Director Adnan Sarwar studied to be a doctor, but as they say, he was destined for the stars.
His first movie, “Shah” (2015), on a slim budget of 8.5 million Pakistani rupees (196,264.9 dirhams), earned him rich acclaim. It also turned out to be a (sleeper) blow.
The movie was based on a true-to-life story about a poor Karachi dog who grew up to be an Olympic boxing champion. His next movie, Motorcycle Girl, is once again a dramatic novel about Zenith Irfan, a Pakistani Christian girl who drove north on her motorcycle alone. It didn’t make much noise at the box office, but her biography was praised for her prowess and spirit.
Sarwar appeared as the author. By his own admission, he is a soloist as he writes, produces, directs and composes music for all of his projects. He even wrote the main character in Shah. Hence, Parwan Khalladi is somewhat of a departure for him, as he directs someone else’s script here. But he considers it a “nice experience”.
Sarwar admits that he attracted sports movies because he always played cricket and was an athlete. While filming “Shah”, his spine was severely injured and he was out of service for two years. But thanks to his indomitable sportsmanship, he was able to overcome the injury and return to work sooner than advised by his doctor. “It has been a long and painful journey,” he told Gulf News. “Good to be back on my feet and work!”
Like all of his works, Parwan Khiladi promises to be “a very human story, of struggle and companionship, except that it’s about cricket. It illustrates the hero’s journey, and the obstacles he must overcome. Cricket is like a character in the story.”
Tell us how Parwan Khalladi landed. What attracted you to it?
Usually, I produce my own projects, with my own company. But knowing that Nina [Kashif] And skilled [Khan] Producers will be a huge attraction. I am grateful that they reached out to me.
Having said that, I’ve always wanted to do something cricket-related. When the opportunity presents itself, I was, like, let’s do it! Also, I thought it would be fun to work with other people [as producers]. Otherwise, I am working in my own little bubble. I work in isolation from the rest of the industry in any way. But it was a beautiful experience!
For Shah, she trained as boxing. What kind of preparation is required in “Parwan Khiladi”?
I’ve played cricket all my life – I’ve been a college hitter – and watched a lot of cricket, like any other Pakistani, so it was a good starting point. Besides, I was an athlete, so I have a natural inclination towards sports movies. Sports stories have a path, The Hero’s Journey, which I love very much. [‘Baarwan Khiladi’] It is also the story of the rise of the underdog. As the title suggests, it’s about the 12th player instead of the 11th player.
I am not acting [in ‘Baarwan Khiladi’], So I didn’t need to take any training personally, but once I joined the board, I put the cast members on month-long training sessions.
Was filming a cricket sequence anything difficult?
I am familiar with how sports series are portrayed in Pakistani films and dramas, so my idea was to try to raise this to a degree that I would be happy with. You aim for the stars and you’ll always fail but at least you end up somewhere sensible. Much research has been done on how other people shoot cricket, and how people launched baseball, especially in Hollywood movies. We took the indicators and tried to implement them within our limited budget.
What kind of training did the boys get?
We had professional cricketers attached to the team. Some of them are also included in the series – as characters. Luckily, our kids are all Zaporoastrian [fantastic] Cricketers. They just needed to improve their game a little. So they trained for about a month. It also enabled me, as a director, to define a specific type of stroke that I could focus on.
Tell us how to express the characters.
The cast goes to Nina and Mahra. By the time I was brought in, they already had people in mind for a certain type of role. It’s an incredible crew. When you drop the trailer, you’ll see that there are some big surprises!
Are you hinting at some special aspects?
My idea of a special appearance is not someone who puts it for face value. So yeah, there are things you might call cameos, but they are good and strong core characters.
Which sports movies have inspired you?
You recently saw “Money Ball”; It had a real impact. I loved some other movies like “Million Dollar Baby”, “Cinderella Man”, “Any Given Sunday” and “Dangal”. “Rush” is my all-time favorite. What a great photo! I also did a car race, you know!
Was this the first time I directed someone else’s script? How was the experience?
There are filmmakers in the world who are soloists, because they have enough to say in different mediums. For example, if I have time to try to play music myself, because I look at it in a multidimensional way. Having to explain it to someone else takes a lot of time and damages me emotionally and physically.
I find it difficult to work with other people’s scripts for sure. I was presented with a lot of scenarios and I didn’t pick up anything at all, because I have a certain kind of sensitivity that might be strange to most people but this is the direction I have chosen for myself.
As for Parwan Khiladi, I had several reasons not to go alone – I was getting out of surgery, not in a position to do the entire job myself, and looking for a support system around me, then apparently I’m a manager the producers gave me time not to be attached to what It is on paper. Our screenwriter is Shahid Dujar. I’ve only met him once, but I think he has some great ideas.
What is the display case?
We are currently in post production. We filmed it in 24 days, with almost the same team – my DOP, my editor.
When a filmmaker switches to a web series, what are the challenges they face? Is there an element of self-doubt?
Really doubt those who love cinema, who are here [cinema has lots of doubt]! Because there you have to face the oversight board and then there are the box office considerations.
Technically speaking, the accidental format was something new to me. In the movie, you might be able to let the character only have five minutes of screen time, but in the episodic format you can give them more time to develop. But I didn’t see it as a challenge, I looked at it as a canvas that had grown up.
I think it is a misconception that the level of implementation for OTT platforms is somewhat different from what it is in cinema. If you watch “Queen’s Gambit” or “Giri / Haji” on Netflix, you will notice that people put a lot of effort into making these products look like cinema. Our intention was the same. We have looked at it as proof of concept that this was possible, for example, Rs Rs!
Do you play a character in the movie? Maybe this is from the coach?
No. Honestly, for me, my health is now the first. My doctor actually told me not to start working before Oct 21, but I was so bored. I don’t work to tire myself – I only work a set number of hours per day. I wanted to take on an easy amount of workload that I could handle.
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