You know there is something special with this director by the connect he made with the audience right from the first film. One might expect a filmmaker to be arrogant about his work who has had back to back successful films. But in my recent conversation with Wajahat Rauf, I found him to be humble and pleasantly down-to-earth.
With films like Karachi Se Lahore and Lahore Se Aagey to his credit, director Wajahat Rauf established himself as one of cinema's most promising filmmakers. His next Chhalawa, is a family drama and features Mehwish Hayat, Azfar Rehman, Asad Siddique, Zara Noor Abbas, Aashir Wajahat and Mehmood Aslam in lead roles.
In an exclusive interaction with HIP, Rauf gave us a sneak peek of what Chhalawa is all about:
HIP: My first question to you is, Karachi Se Lahore 3 was suppose to roll first, how did Chhalawa come your way?
Wajahat Rauf: We did reading sessions for Karachi se Lahore 3 but somehow it didn't excite me enough. It felt as if I was doing it all over again. I had a different idea in mind from a couple of years that was closer to my heart too, therefore 'Chhalawa' happened.
HIP: The introduction to the film is extremely compelling and holds one to see what's next. How's the response?
WR: Thank you. It feels good people liked it. The response has been overwhelming; leaving the audience wanting for more. We are planning to release the teaser by the end of March.
HIP: What is Chhalawa all about?
WR: Chhalawa is a refreshing take on family and romance with a unique blend of comedy. It sheds light on the communication gap between generations; it explores the nuances of father - daughter relationships and sibling bonds through an emotional, effective and dramatic manner that could be a great way of communicating and passing a message, which is what really my endeavor was as a filmmaker. It's different from my previous body of work. Chhalawa is fun at the same time is loaded with emotional elements as well.
HIP: You have turned 'one man army' for this one. You have written, directed and produced the film. How was the experience of doing it all?
WR: This isn't the first time I am performing multiple tasks; I've had a good practice with my web series Enaaya where I was balancing various departments. I would like to mention 'Yasir Hussain' who wrote some scenes with me.
HIP: Do you fear that your fans might well have forgotten you, as they have not seen you on the big screen for nearly three years?
WR: Not really! Voice Over Man and Enaaya kept me pretty much alive (smiles).
HIP: Post Enaaya Mehwish Hayat, Asad Siddique and Azfar Rehman seem to be your good luck charm. How did they come on board?
WR: Mehwish, Asad and Azfar are brilliant actors to say the least. I am very fond of them personally and professionally. Also, we have entered that era where I personally find this generation of actors extremely competent and committed.
HIP: Was it a conscious decision to cast Asad and Zara together in a film?
WR: Initially I was in talks with some other actor for the part that couldn't work out. Asad is an extremely talented and effortless actor so why not him? Besides Zara and Asad complement each other and I was pretty sure that their real life chemistry would surely translate on screen too.
HIP: As a director, how do you ensure everyone is on the same page as you are?
WR: I read the ‘art of war’ just kidding. I believe you just have to explain your vision to the actors. Films are a director's medium and it's the director's vision that starts this whole process. As for actors, it's always convenient to back out after the script reading sessions, but once you are done with a couple of sessions the entire team comes at the same page automatically. Intelligent actors completely surrender themselves to the director. As a filmmaker I create a convincing environment that gives audiences a feeling of it being real as if they are not witnessing something that is happening very far away from them.
HIP: Are you a self-critical person?
WR: Yes Definitely! I feel one can always do better. I look at my work very critically on the contrary I never praise my work not even amongst people in my close circle.
HIP: You earlier films were shot superbly at exquisite locations. How tough was it to shoot for the film?
WR: Shooting a film has always been the easiest part for me. The challenge comes in the post production work where you create the look and feel. It's not just about dialogues and background score; it's like creating a piece of art, no matter how abstract it would turn out to be.
HIP: Aashir graces the silver screen again with Chhalawa. How did he come on board?
WR: Strong recommendation (smiles) I wanted a kid who could act and Aashir is good at it.
HIP: Will Aashir be crooning a song in the film?
WR: Well he hasn’t done an entire song, he has crooned a part for the title track.
HIP: Critical acclaim or box office?
WR: The conventional way to answer this is to opt for both, but I must say critical acclaim really matters to me.
HIP: With the exit of Bollywood from our theaters, what do you think the festival clash of local films seem to be a sign of worry?
WR: Eid clashes are not new. Every now and then there are big ticket releases that hit screens together, so there is nothing to worry about.
HIP: My last question is what is your view on today's cinema and audience? What do you think of the current scenario in terms of the quality of content and the quality of the audience?
WR: In recent times the cinema industry of Pakistan is on the verge of defining its shape. I feel our films are improving with each passing day in terms of content, executions and production value. 2018 witnessed some really superbly executed films for instance Teefa in Trouble, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 and Load Wedding. 2019 will be a great year for films as it offers a wide films with different genres. The box office revenues in 2018 were double as compared to 2017. It's so nice to know that the audience wants to see your work. A film without an audience makes no sense. The audience has matured over the period of time; they know what to watch and what not to watch.