KARACHI : Directed by Syed Atif Ali and co-written by Muhammad Ahsan, Pari is an upcoming Pakistani horror film that reminds one of the likes of The Conjuring and Annabelle. In fact, the film was criticised for plagiarism after the trailer showed one of the characters in nun-like makeup and special effects.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Ali weighed in on the comparisons. “It’s not similar at all! People thought so because our character Mehwish wears a veil and in the dark, it may remind you of The Conjuring. But if you look at the features of the face, they’re quite different,” he said. “This kind of makeup is happening in Pakistan for the first time, and it’s all done by local artists. And if people are comparing it to Hollywood, it’s a win for us. We take it as a compliment.”
According to the director, Pari takes heavy influence from religious ideas, just like many international horror films. “I liked Stephen King’s work and his stories always have a child character. Even if you look at The Shining, it has a child character at its center,” Ali said. “Then, I remember this prayer we used to recite as children whenever we went to the toilet, because Islam taught us there are some unwanted presences in there that we need to be protected from. So I thought why not have these demonic presences take over the house? This is how Pari started.”
Ali may not be a household name yet but he’s been writing dramas and telefilms for 18 years now. As to why he chose horror genre for his feature film debut, the director shared he is a huge Stephen King fan. “It’s because I like horror. I have written a lot of horror dramas as well throughout my career. And then everyone else is doing rom-coms or comedy films, so we thought it would be great to offer something different to our audiences.”
While Pakistani film-makers have attempted horror in the past with Siyaah and last year’s Aksbandh, they haven’t really come close to scaring viewers or giving them a bone-chilling experience. Ali believes the previous attempts lacked one important element. “Even in a horror film, you can’t just shock the audience with jump scares for two hours continuously. To maintain the element of horror, you need a solid story.”
According to Ali, the battle between good and evil, light and dark is eternal and we always turn to that in stories. Pari also deals with the same idea. “It’s about this character who is religious and wears veil and thinks she follows the religion, but her faith is tested when demonic forces take over her and she gives in to them.”
The film stars several newcomers and the director justified it, saying, “I don’t want the audience to think they recognise the actors and get distracted by them. I don’t want them to come with preconceived notions about them.”
Pari is planned for a November 3 release. Asked whether he thinks his film will set a benchmark for horror in Pakistan, Ali said, “I like films which stay with you long after leaving the cinema. I believe Pari is one of those films, which will stay with you after long you’ve watched it.” The film will be dedicated to Khwaja Sarfaraz, director of Pakistan’s first horror film Zinda Laash (1967).
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