"I very firmly believe that money can only be useful if it is used for the purposes which are greater than ones self."
Times of Youth: For those who don’t know about you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Well, I am a businessman and a political economist by trade, however this journey of mine had extremely humble beginnings. It starts on a cycle and ends on Ferrari 355 F1 Spider (which was the very first car I bought with my own money). The very first job I secured was of a janitor where I was studying and at the same time worked extremely hard to put myself through a business school. After I completed my education I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work at some of the front running fortune 500 organisations which taught me a lot. Then I ventured to work for myself, I choose the field of Oil Exploration, Trading in heavy metals and LED Lights Manufacturing. I achieved a reasonable amount of Financial success, which encouraged me to put my financial gains to do something important because I very firmly believe that money can only be useful if it is used for the purposes which are greater than ones self.
Times of Youth: Yalghaar- What is the real story behind choosing this power-packed name of this film? Whose brainchild was the inception of this story altogether?
Hassan Waqas Rana: In 2007, I heard about an operation which the Pakistan Army had conducted in the Swat valley. The story intrigued me, so set upon researching on it, and the more I ventured in to it, the more I got inspired by the people involved in this daring act of soldiering and I thought this is a story that, I need to tell the world and most importantly to my people. Now as far as the name is concerned, the reason why I chose this name is because this one word “YALGHAAR” (which means “BATTLE CRY”) completely embodies the story of the film.
Times of Youth: What is the plot of the movie?
Hassan Waqas Rana: As I mentioned before, the story of the film has been inspired from a Military operation undertaken by the Pakistan Army in the Swat Valley. The plot of the film revolves around the lives of the soldiers and officers who were involved in this operation, the movie is about, love, romance, sacrifice, courage and valour.
Times of Youth: Considering the incredible success of your previous venture 'Waar', what valuable lessons did you derive from its making which you've implemented while creating 'Yalghaar'?
Hassan Waqas Rana: The first lesson which 'Waar' taught me was that, I needed to formally educate myself on all the technical aspects of Film making, starting from camera operations to the art of colour grading. Therefore I spent a lot of time after its release to train myself and I went to almost everywhere and to everyone who could teach me a thing or two (by the way, I still learn something everyday). This training enabled me to better analyse what was lacking in our industry and during this time I learnt the most important reality of life that, the audience are too smart and their standards are too high, so if you have to keep them engaged for 2hrs and 20mins, you have to work very hard to meet their expectations and keep them engaged. I also learned that if one has to succeed one has to make a film on international standards and not only cater for your own market. Every aspect of your film has to be as close to perfection as possible. The devil is in the details and if you don’t account for it, you will lose and lose hard. Another important lesson that I learnt was that, “THE STORY SHOULD DRIVE THE ACTION AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND”.
Times of Youth: What was the total budget of the movie?
Hassan Waqas Rana: We initially planned for almost 5m US$ but by doing certain things right we are now able to finish the film in almost 3 to 3.2m US$.
Times of Youth: What motivated you to delve into the field of action movie production & direction?
Hassan Waqas Rana: As I mentioned to you earlier, I wanted to put my money into some good use so I thought of reviving the Pakistani cinema. Because I very firmly believe that, in order to succeed as a society you need to have a very vibrant and successful film industry. Action films in particular have a larger audience because there is an 'Action Hero' in all of us and all of us tend to live vicariously through such action heroes. The reason why I got into direction was simple, I am a trained pilot, a sky diver and am half decent both at martial arts and weapons and tactics, and all of this gives me a unique insight into the emotional and biological changes which occur while you are doing all of the above, therefore I think I am able to go deeper into action and am able to show a different side to action which the audience has not seen before.
Times of Youth: Who were/are your filmmaking inspirations? It could be anything which inspired you all along.
Hassan Waqas Rana: As far as Pakistani Cinema is concerned I am extremely inspired by the Late Mr. Riaz Shahid, he was unique and the moment the first scene of his film would open you can understand that it is a Riaz Shahid film, from his subject matter to his execution he was different and always ahead of the game, wether it was “Zarqa” or “Ye Aman”, he was way ahead of his time. Internationally my inspirations have been Mr. John Woo and Mr. Guy Richie, both of these gentlemen have a unique style of execution and a unique and interesting style of engaging their audience and again you really don’t have to read the credits to find out who actually directed the film that you just watched. And now as far as writing is concerned both Mr. Riaz Shahid and Mr. Amjad Islam Amjad are in a class of their own.
Times of Youth: Any special experience you'd like to share with us regarding this film?
Hassan Waqas Rana: On an action film where we were using live ammunition and explosives, and you are either dangling under a helicopter or jumping out of the plane at 10,000ft along with your camera, you really can’t narrow down to one or two experiences.
Times of Youth: Based on how viral its teasers have been going, what kind of an impact do you expect once the movie releases?
Hassan Waqas Rana: We have more then a million views on our first look. This has given us a lot of heart as a team and we expect that the film shall achieve targets that we set for it.
Times of Youth: Which scene or moment while making Yalghaar was the most overwhelming for you and your crew?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Almost every one is as crazy on this set as me, especially my core team of AD’s which includes Mr. Imad Khalid, Ms. Sofia Haroon and Mr. Ameer Zaidi. We are so lucky that, everyday on the set we all get to do and try to achieve that, has not been attempted before and we tend to push the outside of the envelope every day, so can’t really narrow down to any one particular thing.
Times of Youth: As seen in Yalghaar's trailer, a host of outrageous and daredevil-ish action sequences including lots of choppers and skydiving being involved including an awesome star cast. Based on the responses so far, what are your personal expectations from the film at the box office?
Hassan Waqas Rana: The film even before it is finished has sold over 500 shows which is almost a revenue of a 100million rupees, this is an unprecedented success and trust that, the people have shown us and this is exactly what I am hoping for.
Times of Youth: Which was the most difficult sequence that you shot for Yalghaar from a director's point of view?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Most of the romantic sequences of the film were a challenge to me as a director, because they had to match up to the great action sequences we already have in the film, in a romantic sequence you have to do justice to your actor’s talent, so everything has to be perfect from lighting to the camera angles that you choose. I was extremely lucky that I had the talents of Mr. Shaan Shahid, Sana Buch, Adnan Siddiqui, Aleeze Nasir, Bilal Ashraf, Armena Khan, Ahmed Taha Ghani and Uzma khan to help me in these sequences and they came unto the exacting standards that we had set for our film.
Times of Youth: How does it feel to be one of the rare Pakistani directors to create films incorporating VFX on a large scale for an entire feature film?
Hassan Waqas Rana: It is strangely satisfying and liberating when you have an amazing team backing you up, Mr. Bilal Ashraf who is deputising me on VFX is doing an amazing job along with Mr. Syed Abbas and Mansoor are my strengths and they give me the courage to push the boundaries as far as I can.
Times of Youth: What lessons would be learnt by the audience on watching the movie? In other words, what would be the take-home message of this movie?
Hassan Waqas Rana: I want my audience to feel pride in the amazing achievements of our country and our countrymen, and I want my international audience who don’t know much about Pakistan leave with a better understanding of Pakistan and its people.
Times of Youth: What's your top five favorite movies of all time?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Its very hard and the list keep on changing, however on this day and at this very moment it would be,
2. Shawshank Redemption
3. The Untouchables
4. Lock Stock and Two smoking barrels
5. Scent Of A Women
Times of Youth: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back something to the society, or just tell a particular story and not do anything else? Why or why not?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Filmmakers have the biggest responsibility of them all. It is because a person will come to the cinema, pay money and listen to you sitting in a dark room with his full faculties. So it is incumbent upon us filmmakers to take this responsibility extremely seriously and honour the audience and their time.
Times of Youth: How much do the film-makers have to compromise in creativity for film production owing to financial constraints?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Especially in Pakistan, its a lot.
Times of Youth: Any advice you'd give to aspiring youngsters who want to enter movies now or in the future?
Hassan Waqas Rana: It's the most difficult industry to break through in, so if and when you come, be ready for the hard graft and a very hard time, but also know the flip side of it. If and when you break through every ounce of struggle that you had made getting here will give you dividends a thousand times over. There is no field which can give you all but this, provided you can push yourself hard enough.
Times of Youth: Any message to fans and followers via TIMES OF YOUTH?
Hassan Waqas Rana: Firstly, is thank you for reading my babble, I truly appreciate the effort from the very core of my heart. Secondly, do everything in life with a knowledge that every action you take as a young person is going to determine the future of this planet. So no pressure!