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The Legend of Maula Jatt, A Pakistani Movie, Sets A New Standard.

The Legend of Maula Jatt, directed by Bilal Lashari and released worldwide, is Pakistan’s most expensive film ever.

The owner of Pakistan’s provincial town of Burewala’s IMGC cinema hall was working around the clock to get his new theater ready for the highly anticipated action-drama film The Legend of Maula Jatt, which was released worldwide on October 13.

Sheikh Amjad Rasheed said, “History is being made by this film,” and he added that he wanted to be a part of that history.

Written and directed by Bilal Lashari, The Legend of Maula Jatt is Pakistan’s most expensive and ambitious film.

It is also a remake of a hyper-masculine Punjabi film that changed the direction of the industry 43 years ago. The Pakistani film industry hopes that this one will bring that film back to life.

“There are films that perform better than other films, and then there are films that improve the performance of an entire industry. Al Jazeera was informed by the film’s producer, Ammara Hikmat, that this would be the latter.

“I hope filmmakers will stop playing it safe after this, and I think it will change the way investors look at Pakistani films.”

In a nation where the largest films have typically had budgets of less than $1.5 million, the film’s production reportedly cost an unprecedented $4.6 million. In its first weekend, it brought in $2.3 million worldwide.

Gandasa in Punjabi

The Legend of Maula Jatt depends on a 1979 film named just “Maula Jatt”. Family disputes, a vigilante hero, an invincible villain, retribution, and honor are the main themes of the narrative.

In a world where mustachioed men on horses used gandasas (axes) and rifles to terrorize others and defend themselves, the title character is a Punjabi farmer who wields a gandasa. The original film was banned by Zia ul-Haq’s government for its “violence and subversive culture.” However, it was released again a few years later, spawning the gleefully violent and hypersexualized “Gandasa culture” Punjabi film genre, which thrived for nearly 20 years.

Lashari stated to Al Jazeera, “A lot of countries have exported a certain style of cinema to the world, be it Hollywood’s Western, Bollywood’s musicals, samurai, or kung fu films… “Punjabi Gandasa” is a genre that is uniquely Pakistani, and I have revisited and reinvented that, giving my own spin on it.

To make a mark on international markets, no expense, effort, creative input, or marketing strategy was spared.

Some of the country’s biggest stars and most well-known actors are in the movie. It was shown on 400 screens in 23 countries other than Pakistan, an unprecedented move. The Gandasa action has the heightened drama and finesse of the best of Hollywood, and the production’s scale is grand.

“Gandasa was and stays a weapon against unfairness, a respectable image,” discourse and scriptwriter Nasir Adeeb, who composed the first Maula Jatt and the exchange for The Legend of Maula Jatt,

Because of Adeeb’s dialogue, the actors’ performances, and Mustafa Qureshi’s Noori Natt, a menacing but honorable bad guy, Maula Jatt became a cultural phenomenon.

Lashari, 38, is the writer, director, cameraman, and editor of The Legend of Maula Jatt. Although he has no recollection of watching the original when he was a child, he has lived with it his entire life, like the majority of Pakistanis of his generation.

It is deeply ingrained in popular culture here. The movie’s dialogue can be heard in a dhaba, seen on television, or in graffiti, and politicians frequently use those one-liners against one another, he stated.

Adeeb recalls Benazir Bhutto using the well-known line by Noori Natt: During a campaign rally, she said, “Nawa Aaya hai, Soneya [You must be new here, darling]” and her husband, former President Asif Ali Zardari, said, “Macaulay nu Maula na maray tay Maula nai marda [Unless Maula kills Maula, Maula can’t die]” when asked if he had been threatened.

‘Goosebumps’

Lashari, whose 2013 debut, Waar (The Strike), became Pakistan’s highest-grossing film at the time, claims that he gave the original Maula Jatt a “hard reboot” by incorporating everything that made the film a cult classic.

He knew what kind of movie he wanted to make, who would star in it, and where it would take place—in a fantasy world he calls “Parallel Punjab” at an unknown time.

He gave archetypes compelling backstories, fleshed them out by giving them compelling backstories and amplified the rivalry between Maula Jatt and Noori Natt. He also got rid of outdated ideas like men settling disputes by marrying off their sisters. He rewrote the screenplay 80 times and created detailed character and scene sketches.

He knew what he wanted the audience to think of his movie: Goosebumps.”

It was a goosebump-inducing decision to cast Mahira Khan as the female lead, as well as a superstar and subcontinental heartthrob Fawad Khan as Maula Jatt.

“That side of Fawad—the chocolate hero, the pretty boy side—has been seen by everyone. But I knew there was something there—controlled aggression if you will. In addition, “the idea of alpha isn’t always beastly in the new world,” Lashari stated.

The anticipation leading up to the movie’s release was heightened by the announcement that Khan would compete against Hamza Ali Abbasi’s Noori Natt.

Additionally, the Nats arguably provide the majority of the film’s power.

Evil has never been more seductive or thrilling. Gohar Rasheed’s campy and kooky portrayal of the younger Natt brother Makkha contrasts sharply with Abbasi’s near-religious performance as Noori Natt.

The aesthetic of The Legend of Maula Jatt is distinctive, and the story is told in episodes, each of which introduces a character and advances the plot. The plot gets more complicated, the action gets more intense, and the movie gets more intense.

It has elements of both Tarantino and Sergio Leone. Over a Zoom call, Fawad Khan explained to Al Jazeera that the film has a very Spaghetti Western vibe.

Lashari’s rich, nitty-gritty creative mind and careful execution give The Legend of Maula Jatt the weight of a blockbuster, however, making a dream on this scale was difficult in a country that doesn’t have elite studios.

To train actors and choreograph fight sequences, an action team had to be brought in by plane from the UK. Several nations’ technicians and VFX artists collaborated on the project. On the outskirts of Lahore, in the village of Bedian, a huge set was built.

“Get in control”

Women are relegated to playing helpless victims, titillating vamps, or wailing mothers in the majority of Punjabi films, which adhere to patriarchy. While established in a comparable milieu, this film’s human show has road cred and ladies who straightforwardly express and seek after their longings.

One of Pakistan’s highest-paid actresses, Mahira Khan, told Al Jazeera that she was thrilled to play Mukkho in the movie. Mukkho is a character who defies gender stereotypes by constantly hitting or hitting on men.

“I used to say, ‘ She stated, “God, Mukkho, get a grip,” but Mukkho never did.

“It’s so rare to find a female character in Pakistani cinema or television which is just slapping people around and kneeing goons in the balls, which I thoroughly enjoyed because I’ve never really done that in my life,” she says.

Daro, Noori Nutt’s beloved sister, is played by Humaima Malik. She claims that Lashari told her not to watch the original movie and gave her one reference, Eva Green from 300: Empire’s emergence.

According to Humaima, who spoke with Al Jazeera, “He wanted Daro to be sensuous, confident, strong, horrifying, sexy, beautiful, and dangerous all at the same time.”

Her Daro lives in a man’s world, and in her first scene, she enters a council of men in the opulent Nutt house and steals the show, much like O-Ren Ishii did in Kill Bill I’s board meeting.

“I’ll resign if anyone cuts anything in this movie.”

In The Legend of Maula Jatt, an adversary is threatened or demanded to be cut into kebab-sized pieces every few minutes. To put it another way, there is graphic violence.

“All of these threats have been a major theme in Gandasa films. Lashari stated, “I’m going to do this to you, you’re this, that…’ So it can’t just be talk and no action.

A source related to the film told Al Jazeera that when they took the film to the blue pencil board for confirmation, they cherished the film and offered an All inclusive declaration, conceding unlimited public screening without the requirement for parental direction.

“However, one woman objected, saying, What are you engaged in? How can you when sharp weapons are piercing bodies and cutting off heads? At this point, the chairperson of the Censor Board threatened: I will resign if anything in this movie is cut.'”

“I have asked them to dress the movie theaters up like a bride,”

The Legend of Maula Jatt was scheduled to be released in 2020, during Eid, but the pandemic struck before then. However, the film’s anticipation has not diminished despite the delay.

The Pakistani distributor, Nadeem Mandviwalla, is enthusiastic about the film. He continues, “I have asked them, the theater owners, to decorate the cinema halls like a bride.”

In advance, 6,000 tickets were sold at the posh CUE Cinemas in Lahore. However, new commercial terms, including the producers’ revenue share of ticket sales, have caused some of Pakistan’s most prominent theater owners to decide against showing the film.

However, Mandviwalla is optimistic that the movie theaters will open.

After being closed for more than three years due to a ban on Bollywood films amid India-Pakistan hostilities and an unsustainable trickle of Pakistani films—just 23 films in 2019—Roxy Cinema held its first screening on Friday in Gujranwala.

Haji Tahir, the owner of Roxy, where Maula Jatt played for several months in 1979, is betting on Lashari’s daring bet and hoping that Maula Jatt will once more alter the course of Pakistan’s film industry and keep his cinema alive.

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