A modern adaptation of the short essay by Patras Bokhari, Mabel aur Mein is an entertaining ride back to university days. A project of the LUMS Media Arts Society (LMA), the short film has received great feedback on a national level. So far it has had screenings in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to galvanized crowds left wanting more. “Being a zero-budget film, Mabel aur Mein exhibits the skills of the creative minds behind it”, says Ifrah Ahmed, the Vice President of LMA and President of Production. “It deserves adulation, as these young individuals with no experience in media arts were able to challenge themselves to create an astounding piece of art.” Perhaps this very raw creative energy, coming from students united not by formal training but by the sheer love of filmmaking, as well as a drive to explore and produce something different for the Pakistani big screen, is what has appealed to the crowds and made Mabel aur Mein a huge success.
Shot in the scenic campus of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the film’s cinematography is vibrant and refreshing. Subtle yet hilarious, the script narrates the story of two good friends who get into a battle of egos, constantly trying to outshine the other. Highlighting amusing quirks from a university lifestyle, the film serves as a major throwback for graduates and a relevant modern adaptation for current students. Given that many scriptwriters today employ vulgarity to steal a few easy laughs from the audience, it’s refreshing to see a film inducing laughter with a quality script instead.
At the film’s screening in Islamabad, in response to a question about choosing Patras Bokhari’s essay as a base, the director stated that LMA wanted to introduce Bokhari’s great literature to our youth. Just as Coke Studio had reinterpreted canonical music to make it more accessible to the public, they used a classic piece of literature and made it more relatable by depicting it as a short film. The team of scriptwriters – Shahan, Neha and Orubah, are students of Social Sciences and Law at LUMS. They had their share of struggles, given the overwhelming task of doing justice to the work of Patras Bokhari with little knowhow of the technicalities of filmmaking. Shahan explains that his interest in scriptwriting came mainly from stumbling upon the scripts of two of his favorite Hollywood movies, The Shining and Paris, Texas. What drew him to Mabel aur Mein was the understanding that the script is a key component of any movie, and that a lot of planning goes into the execution of a film. Shahan recommends all aspiring filmmakers, scriptwriters and actors to “consume to compete”: watching good content helped his team a great deal in setting goals and gaining perspective.
The scriptwriters attribute their success to the close-knit team that kept supporting them throughout the project. The actors, too, pitched their ideas and opinions in the writing sessions. Usama Lali, the male lead, was one of the main creative contributors to the film. He not only brought his charisma and spontaneity to the table, but also gave valuable input on the script throughout the writing process. The female lead is Khadijah Ahmad, a 2015 Law graduate. Although having acted in several stage plays in the past, she had little experience with acting before the camera. However, she has done justice to her role. Usama and Khadijah have great onscreen presence, and although there are moments where one may outshine the other, they maintain great chemistry throughout.
Director Aymen Rizwan and co-director Shams Pasha are students of Computer Science and Management Sciences, respectively. Aymen, who originally wanted to pursue an education in the arts, says that he found his niche in filmmaking at LUMS. “Filmmaking gives you the opportunity to do art if you have ideas, and if you want to capture stories and express yourself through them”. Aymen and his team worked without a budget or formal training, and faced a plethora of logistical problems in the year prior to release. However, he stresses that upcoming filmmakers should not be discouraged by budgetary constraints, because true talent always finds a way through.
Given the nationwide acclaim won by the film, team Mabel aur Mein is hoping to introduce it on the international stage. But they also hope to stay in touch to work on future projects, says scriptwriter Shahan. The LUMS Media Arts Society is currently busy working on their upcoming short film, 5 Choohay.
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