“It took us 16 drafts before we finalised the script,” says Ali Zafar of his new release, Teefa in Trouble, incidentally his first Pakistani film as an actor, that hits the theatres today (July 19) in the UAE. Ali dons many new hats with this movie – that of producer, actor, music director and writer.
Multi-tasking comes easy to Ali who has previously been seen in Bollywood films like Tere Bin Laden, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Total Siyappa and the most recent one, Dear Zindagi with none other than Alia Bhatt. But with Teefa…, he enters new territory. Fortunately, comfort level is already there with Yash Raj Films who he had worked with in Mere Brother..., distributing it in this region, nevertheless it’s a test of sorts for the singer to prove he could be accepted commercially and critically as an actor in Lollywood.
From the trailers, Teefa… looks like, what in trade parlance would be called, a ‘safe film’. The story of a guy who gets enlisted by the son of a gangster to kidnap a woman for an arranged marriage, the movie appears to have the tried and tested ingredients – romance, comedy, action, music and a (non) item number – so we naturally want to know what’s different in this one from the ones that we haven’t seen before.
Ali goes into a strange analogy. “It’s like Biryani, everyone knows how to make it but the ingredients and how it’s made is what makes one dish different from the other.” So what were err… his ingredients in this Biryani? “If you see, stories are limited, so you must focus on how you tell the story. My aim was to ensure that the audience leaves the theatre fulfilled. This is a film that has its own set of emotions, it’s a genre of its own. We tried to bring a freshness to the narrative,” he says, emphasising that his own preference is alternative cinema but those with a commercial element that captures the very difficult ‘balance’ between art and mart.
Of course, Ali seems aware that the same old ‘my film is different’ excuse won’t really cut with an aware and intelligent audience. “Audiences in Pakistan are like anywhere else. They too are exposed to the best of world cinema and TV shows. They have multiple choices for entertainment and are in no mood to accept mediocrity,” he says, adding that the experience has taught him the importance of writing – the 16 drafts! “I have learnt that story and content is most important, how you translate what you write is what matters the most among all the varied aspects of production.
One element that can be said to be fresh is the characterisation of his heroine, Anya, played by the pretty Maya Ali. She is seen looking glamorous, dancing and doing all the things a regular ‘heroine’ does but can be seen kicking some butt as well! “Thank god, this came my way! I have already cried enough on TV, I was dying to do something different,” says Maya. “So when Ali offered me this movie, I accepted it happily.
A still from Teefa In Trouble
She has all the predictably nice things to say about her producer. “I have always seen him very calm, it’s not easy. It is to Ali’s credit that he always maintained a positive atmosphere on the sets.”
“I hate negativity though I am receptive of criticism. But if there is criticism for the sake of it, I just block it out,” says Ali. There is no point in stressing over things.”
Sounds pretty much like the happy-go-lucky Teefa in the trailers. Over to the critics and the public now!
Teefa in Trouble releases in the UAE today