Superstar was a dream come true for me: Ehteshamuddin

Film & Drama   August 30, 2019
"Ever since I wanted to be a director, I wanted to work with Nadeem sahib"

Ehteshamuddin’s name is not new for those who have been watching films and TV dramas in Pakistan.

Not only he is a terrific actor – with roles in Chambaili, Actor In Law and Maalik ­to name a few – he has also directed the most critically acclaimed plays including Sadqay Tumare, Udaari and lately Aangan.

With Superstar, Ehteshamuddin managed to enter films and showed to the audience that if the will is there, you can achieve the impossible. What were the impossible aspects for the first-time feature film director and why he terms the project as a dream come true, let’s find out from him.

Spotlight had a chat with the director and he spoke his heart out for the first time since the film’s release.

Usually a film takes nearly a year to complete in Pakistan but we have come to know that you didn’t take that much time with Superstar. How was that possible, considering Aangan your period drama was on air at the same time?

‘I got the call to direct Superstar while I was working on Aangan and at first, I was skeptical as to how I would be able to do justice with both. But thankfully, we had constructive pre-production and an equally terrific post-production session that helped us in coming up with the film as Azaan Sami Khan and I had envisioned.’

It took us six months to shoot Superstar and that too happened because we planned it well. It was Azaan’s baby and although I got Mustafa Afridi on board for the dialogues, we stayed close to what he wanted. Mustafa made the dialogues more current, more filmi and that’s why when people hear Tamasha Hai To Tamasha Hi Sahi, they know that we worked hard on the film.

Let’s start with Azaan Sami Khan who must have been a kid when you started your TV career. How was it working with someone who didn’t even belong to your generation?

He may not be from my generation but his exploits will outweigh many from his generation. It was Azaan’s mother Zeba Bakhtiar who pushed me towards direction some 15 years back. At that time she was busy with her production house so when I pitched my short film Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut to her, she heard the narration with excitement and told me to direct it myself.

‘At that time Azaan was just a kid, and before I met him I had no idea that there was a sensitive writer in that kid. The way he narrated the story to me and the placement of songs, that interested me a lot.’

We used to have lots of discussions during the shoot and on the sidelines and it helped us come on the same page. He will be making his acting debut soon with Saife Hasan’s Patakh De and trust me, it is youngsters like him that will carry the torch of the Pakistani cinema forward and make us all proud.

And then there was the cast. Since you had worked with Mahira Khan, there shouldn’t have been an issue; but it was your first time with Bilal Ashraf. How would you rate that experience?      

‘Even Mahira (Khan) had to prove herself since her last two films didn’t do that well at the box office. A few actors also criticized her acting skills which were uncalled for, but she didn’t reply to them on Social media. Her reply was her much-improved performance that stunned all and helped her prove herself as the best there is.’

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As for Bilal, I have worked with him before in Rangreza where he was the leading man and I was playing the role of a politician. It was during that one scene that we shared that I realized that he had huge potential if handled accordingly. After he was finalized as Sameer Khan, he took my advice and went under the wings of theatre maestro Sunil Shanker and that helped his character immensely. Not only did it help him break from his routine acting, it helped him improve his voice, his mannerisms and above all, helped him discover the talent he didn’t know he had.

Now that you have joined the list of directors who have called the shots with Nadeem and Jawed Sheikh in the scene. What were you feeling when you shouted ‘Action’ with your childhood star in the frame?

You have no idea how it felt because it was like a dream come true moment for me. Ever since I wanted to be a director, I wanted to work with Nadeem sahib and although that couldn’t happen before Superstar I kept hoping that one day we will work together. And with Superstar, we did. You will be surprised to know that the first film I saw in the cinema was Nadaan featuring Nadeem sahib back in the early 1970s and after watching that film, I started playing a dhol like his character of Bhola in the film. I saw many of his films in the cinema but the best part was directing him in Superstar. He even told me that he wouldn’t forget my name since it was the same as his first director and father-in-law Ehtesham sahib.

As for Jawed Sheikh, yes he works regularly on TV but we didn’t get the chance to collaborate so when his name was finalized as Bilal Ashraf’s father, it took me back in my childhood days where I used to play the clips of his first flick Dhamaka on my projector. It so happened that I somehow got a projector through my Eidi but I couldn’t find a proper reel to play in it. An uncle of mine got hold of Dhamaka’s reel that was discarded by the developer, and thus began my search for Jawed Sheikh. Getting to work with these two actors was nothing short of a miracle for me, that too in my first film.’

How important it is to have a good team while making a film or a drama?

It is very important and I am very fortunate to have Mustafa Afridi as the dialogue writer, Khizer Idrees as the cinematographer, an ensemble cast to direct and Momina Duraid and Hum TV Network as the producers in both Aangan and Superstar. When people trust you and your thought process, you can do wonders even as a director and that’s exactly why the audience liked Aangan and is watching Superstar and praising it.