Visionary Financial Consultant turned Actor, Writer and Producer Adnan Ahmed Butt who plays the antagonist character in his debut film ‘Zaraar’, shares his experience and his long- term projections for Pakistani cinema ahead.
‘Zaraar is a Spy Action Thriller movie based on a secret agent who takes on a global mission to end threats to his native homeland of Pakistan’
Tell me about your transition from the Finance industry to the Entertainment and Film industry and how did you land the role of Mahaveer?
I moved to the UK in 1999, so I guess all my adult life perhaps, I studied at Bournemouth University and have been working in the finance industry, but I have also been a member of The Dramatic Theatre Society, I guess that’s the first stepping- stone to how I became involved in the film industry.
Back in the days, this story was written as Khalifa and presented through Jehan Films with Awais Raoof Chairman of University of Lahore in Pakistan, which is the largest private university here. He became a great friend over the years and he is the Executive Producer of Zaraar and myself am the Co-Producer. Basically, acting at that time wasn’t really on the plate, but then when Shaan knew that he has watched some of my theatre performances are different from camera performances, he suggested that I should audition for this particular character, which I landed as Mahavir Singh Rajput.
Then I had to attend a three- week Auditioning/workshop with him, which was conducted at his place. I had to deliver from the speech modulation to the walk, to the camera, to the gestures to expressions. There were also other people who auditioned for this particular character. I was travelling back from London and he called me with the good news that kind he was happy and willing to give me the role, but then he gave me two conditions. One of the conditions was to get in shape to achieve a certain muscle mass within six months.
You play the antagonist villain in the movie and have co-produced too how did you find that?
Initially it was a little difficult, but then you get used to it. Working with Shaan has been an absolute treat and as for Legend Nadeem Sahib, has been absolutely amazing person to me personally, and I have learned a lot from him. So I guess it’s been absolutely fantastic journey.
Will you continue to work in the genre of action, thriller and espionage, what’s in the future pipeline?
It’s very important to be open- minded. There is a considerablendifference between being a theatre actor and a film actor because a theatre actor lives in a particular character for a long time and stays stagnant but with a film actor your adapting and being challenged. I’ve learned this over time and I guess this is important. So I’m open to all different kinds of characters. In fact, my next project, which I’m doing for Netflix is going to be on the floors in March and what I’m playing there, as a character is completely different from what I’ve played in this one.
I think, a couple of more projects that are actually at the moment in discussion. They are very exciting projects, two of them are film projects and a song that are all going to show a different side to me. So I think this entirely as an actor that it is very important to be open towards different characters and broaden our scope.
You previously mentioned that your ultimate objective was to create an investment model for Pakistani cinema. Tell me about your vision for the Pakistani film industry?
I think it’s really important that you raise that and I did say that I think in the beginning, I think what was discussed between Awais Raoof who I consider a visionary for Pakistani cinema.
His vision and obviously what I’ve contributed to it was, what is lacking at the moment is actually as an investment model in the Pakistan film industry. We in Pakistan here, not very film-, friendly country and no rebates are available to the entrepreneurs or to the corporates, who want to invest. For example; the British model have certain schemes that have been introduced by the government where you invest in something and your tax liability flourishes into a fruitful investment. So I guess that starts from how you present your investment model. There has to be a solid base to it.
When I say investment model, I’m talking about the ‘CTV’ (cost to value), this is one of the things we have created in the cost to value analysis when we were working on the project. We also knew that in the future we would involve other people who are very passionate. I know so many people in the UK who are willing to invest in Pakistani cinema and they’re very patriotic, but they’re switched on and aware of what ROI’s they want from that investment. They would need to be given a platform as a one-stop solution for their investments. We have created a whole facility in Jehan Films to cater that.
So what’s the problem at large then?
The problem they face is generally they come here and they seem to get lost in a maze. They don’t understand how and where to start and how to go about it. If you go into any investment industry in the UK, it’s basically really simple with black and white figures. The client knows that this is what he is investing and this will be his ROI. The projection is very static and solid. That study hasn’t been conducted here in Pakistan because unfortunately, cinema industry has been in an infancy stage.
Well is the Pakistani film industry reaching from its’ infancy stage it’s prime now?
With the release of films launching at this moment in time and like bullets from a gun too. The release of ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt have been a topic for the dinner table. The British audience is naturally curious about the political situation of Pakistan that is showcased through our news channels, but this film is on another level shedding the light on the silent political warfare-taking place on a global scale behind closed doors. We have heard of the FBI, FIA, MI5, CIA, but the Pakistani intelligence Service of Zaraar meaning (damage) is this is designed to captivate an in international audience, what are you thoughts about that?
That’s what we’ve primarily tried to do. We tried to create an international appeal to the movie and I think what’s been happening previously is that there’s a lot of local subjects designed in Pakistan, For example; family issues being prevalent in drama serials and there’s also a certain audience who enjoy watching that, but my point is then so many of us can feel disconnected from that, and that’s the reason we have created an international appeal incorporating both the Pakistani and English language simultaneously.
We put the film in such a way that people all over the globe can relate putting in a lot of effort into it. This is a very pocket running product meaning the search going on for behind the scenes of this country.
I’ve always felt that we’ve been listening to the stories written by others about us and we haven’t been the writers of our own stories until now, and I guess this is where somebody has to do it. This is a Pakistani narrative and this is what we feel that as a nation we’ve been bullied across the world. I mean, there’s so much I can go into so much detail, but the main point is to try to relay that in a creative yet commercial way which is very important.
So what was what was your most challenging part in the in the movie in the making of the movie?
There were a few challenges, Firstly the preparation was a mountain to climb for me. I had to basically come down to ninety- two kg- muscle mass in six months. That was hard, but I tried my best as much as I possibly could because I had to get a certain look and obviously growing a longer beard because I’m playing the tough iron- laden villain, primarily.
The other thing was there was no stunt double, so I had to do all the sequences of collisions, the jumping from the nine- story building that’s all done by myself. Shaan was fortunate enough to have his stunt- double but I had to train in a very short span of time to train I will say that’s why it’s challenging because sprained my ankle and had many injuries while doing that. We also endure some challenges shooting in the UK with the logistics and getting permissions into central London, so I guess there was so many challenges, but I guess one of the most important ones for me as an individual actor, was to do all my stunt double myself and more importantly, I think, losing those kilos and turning into muscle mass.
Well I’m sure that you must be proud of those achievements now and sometimes we need a kick in the rear from others. So what was the best part?
The best part is that we’ve worked really well as a team and there was always such a big party going on. We all just really enjoyed being together all the time as a team throughout the difficult times too laughing and joking.
So is there a softer side to the movie apart from all the action?
There’s an unrequited love and romance aspect to the movie. When you see the romance it’s very mature, probably into the mid forties romance, where you know, things happen in a deep way.
What was it like working with your Co-star?
Shaan has been an absolute tremendous sport in this film with his wonderful, smart approach as well. He got us through the line with the shoots. I mean, he has delivered his best because he has experience in hundreds of films, so that made a lot of difference in London and in Turkey whilst shooting, I remember we shot in Istanbul and we had to close the entire Bosporus Bridge for almost an hour and a half in a certain car chase sequence. I haven’t worked with so many people, but not sure if anyone else could have done what he did so well.
Which cultures do you like best and where would you like to escape to next?
I consider myself well travelled because of my work, but I think I would want to rather live in another country. Possibly Turkey in the future because I consider it like a second home with a modern yet traditional Islamic culture, the other thing is that you can go and you can get halal food anywhere otherwise when I go to travelling, you have to turn yourself into vegans. I’ve recently been to Albania, and also love the idea of Southern Italy.
“ Zaraar is like a Panadol tablet sugar coated with commercial appeal, to provide the Pakistani people with some form pain relief from the emotional torment and bullying they have endured over the years and yet being entertained”