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FrontRow: Return to Roshan Nagar

FrontRow: Return to Roshan Nagar

Completing the sequel of her debut animated flick 3 Bahadur in less than two years was a big challenge for the two-time documentary Oscar-winning director, but Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy feels that when the team is right, things just fall into place.

“Everybody associated with the 3 Bahadur franchise contributed to the film because that’s how projects succeed,” says Sharmeen. “People still remember the first part and this recall value helped us, as kids now know the characters really well. It made Pakistan known as a country where animated films are being produced and just last week it was played at a New York film festival and in many other countries.”

For the second part, titled The Revenge of Baba Balaam, the cast has undergone a few changes. Fahim Khan takes over as Baba Balaam from Nadir Siddiqui, Sarwat Gillani replaces Kulsoom Aftab as Saadi’s mother while Arisha Razi comes in for Muneeba Yaseen as Amna, one of the three main characters. Popular film and TV actor Fahad Mustafa, comedian Ahmed Ali Butt, singer Ali Pir Gul and veteran TV artist Zeba Shehnaz join Behroze Sabzwari, Mustafa Changezi and Bassam Shazli who also give voices to characters in the movie. The story still takes place in Roshan Nagar where things go haywire since the return of Baba Balaam — hence the title of the film.

Sharmeen feels that people will hardly notice the change in voiceover artists because she chose some of them from her own childhood, and many of them wanted to work on the sequel as their kids loved the first one. “I always wanted to work with Behroze sahib (even before 3 Bahadur) as he is someone who loves challenges. My objective this time round was to have people recognise Zeba Shehnaz who was always fascinating in Fifty Fifty. In our film she lends her voice to Mithu. I am also lucky that most people wanted to play a character as their kids loved it, such as Fahad Mustafa and Sarwat Gillani. Also, get ready to be mesmerised by the voice of Fahim Khan who was chosen as Baba Balaam after audition — his voice has diversity and it stays with you.”

When 3 Bahadur was conceived a couple of years back, veteran actor Behroze Sabzwari was one of the few actors around with the experience of lending his voice to animated characters, such as for Ghunn Sunna in Commander Safeguard. He has been part of the animation evolution in the country and says that his Deenu Chacha sends a message to kids to stand up for what is right and not to let the bad guys take advantage.

“The best way to educate kids is through entertainment,” says Behroze. It is our duty as parents, grandparents and Pakistanis. We are living in an age where technology rules our lives. Even young kids and toddlers have phones with online access. My granddaughter leaves everything she’s doing when there is an animated film on TV. If we come up with such projects twice a year, it will help youngsters learn quickly.”

Sarwat Gillani makes her animated film debut in 3 Bahadur and believes that being a mum played an important role in her decision to go the animated way. “The emotions I managed to convey as the mother of one of the Bahadurs were real-life,” Sarwat says as she describes her role in the film. “As an actor, TV, film or animation manufacture feelings and that’s why when I stepped into the booth, I stepped into a mother’s shoes. Everything in the movie is relatable to the audience and that’s what makes it a welcome addition.”

The stars of the film, Zuhab Khan and Arisha Razi, are as enthusiastic for its release as their senior counterparts. “When the first part was released, people didn’t know that it was my voice behind Saadi,” says Zuhab. “But thanks to morning shows and promotions, now everyone knows that. I’m an avid animated film viewer so you can understand how anxious I am about the release of the sequel.”

Arisha Razi says she was somewhat disappointed when the part of Amna went to Muneeba Yaseen, but she is thankful that she has the last laugh. “I wanted to do the character when I saw the first part so you can imagine how excited I was when I was cast in the second venture. I was nervous most of the time. However, everyone was happy for me when I told them about the selection and that boosted my morale.”

Behind every successful film-maker is a music composer and in Sharmeen’s case it was Shiraz Uppal. “Shiraz is an excellent person to work with and just as the last film, he manages to surprise you with new and exciting songs, including the one at the gangster’s den. The same people as last time — John Angier [background score] and Dan Golden [sound design] — have exceeded expectations this time as well and just as the first installment, the combo of sound and background music will surely spellbind the audience.”

Behroze Sabzwari, who is Deenu Chacha in 3 Bahadur, says Kamil’s character is the best, terming it lively and full of spirit, and “something young boys should be in their student days.” Sarwat Gillani’s vote goes to Amna as she finds her to be a perfect role model for the young girls out there. She says that she can relate to the fast runner as she herself was one in her school days. Sharmeen on the other hand feels that most of the youngsters resonate with the thugs as one of them tries to be cool albeit unsuccessfully, another is always hungry and so on.

And then there is the promotion that has become a ritual with ARY Films. “We have been doing the rounds in schools and malls where people take selfies with us as if we are the characters,” says Sarwat Gillani. Behroze feels that being part of such a project is something that will stay with him for a long time. “We have to pay a debt to our viewers, to do something memorable. If we don’t do anything worthy for the next generation, we will be held accountable.”

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy predicts that her second animated feature will have a better result at the box office as it is being released just ahead of the winter break. “The animation industry in Pakistan is new and in the learning phase. We are all moving forward together and getting better with the passage of time. The VFX [Visual Effects] we have used in the sequel are much better than they were in the last one. We have created water and a new dimension through VFX and that adds colour to the visuals. We are planning to release another film after 3 Bahadur 2 but it will belong to another lineage.”

Does that mean that Kamil, Saadi and Amna will not be third-time lucky? “Of course, they will — we will come back to them later after expanding the animated universe in Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 11th, 2016

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