Filmmaker Bilal Lashari reimagined the cult classic Maula Jatt for a new and vast audience with his 2022 release of The Legend of Maula Jatt and the film took the world by storm.
With film industries across the world taking a hit during the pandemic and with the advent of OTT, what does the success of a film like The Legend of Maula Jatt mean?
Distributor Nadeem Mandviwalla reveals that the makers were skeptical about the film’s international reception, “After watching the movie, I believed this picture is going to become the biggest in the (Pakistani film) industry. We were a little bit skeptical of the international market, but we believed that if that barrier was broken, it would resonate with the Pakistani and Punjabi diaspora.”
A Similarity Between SS Rajamouli’s ‘Baahubali’ and ‘Maula Jatt’
It is being said that the film was mounted on a massive budget, purportedly the highest for the Pakistani film industry. When asked about the reasons behind the producers taking the risk of being involved in such high-budget production, Mandviwalla recalls, “One was the vision Bilal wanted to make and also that the producer was completely new.”
“The producer was making a film for the very first time. They never bothered about the market. I told them, ‘If you were from the industry you would never make this film. Once you’re in the business, you know where to stop but if you’re coming from outside and have no knowledge about the industry and its economics, you can go anywhere you want to.”Nadeem Mandviwalla, Distributor
Mandviwalla further says that there’s a similarity between The Legend of Maula Jatt and Baahubali, “I remember when I met (SS) Rajmouli in Pakistan, he was telling me that they never started Baahubali with the immense budget but as they kept shooting, the budget kept going higher. The same thing happened with Maula Jatt, as we kept progressing, the budget kept going higher and higher.”
Filmmaker Jami Raza says that the one thing that worked for Maula Jatt is its story, “No item numbers or stupid comedy is needed when the story is strong. A film with such a huge budget only works with a huge vision, otherwise it becomes a risk.”
How Will the Success of ‘Maula Jatt’ Affect the Pakistani Film Industry?
The Legend of Maula Jatt revolves around a rivalry between Maula Jatt and a gang leader Noori Natt. The film stars Fawad Khan and Hamza Ali Abbasi in the respective roles and Mahira Khan as Mukkho.
“It will change the course of the Pakistani film industry. It’s like the 90s film, Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, starring Madhuri (Dixit) and Salman (Khan). Before that, there was only one movie that had crossed the business of Sholay and that was Maine Pyaar Kiya. And Hum Aapke Hain Koun! changed the course of Indian industry. The entire thinking of the Indian film industry changed.”
“Then they knew that they had a big market and everything started gearing up. Filmmakers started thinking big. This is exactly what is going to happen (because of Maula Jatt). The effect will take a few years but it’ll definitely be there. Same thing happened with Titanic, the American market went berserk. One film changes the course of the industry and this will happen with Maula Jatt.”Nadeem Mandviwalla, Distributor
‘The World is Now Seeing Pakistani Films as an Industry’: Filmmaker Jami
“A lot of people thought remakes of classic don’t work out and often they don’t but there are always exceptions. Bilal was so focused on how he wanted to show it. When the original came out it was a very low budgeted film and that time, we didn't make movies for more than 50 lakh. But the characters of the film and the dialogues were phenomenal," Mandviwalla says.
He adds that Bilal’s decision to set the film in a fictional world helped a large audience identify with it and own it.
Jami points out, “It’s a bit early for a bigger impact assessment but for now filmmakers are shocked and the audience is amazed. Now, producers are looking for bigger visions or stories. I’m sure cinema owners saw a new ceiling and the world recognised Pakistani film as an industry - that’s huge.”