Hisham Bin Munawar is a promising young film director and scriptwriter. Youngest of his four siblings, he was completely backed by his parents to rove into filmmaking, a profession that is not idealized in our society. While talking to him about his new release ‘Ready Steady No’ Surkhiyan asked about his experience and his struggles in making of this movie.
Surkhiyan: How did you discover your talent for video and film? And how did your journey start?
Hisham Bin Munawar: Since childhood, I was fond of movies. I watched all kind of movies all the time and when I turned 12 years old my father gave me a pleasant surprise, buying me a handy cam. That was like a new opening to my small world. I started shooting all sorts of short films, during weddings and events, making ‘documentaries’ in my bathroom. At that time I didn’t know what editing was so I used to shoot everything one frame at a time so I wouldn’t have to edit. That’s how I developed the habit of shooting characters one by one.
Then I came to Government College Lahore in 2006 and starting studying economics but afterwards I went to Beaconhouse National University (BNU) to study film.
Surkhiyan: How did film school help you in making the film?
HBM: Look the thing is people like me who don’t have any links or references to get into the industry get that opportunity from their school. Most important part in film school is that you are surrounded by people with similar passions and dreams that can help you creatively and also give you access to opportunities. Your teachers or seniors who have been working in the film industry for a while can also be a source of guidance and hence help you get through to other professionals and build up your career from there.
Surkhiyan: Did you start working on this film project right out of college? How do you think that this decision worked out for you?
HBM: To be honest, right at this time there are not a lot of film directors or producers in our industry. People are still coming forward and trying to produce great films. When we first got out of film school there were not a lot of films in our cinemas except ‘Khuda kay liye’ which was a source of inspiration for many filmmakers at that time plus like one other film called ‘Ramchand Pakistani’. It’s all relative, the content that’s going to be produced is going to run in Pakistani cinemas so there’s no need to compete internationally, even the content today that’s out is very mediocre but in no way am I saying that what we have made is above all. We very humbly, have given it our best shot. When we listen to other movie goers and critics and we pay attention to their remarks it does make us feel that what we’ve created is good content. It’s true we didn’t have a big budget to spend on the production or marketing and we have solely relied on the content and expect to win hearts based on the art of this film. The entire experience of making it has been quite a unique one. I was talking to Salman Shahid the other day and he encouraged me by saying that he thinks I’m the only filmmaker out there who got out of film school and produced a proper commercial movie especially when you don’t even have surplus of resources for your film. At the end of the day it was a long journey with all sorts of different experiences artistically, creatively and especially the experience of working in the Pakistani film industry. When other film students would see that a Pakistani film student got out and made a film for the masses. I hope to inspire them and give them a push that many film students don’t get and help them believe in themselves which is very close to my heart and another major reason in producing this film. Even though this film made me compromise a lot but it wasn’t about that at that time, it was more so to prove that people like myself who don’t come from a lot of means and have no connections to this industry can still put out a great film that is for the people and about the people.
Surkhiyan: Tell us about Ready Steady No? And bit about why you choose this name?
HBM: As the name indicates itself a thing that is about to be done, just stops because of the hurdles in its way and truthfully that’s very common in today’s day and age. Here in this movie, we have portrayed a story of boy and a girl who decide to elope but they both face difficult circumstances along the way even though the movie focuses on this particular story, the same situation can be applied in any context e.g. if someone starts a business, they too have to face different types of problems that they did not anticipate before starting it. That’s basically the essence of the film. To me the film is very intense but at the same time it is a comedy, at the surface, it depends on the perspective of the viewer. Some scenes of the film that we shot are very close to my heart and I, personally gave them my all. It may be because I related some of those scenes to a few instances that happened in my life that really hurt me and the true essence of the film is from a real life experience that my friend went through and I, as a filmmaker have only told that story in a much exaggerated manner.
Surkhiyan: Your college film was about our film industry and the desires of aspiring actors; your film became really popular in the film student circle. Is this film also highlighting any issue?
HBM: As I mentioned in the last question, we talk about the issues that one faces when one decides to elope in this country but at the same time, this film also highlights all small factors that continue to cause problems e.g. the police officers who cause further problems and other institutions that continue to be hurdles for the young couple along the way. The most highlighted issue though is definitely that of marriages out of your ‘caste’ and the problems society further causes because of it.
Surkhiyan: How is it working with Amna Ilyas and why did you choose her for the film?
HBM: I remember when I first watched her in Nasiruddin Shah movie ‘Zinda Bhaag’, coming out of the cinema the only thing that was on my mind was the lead actress and how I felt she had a ‘spark’ to her. I didn’t know who she was at that time. When the script got finalized, we were already talking to two to three actresses about the movie but one thing lead to another and we coincidently were left with nobody to hire as our lead actress. So we started contacting people again and started hustling but I always felt like the spark I saw in her is what I wanted for my film. We then contacted Amna through Shah Rukh, who she was already working with him in his film. We then decided to meet and gave her our script, fortunately she liked it and decided to work with us. Plus the great part about working with her is that I didn’t have to direct her in any way whatsoever. I think Amna is a phenomenal actress and she came as a blessing for this movie. She not only has great potential, she’s an amazing person as well.
Surkhiyan: Dekho Dekho sung by you? What made you to sing in your own film?
HBM: It was never planned because to me it felt kind of awkward but I feel like it was going to happen either way. I was already working on my music for a while now, writing songs and what not but all of that came to a pause when I started working on the film. Plus my music isn’t something that I just did for fun, I was training properly with a teacher since I first came to Lahore in 2006. Our movie wasn’t some big commercial film that we wanted to hire another singer to sing our songs and promote them. My producers had already heard this song before as I first made it in 2011, coincidentally the song fit perfectly well with the script so they really wanted it in the movie. Personally I felt like I couldn’t let anyone else sing this song and I myself didn’t want to sing it but my producers convinced me otherwise and the song became an integral part of the movie.
Surkhiyan: Is there any inspirational incident that made you pursue your dream? Can you share it? And what would you like to suggest the aspiring filmmakers?
HBM: To all the aspiring filmmakers I’d just say that if you truly believe in yourself, you believe that you’re worth the struggle and you’re talented then you just need the strength to make the leap of faith. You’re going to face problems and struggles along the way but what you bring new to the table and your originality only comes from testing yourself. Finally if you think doing a 9 to 5 job is where your heart lies then there’s nothing wrong in doing that but if you genuinely believe that filmmaking is your passion then don’t let anybody or anything stop you from pursuing that.
‘Ready Steady No’ is going to hit theaters on the 19th of July. Surkhiyan is sending all the love and best wished to Hisham and his entire team plus we look forward to all his future endeavors.