OVER A COFFEE: The making of ‘NRO 2’ —Dr Haider Shah
The producers are doing everything humanly possible to make the sequel win critical as well as box office acclaim. Unlike the past experience, this time heavy investment has been made on the media to keep it on board
“People knew what was coming but they did not know how to stop it from coming. And they needed to know it very quickly.” I have stolen these lines unashamedly from the opening of my eight-year-old son’s story, which he is writing with a mixed inspiration from science fiction movies, kids’ horror novels and Xbox games. He is clearly setting up the scene for some strange and powerful aliens who are unstoppable. I am, however, using the lines for a new political thriller that is near completion and would soon be released in 2012 to enthral audiences in the lacklustre political cinema of Pakistan. ‘Mission Impossible 4’ was released on December 16. Its hero, Tom Cruise, toured many parts of the world including India and attracted crowds amid a lot of fanfare. Similarly, ‘Don 2’ was also a mega budget production and before its release on December 23, Shah Rukh Khan did a lot of promotion of the movie. Both movies rocked the box office as anticipated. But the biggest movie with ambitious box office targets is yet to be released: ‘NRO 2’.
The original movie, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), released in 2007, proved a flop at the political box office in Pakistan. The main scriptwriters in the US, e.g. Condoleezza Rice and some local scriptwriters did not attend to the details of the plot carefully. Not only the marketing team was incompetent but there were gaping problems at the outset. The hero and heroine of the movie were at odds and the local scriptwriters were also tweaking the main plot. Whether the heroine was eliminated under the tweaked plot or it was an accident we do not know. However, after her exit, awarding the main role to an unpopular actor, Mr Zardari, took the gloss off the movie. A hostile media proved the death knell for the discredited movie.
Once bitten, twice shy. The producers have learnt from their past mistakes and the sequel to the original NRO movie is being produced much more professionally. This time instead of making a politician hero of the movie, glittering personalities from the celebrities list have been chosen for the main roles. If Bollywood can produce super hits with their Khans why can a Pakistani Khan not prove successful too? So a cricketing hero has been chosen for the sequel along with glamorous stars from the pop music industry. In fact, years ago during Benazir’s era the local scriptwriters had tried this idea for a local level production by including Abdul Sattar Edhi in the cast but the elderly charity worker proved too chicken-hearted to do a major acting role. The movie project was therefore abandoned. However this time, as the international scriptwriters have shown keen interest, the project has been launched with a renewed vigour. For various character roles many professional actors of political cinema have been included in the stars’ list. The latest inclusion is Javed Hashmi who is expected to be the equivalent of Amitabh and Naseeruddin Shah in the new thriller.
The producers are doing everything humanly possible to make the sequel win critical as well as box office acclaim. Unlike the past experience, this time heavy investment has been made on the media to keep it on board. The most important private network has been hired for a promotional campaign till the actual release of the movie. The logo lines of the movie — ‘change’ and ‘status quo’ — are being made household words and pop singers are lending their voices, instruments and faces to popularise the cast of the movie. Premier shows are being held in all major cities of cinemagoers. Many multinationals have opened up their coffers and even NATO supplies contractors are lining up in getting associated with this promising investment project. A good salesperson is one who can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Like Shah Rukh Khan or Tom Cruise, the superhero of the ‘NRO 2’ movie can do anything. Both Aasia Bibi and Mumtaz Qadri feel equally hopeful that they would be freed from their captivity by this amazing hero.
The producers and leading actors are very secretive about the actual plot of the sequel. However, some leaks and inferences can help guess the storyline. In its central theme the sequel is not much different from the original movie. A government with a popular political base is set up in Pakistan, which would receive support from the US. The government will help the US in reaching an understanding with the insurgents and safeguard its regional interests. As the new government will be headed by the superhero who is worshipped by his admirers like a god, there will be no problem for the US to implement its AfPak policy. In order to ensure that the movie produces the desired effect, experienced actors Khurshid Kasuri and Awais Leghari have also joined the crew.
The most thrilling part of the movie is the sudden appearance of a commando. No, not Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. The role will be played by Pervez Musharraf. The superhero, Mr Khan, looked very annoyed with this leak of the story and angrily denied in an evasive manner when he was asked whether Musharraf was included in the cast. The scriptwriters have done their homework and have worked out how the commando will make his daredevil appearance against all odds. The leak is that he would be supported by the MQM for a Senate or National Assembly seat. However, the commando’s eyes are firmly fixed on the President’s House. He will then have immunity and hence all small time villains will be left nursing their wounds much to the delight of the excited viewers. Love me, love my dog. The superhero has already loved his puppy and will extend tacit support to the commando. What Maulana Fazlur Rehman did in 2008 can be redone by a different actor this time.
The Karachi premier show of the movie made clear the dominant theme of the thriller. The MQM will field its candidates in Karachi to which the superhero’s party will extend full support. The superhero will be left to clean Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of all status quo villains. In the end, the superhero and his ally MQM will enter the headquarters of the villains with their army and will establish a caliphate of the righteous. Action, romance, and melody! With everything to offer, I do not see any reason why this adrenaline-pumping thriller should not prove a box office hit with the viewers.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org