How A Fable Gave Birth To Pakistani Cinema's First Superhero

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Mon 17 Jun 2024, 2:34 PM

Last updated: Mon 17 Jun 2024, 5:49 PM

Legends and folklore are deeply rooted in the hearts of people, holding a sacred place in cultural narratives. When bringing these tales to the screen, a delicate balance has to be struck between their relevance to modern life and preservation of their timeless essence. The Pakistani film Umro Ayyar - A New Beginning neatly navigates this balance, offering a contemporary retelling of the classical Persian epic.

The central character is Umro Ayyar, a trickster who, alongside the warrior-adventurer Amir Hamza, faces formidable challenges from sorcerers, jinns and demons. According to Usman Mukhtar, who plays the titular character in the film, "This is a modern adaptation of the time-tested story and it has the potential to breathe new life into a cherished legend while staying true to its mythical roots."

The team behind Umro Ayyar - A New Beginning recently sat down at Khaleej Times office to delve deeper into the film, which has now been released across the UAE.


On being the first Pakistani superhero

"Since childhood, I've been captivated by tales like Umro Ayyar and the Imran series. I used to be deeply connected with the characters and eagerly followed the twists and turns. I used to be so engrossed that I often imagined myself living their adventures. In 2020, fate brought me the opportunity when my director and team approached me with a script based on Umro Ayyar's plot, offering me the role of Amar. I was immediately captivated. My first question was who would play Laqqa, and when they mentioned Faran Tahir, known for his roles in tech-heavy films like Star Trek and Iron Man, we were ecstatic to have him on board. The excitement soared when we decided to venture into the international market, making Umro Ayyar- A New Beginning the first Pakistani film to participate in the WonderCon Film Festival. To ensure top-notch action, we enlisted the expertise of the stunt team from Game of Thrones. I am thrilled and honoured to portray a Pakistani superhero, a concept that has been unprecedented in our cinema thus far."

On his dancing videos at Islamabad weddings

"For those who know me well, they'll attest that I'm not exactly known for my dancing prowess. Thankfully, our friend Osman Khalid Butt, a dedicated and meticulous choreographer, ensures we stay on track with precise step counts. However, this film required more than just mastering choreography. It's stunt-heavy, involving sequences where I find myself almost flying from one point to another. Who knows, perhaps this experience will even improve my dancing skills in unexpected ways?"

On constructive criticism

"I believe we need more critics who truly understand the intricacies of our work and can provide insightful critiques based on those aspects. If someone vehemently dislikes something, why continue watching it? I value constructive criticism immensely. In the past, we've shared our work with various technical and artistic experts, incorporating their suggestions to enhance our projects to their fullest potential. However, criticism solely for the sake of criticism serves no productive purpose."


On embracing different roles :

"Initially, I used to wonder why people weren't moving forward while I was embracing new roles. Our goal as actors is always to make audiences fall in love with the characters we portray or to leave a lasting impact. Yet, some characters and projects inevitably become classics. I don't see this as a burden, but rather as a stroke of fortune to be an integral part of a classic like Zindagi Gulzar Hai, a badge I wear with pride and honour. However, I am more than just that role. I am actively exploring diverse roles across various mediums - whether it's OTT platforms, films, or television - to continuously evolve as an actor and to present audiences with different facets of my talent. For instance, in this project, I'm part of the Ayyar clan alongside Ali Kazmi, Usman, and Salman. It's a departure from my previous work as I delve into stunts, adding another dimension to my repertoire of projects."

On what the youth of today is missing out on:

I believe that today's youth may be somewhat adrift. Television doesn't seem to cater much to their interests anymore, and movies struggle to hold their attention due to reduced attention spans. When we were growing up, there were diverse programmes, festivals; we lived and savoured those moments first-hand. This has led me to believe that people were perhaps more authentic then, not constantly trying to emulate others. Nowadays, everyone competes online to project an idealised image, often at the expense of genuine self-confidence. This trend concerns me deeply. As entertainers, we feel a responsibility to offer young people something meaningful through films and television - a blend of revisiting the past and reimagining it for contemporary relevance. This way, we hope to provoke thought and inspire them to broaden their horizons and appreciate cultural enrichment."


On stunts and his preparation

"I have been part of The Legend of Maula Jutt where I had some stunts, but for certain scenes, stunt doubles were used. However, in this project, I performed most of the stunts myself. There were a couple of incidents, and I ended up with the most injuries. I remember we were on the bike, supposed to crash through the gate, but it didn't open, so we ended up colliding with it instead. You know when you're handling sharp props, jumping, and following instructions simultaneously, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement. Fortunately, the month-long workshop beforehand helped us understand the intricacies and technical aspects of the action sequences we were about to execute. I can tell for sure that I have the coolest weapon in the film."

Sadiq Saleem is a UAE based writer & can be contacted on his Instagram handle @sadiqidas.

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