Osman Khalid Butt, who won the Agent of Social Change Award, at the Masala! Awards 2018, won this with Amna Ilyas who also is co-starring with him in the upcoming film Baaji. Directed by Saqib Malik and starring Meera, Mohsin Abbas Haider and Naiyer Ejaz, the film is all drama, all glamor, all the time. Set to release on June 28, the teaser recently dropped and social media was aglow with praise. The full trailer would be released soon but if the teaser is anything to go by, there will be enough to like. What did Osman think of the reactions?
“For me the most exciting thing about the reaction was how the narrative around Meera was changing,” replies the Diyar e Dil actor. “I have lived through the creation of Baaji.” Just as an actor? What else does Osman do for Baaji, the film? “I was not just an actor,” Osman answers. “I’ve worked on the choreography, I’m the creative director of one of the songs, I’ve helped out with the dialog, made my debut as lyricist, I’ve invested myself in everything.” So we’ll see a lot of Osman everywhere in the film. Osman laughs. “Behind the scenes and in front of the camera, yes.”
Baaji is the story of an ageing actress and another young woman wanting to have it all in the glamourous world of Lollywood. “I believe our generation has forgotten Meera the actress,” says Osman. It’s all about Meera the social media phenomenon. This film is a fantastic reintroduction to the powerhouse performer that she was. She’s feeling the limelight. That last shot when she turns around and you hear her say love me or hate me but you can never replace me – it gave me goose bumps. She’s just so brilliant. I’m so happy that people have praised the teaser.”
Osman loves how the film is being loved for “the glamor, for the darkness”. He loves how they’ve “embraced the pulpiness of the film. It could have gone either way. People could have said oh no what is this, this is so over-the-top. But no. People have understood it. I’m very happy to see that.”
How close is the persona to the person who the world knows as Meera? “This is not a biopic,” Osman responds. “There are some real-to-reel life similarities. The film is very self-aware. Saqib Malik (the director) has this love for old school Lollywood and he has this understanding of the new age cinema. So that’s the perfect marriage. Some people said that it’s almost a competition between old and new Lollywood – and I love the conversations it has stirred. There are comparisons to All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard. There are some intentional reference. But it is not a remake of any of the movies. It is an homage to the genre.”
When we talk of comparisons of Baaji, in terms of genre, to the rest of the films like Fawad Khan’s The Legend of Maula Jatt and Mehwish Hayat’s Chhalawa, and whether Baaji has a unique selling point over any of them, Osman says, “First off, it’s a great that we’re embracing our roots with films like Maula Jatt 2 and Baaji. But I do believe Baaji has a unique advantage. As a film, it’s entertaining enough. It’s off-beat. Midway through the teaser, when I was watching it with my friends, they said wait a second, it’s not what we were expecting. Saqib has always had that edge, even in his music videos. Alongside the drama, there’s also a hint of darkness. And the plot is relatable too.”
Of late, Pakistani cinema has really grown. It has offered a variety of films – most of which are nothing like the films of 90s, where there was simply a different taste and audience of cinema. “We’ve all grown up watching that change,” Osman says. “And here is a film that’s actually showcasing that. Meera herself is going to be a major USP. The characters are very human, so the lines are blurred, which is going to make Baaji a very interesting character study apart from being a drama.”
Watch the teaser here.