Ali Zafar & Maya Ali Teefa In Trouble

Dubbed as the most expensive Pakistani film made to date, Teefa in Trouble is making new headlines every day. It just so happens that it is the first Pakistani film to release in Russia, the second one after Khuda Ke Liye (2007) to release in India and is also releasing in many other countries worldwide. Man of many talents, Ali Zafar; one of televisions hottest properties, Maya Ali and the director par excellence, Ahsan Rahim have come together to produce their first big screen venture in Pakistan. Will it garner the same kind of applause as the curiosity and excitement it has created amongst the masses? Will it make yet another record with its earnings? Or will the critical reception land Teefa (and its makers) in trouble? These are some of the questions that linger in my mind. The leading pair comes together to shed light on these and many more such queries. Excerpts:

What took you this long to say ‘yes’ to doing a Pakistani film? What attracted you toward your character and the project, considering Teefa is also the first film for the other lead and Ahsan Rahim?

AZ: It’s not that I took long to say ‘yes’ to a Pakistani film, it’s just the process that took its due share of time. For me, doing the right film holds utmost importance, not the country where it’s being made. Teefa in Trouble was that ‘right’ film since the very beginning. Every film has its destination, and I’m glad this film’s destiny bound us together.

Watch the film, and your question regarding what attracted me towards the character and project will be answered on its own. Maya is a great actress; hardworking, honest and dedicated. In my opinion, there is no one who could play Anya better. As far as Ahsan Rahim goes, we go way back. He directed my first [music] video Channo and so, my trust and comfort with him can’t be explained in words.

MA: I believe in quality over quantity, and I had been offered many films but never attracted to any. But when Teefa in Trouble was offered to me, I couldn’t say ‘no’ to this script. I had played so many characters in dramas but this character was a little different to what I had played before, and I always wanted to play something like this. Anya is a very strong character; she knows what’s good and bad for her, she’s a free bird, so this is what attracted me plus the good script. And obviously, I am playing the lead role opposite Ali, direction [is] by sir Ahsan Rahim, so what else could one ask for?

Any funny incident from the sets?

AZ: The best part about doing Teefa in Trouble was the magnitude of fun we all had while shooting. I can’t possibly narrate all the funny and memorable incidents since there are so many. But one of my favourites is with Faisal Qureshi who plays Tony and is an old friend of mine. So, there’s a scene shot at the airport where Teefa and Tony hug and stand super close to each other, and we had to look at each other; this shot took its share of time because we both would just crack up and go into fits of laughter. That was quite funny, among the many other episodes.

MA: There are a lot of funny and memorable incidents, I think I will miss every moment spent on set, especially in Warsaw (Poland), because that place is really beautiful and charismatic.

The film is supposedly the most expensive Pakistani film made to date. Every little teaser of the film has received millions of views in a matter of days. Everyone’s expectations have sky-rocketed. As a producer, does this make you nervous Ali, about how the film might do with the audience?

AZ: Yes, it is the most expensive Pakistani film made to date. The goals and ambitions set from the very beginning were sky high; but that’s just me, I set my standards as high as possible and put in everything I have to pursue them. I strongly believe that one should do their best and more, and leave the rest to God, which is a mantra I followed here, too. Whatever the result is, it will be according to His will and plan, therefore I don’t feel nervous. However, I do feel responsible for fulfilling my promise of delivering a film that would meet the standards of our audience’s expectations.

Maya what do you think people should expect to see in this film? And what are you hoping this film would achieve for you?

MA: You will find every ingredient of entertainment in this film, and it’s a proper family movie; you will laugh, you will cry, you will see romance and you will see the best action [sequences] and stunts in this film. I hope that I justify playing Anya’s character and people appreciate my work.

Does the incredible spotlight of social media put performance pressure on you to an extent that it might get a bit difficult for you try something totally new, enjoy your work and be creative?

AZ: I never look at these aspects as pressure, motivation matters to me. The fact that I was given this grand opportunity provided me levels of motivation I didn’t know I had. However, there were times of stress, which is only natural. But I learnt something a long time ago; I channel my stress into positivity and motivation which enables me to become more creative and out do myself in my art and craft.

MA: If you had asked me this question two years back, I would have said ‘no’, but now, yes, somehow I have this pressure on me; I want to deliver my best performance whether that is through an ad, a drama or film. I’ve already done different kinds of ads and people have appreciated all of them, so I want to keep doing this type of work in the future also.

Could we assume that you have brought to this film your Bollywood experience in terms of acting, singing and your observations on filmmaking?

AZ: Well, of course, I have brought in all that I learnt during my time in Bollywood, in fact, not just that but also everything else that I have done in my career to come to this point. However, having worked with established directors and actors in seven films [previously] and also having read countless number of scripts and screen plays, and not to mention all the creative discussion sessions I’ve been a part of, has taught me a lot. I applied a lot of that valuable knowledge in making this film and I hope the audience, locally and internationally, will be as proud [of the film] as we are.

What’s on your bucket list?

AZ: [To] go for a vacation to someplace with a beach view, spend time with family and eat lots of dessert. Professionally, to start working on a much bigger project that is lined up and work on my next music album.

MA: I have to do lots of things, but professionally, I have some endorsements and a film which is going to start [being shot] in September.

What are the most important things you have learnt in life? Any pearls of wisdom you specifically remember?

AZ: The most important thing that I have learnt in life and my career is that there are no shortcuts to success. By success, I mean success in its true sense; where you feel inner peace, happiness and joy not just superficial fame, stardom or material gain. I have always believed in longevity and my first and foremost preference has always been to nurture my soul to maintain its purity and be connected with my family and God. Once you can learn to do that you will be able to achieve anything you dream of.

MA: Actually, I was sitting on set with Ali once and he said something really beautiful to me, that if you want to see how someone is, don’t see their behaviour with yourself because that will obviously be good, but look at their behaviour with someone else, that will tell you the truth. And this is actually true, you can try it as well.

How do you think you have grown as an artist from your Channo and Aun-Zara days to date?

AZ: I still continue to be a student of music as I was during Channo days. I still don’t think I’m a star. However, by the grace of God I am on the road to achieving what I had always dreamt of. This journey of 15 years has brought its fair share of attention and popularity and I have learnt how to deal with the internal and external aspect of things and balance my personal and professional life. There are challenges that come your way but with all these years of experience and a deeper understanding of life, I have learnt how to deal with such things while steering away from them (unwanted aspects).

MA: Being an artiste you learn a lot of things from set to set, and day to day. I have grown massively since my Aun-Zara days, as I have done many different projects since.

Which of the phases in your life have you enjoyed the most so far? Any particularly proud memories?

AZ: All my phases of life hold equal importance [for me]. My past has taught me a lot that I will use to my advantage in the future while enjoying the present. Although, my childhood does hold a special place in my heart; that easy life, playing cricket with my friends in the park, having no worries or responsibilities. Thinking about those times always brings a smile on my face.

MA: I think I have enjoyed every single moment of my career, from the worst days till now. The most beautiful, memorable and proud [moment] would have to be when my Baba appreciated my work in Diyar-e-Dil, as he never appreciated my work before that.

Any crazy fan stories?

AZ: I wouldn’t term my fan stories as crazy, [they are] more memorable. Recently, during a mall visit, a fan got to the lift [I was in]. He managed to cross through all security present at the venue. I called him in and he showed me his phone which was full of my pictures. He told me he’s never posted any of these on social media, just kept them with him. I thought that was so genuine and overwhelming. Sometimes, lots of fans gather [outside] and come to my house; these are people who strive to become somebody and to be able to inspire them truly feels great.

MA: Not really, it’s nice to have crazy fans, and they always appreciate your work, I have great fans who shower me with a lot of love, but they’ve never tried to harm me in any way. I love them all.

Is marriage something that could be on the cards for you, Maya in the near future?

MA: I can’t say anything about it, if something has to happen it will happen. I don’t like to think about it, I like surprises.

I think our readers would love to know what your ideal man is like. What’s a foolproof way to win your heart?

MA: Respect is everything for me. He should respect me, my family and my work. And, of course, there should also be love in the heart [for me] and not just by words. So, if I see these factors in a man, respect and love, I’ll say ‘yes’ [to him].

What projects are you working on for the near future? Can we expect to see you in more movies?

AZ: Yes, of course, you will see me in many more movies, hear me in many more albums and songs and [I’ll be doing] poetry and verses and writings and paintings. As long as I am alive, I shall keep doing my best in giving you guys the best of me.

MA: Yes! My next project is also a movie, opposite Shehryaar Munawar, and Asim Raza is the director of that film. I’m really looking forward to working with them.