It’s a busy and exciting time for Sheheryar Munawar. His passion project Parey Hut Love, produced by his company, Vision Factory Films, releases this Eid and going by the scale and promotions as well as the response to its trailer, it would be safe to say that it’s one of the most important films to come out of Lollywood this year. A typical wedding film, the trailer gives the vibe of a breezy, fun and contemporary entertainer. The storyline is simple – a young free-willed commitment phobic aspiring actor meets a strong-willed woman and fall in love over a series of encounters at weddings. Sounds familiar? Maybe, but remember it’s the treatment, colours and performances that make for a fab film and this one seems to have got it all right. Giving him company is the lovely Maya Ali, last seen in Teefa In Trouble, who plays the sweet but strong Saniya. Sheheryar is super excited about this film and we can see why! Not only because it's his production but also because he feels it's the film that can place Pakistani films on the global map. He shares his excitement with Masala!
Parey Hut Love is being touted as one of the biggest films of the year. What makes it so special and different?
So many factors make Parey Hut Love big and special – the genre, the fact that it’s a classic young romance set against a beautiful canvas painted by (director) Asim Raza, the light, breezy treatment and the scale on which it has been mounted. It’s a feel-good, well-shot film that will remind you of your first love. Asim is a genius and a true artist with a lot sensitivity and finesse in his craft. The film has a 14-member strong cast which includes seasoned and young actors, stunning outfits by Umar Sayeed and Ismail Farid and a lot of grandeur. I think for audiences, be it in the UAE or elsewhere, this will be a visual treat.
What are your expectations from the film?
I have high expectations and hopes! Aside from the fact that it’s a beautifully shot film, the story is extravagant, flows well and is a true family entertainer. Moreover, it’s releasing at the right time – Eid – which gives it a festive feel. What I do know is that apart from the beautiful sets and look, what you will find amazing is this incredible chemistry between the lead pair (Maya and me).
In Ho Mann Jahaan, you played the role of an angry young man and in 7 Din Mohabbat In, you were a nerd. How would you describe your character in Parey Hut Love? How is it different from the roles you have played before?
In Ho Mann Jahaan, I played Arhan, an angry young man, a kind of an anti-hero. Of course, that’s far removed from what I am in real life! In 7 Din Mohabbat In, I was hiding behind another character which was completely different from me. But with this one (Parey Hut Love), I had to put a lot of shades of myself into this role. And that was a bit scary because as an actor, you are always afraid of bringing your own self onto the screen. My character has the same kind of insecurities that I faced growing up, as far as running away from my issues or sweeping them under the rug, were concerned.Thank god I have grown over that fear and those insecurities. However, Sheheryar (my character) is very relatable since most youngsters these days have similar fears of commitment – whether to a job, a relationship or even a hobby! A lot of millennials like to hop from one thing to the other. The issues of youngsters in this film are a lot more real and closer to home yet it’s projected in a larger-than-life commercial way.
What was working with Maya Ali like?
Maya is not just a talented actress, she is also a wonderful, positive human being. She had this amazing energy on sets and a very motherly vibe! Moreover, Maya is very disciplined. She would be there on the sets before time and put in her 100 per cent. Working with an actor like that motivates you to push your boundaries as well. Those people who have worked with me would know that I generally like to push myself so with her around, I was inspired to go the extra mile. Also, our chemistry is amazing, we have gotten great feedback on it.
Photography: Kuki’s Photography @Zillestudio; Stylist: Haani Sharique
JEWELLERY FOR MAYA: NEEMAR JEWELS; WARDROBE FOR SHEHERYAR &MAYA: FARAZ MANAN; MAKE-UP: ADNAN ANSARI; MAYA’S HAIR: ARSHAD KHAN; SHEHERYAR’S HAIR: RASHID AT RASHID'S SALON; PRODUCTION DESIGN: HINA FAROOQUI
Isn’t a wedding film a rather clichéd genre? Why do you think South Asians obsess over weddings?
I wouldn’t call it clichéd, it’s a commercial film which we have treated almost like a social commentary. If you watch the trailer, you would hear a line that my character says, “Ye kya obsession hai is kaum ko shaadi se!”. So we have made fun of this so-called obsession. Don’t look at it as merely a wedding film! Personally, I feel South Asians fuss over wedding so much because it’s a festival for us. You have got colours, celebrations, families coming together and all that jazz. Love stories start, friendships are formed and memories are made at weddings. That’s why, they are there so important to us. I wouldn’t actually call it an obsession.
What do you like and what do you hate the most about a big, fat Pakistani wedding?
I love the festivities, colours, dances, dinners and celebrations around a wedding. But the things that throw me off a little about a Pakistani wedding are the preparations that go into it, the effort to put things together and getting ready for it all!
What kind of wedding would you go in for – simple or the big one?
That’s a tough one. I would want a warm, intimate wedding with my close friends and family. I would say somewhere away from my normal life, probably like a destination wedding. It could be a weekend getaway or a celebration of a couple coming together and their friends, toasting and enjoying and cheering them.
We see Mahira and Fawad in the trailer as well. Why do you think star cameos are important?
If it’s an Asim Raza film, you’d be lucky enough to see Mahira and Fawad in it. Asim likes to work in a team and you would see those people repeated not just in front of the camera but also behind it. Having said that, Mahira is not playing a cameo but a special and an important role. Even Fawad’s role is important. The script needed someone who would captivate the audience when he comes on screen. That’s why we reached out to Fawad and he was kind enough to accept.
My take on star cameos is that people are stars for a reason; they can come and shine on screen even if they are there for a shot, a look or a scene. But in this film, they were needed since it’s about a struggling actor. You needed to see all those people around him from the acting world so it’s justified. But I do believe that having a cameo for the sake of it does not make any sense.
How many movies do you watch in a month? Is there any that you watched recently that made you go wow?
I try to watch a film a week, sometimes more. No recent film has made me go wow actually except for Gully Boy. Zoya Akhtar is an amazing director but this time she outdid herself. And Ranveer Singh, what a performance! It was just amazing.
As a producer and entrepreneur, what is your take on Pakistan’s fledgling, volatile industry? With Pakistan only having 118 screens vs 5000 screens in India, doubling the investment could be nearly impossible. What are the ‘calculated risks’ you take to ensure a successful return?
It’s an interesting question. I feel ours in an upcoming film industry that is slowly moving out of its state of infancy and gathering strength. It also needed a jolt to get the audiences in and develop the market. Apart from the box office expectations, there are expectations of investing in an industry we plan to stay and grow in and where we hope to attract an international audience. We have designed this film as a Pakistani movie that will appeal to a global audience. When I see my product right now, I’m glad and feel confident that it’s going to achieve those goals.
In India, being in the INR 100/200/300 crore club has become a fad now, what is your take on this? Pakistan has also started this obsession with ‘crore’ numbers or x amount of crores at the box office.
I feel it’s just a celebration of success. Marketers have realised that our generation suffers from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). They like creating a phenomenon around a film whereby they want to make it seem that if the audiences misses out on this, they would be missing out one something important. But aside from being a marketing gimmick, it’s always a business at the end of the day. Of course, as a filmmaker, your numbers do matter at the end of the day.
What are your future plans? What’s next on your plate? What would you like to produce next?
Parey Hut Love has been a strenuous process. Right after Parey Hut Love, a month’s break or a few days break is in order and then beyond that there are couple of scripts that my company is working on. We hope to get into multiple projects for next year. I have been toying with the idea of working on something interesting on television. As a producer, I would like to explore other mediums as well, just not films.
Watch the trailer for Parey Hut Love here: