actors Amitabh
Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Avtar Gill, Emran Hashmi, Anupam Kher
and Anil Kapoor, actress Isha Koppikar and directors Subhash Ghai,
Govind Nihilani and Sangeet Sivan.
second leg of my trip took me to Karachi, a bustling city that is
at the heart of Pakistani television and film to a certain degree.
main point of contact there was the lovely Samina Peerzada, an accomplished
actress and director, and a major celebrity in Pakistan. Peerzada,
who has attended the Bite the Mango Film Festival on two occasions,
expressed her frustration at the demise of the film industry based
in Lahore (known as Lollywood). Out of frustration, Peerzada moved
to Karachi from Lahore 3 years ago and now has her own successful
television show Heart to Heart With Samina Peerzada every week.
was a good time to visit Karachi as their very own film festival
was taking place. The Karachi International Film Festival is a relatively
small film festival independently organised and in its fourth year.
Peerzada, Irfan and film actor Momair Rana.
is clear in Pakistan that there is a new wave of filmmakers who
are tackling the traditions of Pakistani Cinema. The industry in
Lahore is on its last legs as it has been utterly rejected both
by the public and the government. What I saw at the Karachi festival
was a fresh approach to filmmaking by a new generation who will
undoubtedly have a major say in where the future lies for the Pakistani
strong points in Pakistan are the television drama serials. India
admires Pakistan's television dramas, whereas Pakistan respects
India's film industry. But now we are seeing more and more joint
productions. It is down to daring people such as Mahesh Bhatt and
Samina Peerzada who will have a major part to play in the way how
both countries and industries will work together in the future.
Karachi was a real eye opener and an enjoyable experience. I was
fortunate enough to have an escort such as Samina. She also introduced
me personalities such as cricketer Wasim Akram, leading film actor
Momair Rana, TV stars and comedians Moin Akhtar and Omar Sharif,
and singers Junoon.
said and done, the Bite the Mango Film Festival later this year
promises to be a real treat for all movie lovers. Watch this space!
The Mango runs from September 30th to October 6th 2005