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021 vs. Press

Published (sans my name) in Daily Times / Karachi pages 28 Sep 2014. Hope someone fixes the mistake in their online edition.

Thank you Pheby Haroon for the invite.

NY Times casts Afghanistan in a new role as the ‘Saudi Arabia of Lithium’. A spy thriller that views the discovery of mineral wealth as a double edged sword is coming soon. ‘O21’ reserves this backdrop, and envisions the regional implications from the resultant tug of war between powerbrokers / allies clamoring for their share.
While the premise spawns endless conspiracy theories, espionage appears to be a logical extension of the counter-terrorism angle. The Af-Pak / US trinity becomes the perfect foil for those driven by a desire to put events on this side of Durand line in context. Before ‘O21’ makes its official debut, the press were invited to Nueplex Cinemas (Karachi) to meet the cast.

Among them was Azaan Sami Khan – CEO, ‘One Motion Pictures’. It is his first undertaking as a producer. The mantle of executive producer is worn by Zeba Bakhtiar. This is not her first rodeo. She had tried her hand at filmmaking once before, but was forced to retreat. Her timing had been off. A film industry seen riding the crest of success of recent box office hits, is amenable to experimentation, and beckons to a new crop of filmmakers. An opportunity to take back narrative control seems to inspire the creators.

The talented cast led by Shaan and Ayub Khoso includes 3 Americans - James Hallet, Wendy Haines, and Joe Towne. Award winning filmmaker Summer Nicks, who shares directing credit with Jami is also listed as a scriptwriter. Alfonso Gonzalez Aguilar provides the score, and Jami explains how the music wasn’t tacked on as an afterthought but painstakingly mapped out frame by frame, which can be added to the list of milestones. The briefing would continue with a sly little comedy bit by Gohar Rasheed and Bilal Ashraf, who traipsed down memory lane with young Azaan who practically grew up on the set, followed by Jami’s charming little improvised speech.

The final theatrical trailer was screened and applauded - twice. The cast shared their experiences, and a short clip that captured the behind the scenes drama was added. Invitees were then treated to the first 7 minutes of the movie, which was the ‘surprise’ part of the evening, and got a chance to grill the makers. The plot was dissected, choice of language questioned, use of Dolby Atmos surround sound appreciated, and the title misdiagnosed as Karachi’s calling code 021 The heroic lead last seen playing a disillusioned, yet chivalrous military man was hailed for his comeback, and his casting as a disillusioned yet chivalrous ‘Paackistani’ field officer that places him in danger of being type-cast viewed with unease. Their concerns would be seen as premature, and press-walas were asked to reserve judgment, till after the official premier.

Previous films that sought to elevate Pakistan’s role in the GWOT fell into the trap of taking a RAW-centric route which invariably ends up absolving the domestic enemy of its crimes. One hopes the next one can venture further into the geo-political minefield, without having its objectivity questioned, and be able to critique, without having its patriotism doubted. ‘Oh 21’ is due out in early October 2014.

PR: Phegency (Pheby Haroon)
Refreshments: Espresso

Images Subject to Copyright


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