Multi-award winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy gives insights to Pakistanâ€™s first animated feature film 3 Bahadur.
What can you tell us about 3 Bahadur and what prompted you to make a feature length animated film?
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: I had wanted to do something for children for a long time. Pakistan has a very young population and a booming media industry, but we have stopped producing quality content for children. All of our content is imported, from animation to variety shows, and thus our youth grows up with mentors and heroes that are far removed from what they see around them in real life. I felt that it was about time we produced light-hearted, quality content for children locally so that our children can finally see characters who look and speak like them on the big screen.
3 Bahadur is replete with all of the makings of a blockbuster entertainment piece – menacing villains, unlikely heroes, fumbling sidekicks and a solid dose of humor, triumph and tragedy. It is about three young friends who, equipped with superpowers, set out to save their town from the evils that plague it.
Who would you say is your target market for the film, and do you think there is market for animated films in Pakistan?
Sharmeen: 3 Bahadur is going to be groundbreaking because it provides quality entertainment for the whole family. Children will be mesmerized by unlikely superheroes, menacing villains, and fumbling thugs and parents will be able to relate to the everyday issues faced by the characters.
The growth of the animation industry will depend on how content like 3 Bahadur is received by audiences. If we can sustain the interest being created now, we can achieve exponential growth over the next 5 years. The talent is there, the skill is there, and the passion is palatable – we just need to make sure that our audience responds as positively to animation as we did.
The 3 Bahadur comic is published each week as part of the film’s marketing and promotional work and you are also working on a website and a mobile game app – tell us more about this.
Sharmeen: There is a lot of activation that we are doing around the film. This unprecedented promotional engagement commenced beginning of this year with weekly 3 Bahadur comic strips being published in Young World. The comic strips series showcases side adventures of the 3 Bahadur gang fighting issues that the common Pakistani man faces on a daily basis.
We will be launching a dedicated website for 3 Bahadur, with detailed information on the film, its story and characters and downloadable content such as photos, music and exclusive behind-the-scenes videos. We are also creating a 3 Bahadur game for Android and iOS based platforms and a graphic novel.
How do you see 3 Bahadur contributing to the revival of Pakistani cinema?
Sharmeen: 3 Bahadur is filling a gap in Pakistani cinema. In a country of 180 million people, the resurgence of cinema is occurring at a rapid rate. An unprecedented amount of multiplexes are springing up all over the country to cater to growing demands for quality entertainment. Pakistan has one of the youngest populations in the world with about 42 percent of people under the age of 14, yet there is virtually no original children’s programming in theatres or television in the country.
How challenging was it to make a high quality animated movie in Pakistan with the available resources, expertise and materials?
Sharmeen: I was nervous because I had never worked in animation before, and documentary films are very different in terms of content and style. When we started working on 3 Bahadur back in summer of 2012, it was an uphill climb – putting together a team, learning how animation works from the initial sketch to the final shot, and diving into a medium that is both expensive and time consuming. What surprised me was the ease with which we found exceptional illustrators, writers, animators and visual effect artists and, with their help, we found our pace a few months into the project.
There are so many talented illustrators, writers, animators and visual effect artists in Pakistan but unfortunately we haven’t done them justice in this country. We have not given them the space and resources required to show off just how talented they are. We have all the ingredients to one day be a nation that produces multiple animated films every year, and I am certain that 3 Bahadur will play its own small role in expanding the industry and getting more people interested in what animation has to offer.
What message do you have for our readers who are looking forward to the release of the film?
Sharmeen: From its character to the team behind it, 3 Bahadur is a purely Pakistani production. 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. We want to prove that Pakistan can pull off such content, and we hope that you enjoy the film!