Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chenoy wants children to realise they hold the power to change the future of Pakistan through the country’s first animated film, 3 Bahadur
Why did it take so long for an animated feature to be made in Pakistan?
We’ve created animated content for years, but the industry is overwhelmed with product driven content, where the focus is on selling rather than storytelling. Besides, making an animated film is costly wherever you are. Pakistani animators are skilled enough to produce content that mirrors Pixar in terms of quality, but you need the budgets and timelines that will support such work. But we’re getting there. In a first, Sharmeen Obaid Chenoy Films has launched new production house, Waadi Animations. It will solely produce animated content including short films, TV series among other things.
What kind of content is available for children in Pakistan?
Given the demographics of Pakistan, one would imagine we would be producing more content that is geared towards children. Pakistan has one of the youngest populations in the world with about 42 per cent of people under the age of 14. Yet there is virtually no original children’s programming in theatres or television.
Is that what drove you towards making 3 Bahadur?
It was about time we produced light-hearted, quality content for children locally so that they can finally see characters who look and speak like them on the big screen. In a world of Doras, Ben 10s and Chota Bheems, the fact that we are giving our children local mentors and heroes through 3 Bahadur is one of our proudest accomplishments.
Tell us about the premise of the film.
3 Bahadur is the story of three brave children, Amna, Saadi and Kamil who fight for justice against evil forces in their community. They have heightened cognitive and physical abilities. Amna has the ability to move at an extraordinary speed, Kamil is equipped with enhanced hearing and Saadi has enhanced intelligence to come up with plans to defeat his enemies.
Why did you choose a superhero story?
The great thing about superheroes is that on the surface their life may be about powers but there is always room for themes to run in parallel. Friendship, teamwork and courage are qualities we have woven into the narrative. I want children to realise that they hold the power to change the future of Pakistan.
The film’s trailer gives a glimpse into an old town of Pakistan with its local shops, old adverts on the walls and markets. Where have you based the story?
The story is set in Roshan Basti, which could be anywhere in Pakistan. We have taken special care to ensure that the story remains very local; from the way we have designed our characters, to our dialogues and our script. I want Pakistani children to be able to see their reflection in movies. These children face issues
that most Pakistani children also face.
Will the film have an international release?
3 Bahadur will be released nationwide in Pakistan on May 22. We are in the process of finalising international distribution in other countries where there is a large Pakistani population. The international release will take place in the fall of this year.
When you started you were the only woman in Pakistan to be working dedicatedly in cinema. Has that changed?
The media in Pakistan has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade; our film industry is growing, our TV channels are maturing and we continue to produce exceptional writers. However, the industry continues to be primarily male dominated, with women relegated to specific roles within companies and production houses.
Women who have already established themselves need to be inclusive and make other women feel safe. This is what I’m trying to do with my production company.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I have just wrapped up a feature documentary film, Song of Lahore, about a jazz ensemble that is trying to revive classical music . It will be premiere at Tribeca Film Festival this month. I am also working on Peacekeepers, a film about Bangladeshi policewomen who are serving as peace-keeping forces in Haiti with the UN.