By Asif Khan
Naveed Farooqi falls among those far and few film producers for whom art means something larger than life. They are always striving to make a difference by keeping themselves away from becoming part of the rat race and following a stereotypical mindset. That’s probably why his recent short film Naam Badel Dena (NBD) is making waves on the international front. So far it has been declared a winner in 12 international film festivals including Golden Lion, Knight of the Reel Awards 2023, Sundarban, Beyond Border, Gliff, Mumbai Bollywood, Makizhmithran, SIFF 2022, Caravan, Dimond Bell, and last but not least it is among the finalist of CANNES World Film Festival. In an exclusive yet candid tete-e-tete with Social Diary, the Canadian returned producer opens up and shares how life has brought him this far.
SD: How did your journey begin?
Naveed: Although “Naam Badal Dena(NBD)” would be my launching pad for my production company Deep Blue Doors (DBD), established last year but I have been into production since 2011 and made four short films for various festivals but I haven’t envisioned that I will be releasing all these films altogether, from DBD one day. The journey started off in 2011 with the first short film “Lust”. Being the first project, it made me learn so many things about production, direction, and other technical areas of filmmaking, and my interest multiplied manifolds. Sarwat Gillani was the main lead and she delivered the role meticulously. Then in 2013 came up with “Umeed ka Safar” which was sort of a documentary made on the revival of the train journey showing how exotic and romantic it happens to be. In 2015 I produced yet another short film lshq La Hasil which grabbed Dadasaheb Palki Award and Chupan Chupai which also brought critical acclaim by winning President of Pakistan Award.
SD: How did the process of NBD initiate?
Naveed: I had the vision, passion, and finances but I needed a person who knew exactly what the standards of contemporary cinema are. After establishing DBD, I went on hiring for my core team and the first one who got on board with me was ace director Arshila Salman, having solid industry experience. Unfortunately in Pakistan, those who are associated with TV dramas and serials happen to be the filmmakers also; which is why the difference between film and drama has diminished. Whereas a film has a different fabric and requires altogether a different treatment. So while making NBD we made sure that from acting to editing, cinematography, color grading, shots, and their angels; everything remained picture perfect and our nomination for Cannes Festival endorses that our efforts were sincere and apt.
SD: Were you aware of the entry parameters of international film festivals?
Naveed: I keenly watch and observe international cinema and that’s how I remain fully well versed with its required Pre-requisite. When I came to Pakistan, I had to come across a conventional mindset. Industry people used to tell me that; “Sir jee Aajkal Yeh Chal Raha Hai ” and I used to respond that I don’t need that, “ub woh chalay ga jo mere zehn mein chul raha hai”.
SD: How did you get the story and shortlist the cast?
Naveed: The concept is the brainchild of Arshila and it has been neatly scripted by Rida Bilal who is also a distinguished writer with many outstanding work to her credit. The story was so catchy and absorbing that after finalizing the cast we were literally on the set within Seventeen days. As far as the selection of the cast is concerned that was the difficult part. Initially Zara Noor Abbas and Kinza Razaq were in our mind but due to some reasons, it didn’t work out as planned meanwhile Hira and Arsalan Khan were roped in the project and when they appeared for auditions they really proved their versatility. From narrating poetry to deliverance of dialogues and expressions, we found them tailor-mademinds for the roles.
SD: Would you like to tell us about the OST?
Naveed: The poetry of the OST- lamha lamha, is my brainchild and it has been beautifully sung by Attia Khokar. The protuberant part of the soundtrack is its musical arrangement which has a high quotient of flutes, drums, and sitar which takes the song to next level and feels very soothing.
SD: When do you plan to get its official curtain raiser?
Naveed: We will launch it once it gets through the festivals because a lot of festivals will also screen the project but I’m also planning to do a private screening along with some media personnel and the cast.
SD: Why do we see a huge gap after Chuppan Chuppai?
Naveed: After Chuppan Chappai, my personal life confronted many challenges; I was migrating to Canada , me and my wife were parting ways, then few deaths happened in the family, I got occupied in my engineering business and finally the world faced the worst spell of a pandemic. It was the time we all got locked in and courtesy to my artistic urge, I felt that I should start working on my YouTube Channel and came up with woh batain teri, it kept growing and growing; it got monetized and still has a reasonable viewership.
SD: Why do you restrict to only short films? Why not a full fledged feature film?
Naveed: Today no one has that much time to spend on anything. Things are programmed in a faster mode now. Take the example of cricket. There is no more following of test matches and even ODIs now. Twenty -Twenty format is pretty popular and things are heading toward the 10/10 format now. Similarly, international festivals welcome short films and acknowledge their potential and reach.
SD: So what do you think is more difficult, compacting a script into a few minutes or making it into a full dramatic thing of 3 hours?
Naveed: Compacting and keeping your content concise is far more challenging than a ninety-minute film. In a short film, with a nice snip here and a wise cut there, you have to make your content comprehensible besides disseminating a tangible message at the same time, and that too in a few minutes.
SD: Have you decided; what would your next project likely be?
Naveed: There are few projects I am currently working on and I have sent two scripts for approval to some big platforms like amazon prime. Once they get approved, I will proceed ahead and hopefully, by the month of March, my team will be marching ahead with some incredible stories.