‘Do you think we’ll get to take a selfie?’
‘I’m pretty sure they’re inside. Let’s try getting in through the side door.’
‘I wonder if she remembers me from 6 years ago.’
‘His last movie was Laal, right? Maybe I can ask a question about that.’
As the author shuffled her way through the crowd of fans pressing against the glass doors, she found the auditorium pulsating with unendurable ecstasy. The LMA had done the improbable: they had invited the matchless Sajal Aly and Bilal Abbas Khan along with the rest of the cast to LUMS for a Meet and Greet prior to the release of their groundbreaking film, Khel Khel Mein. Had we not arrived an hour early, we would’ve never gotten in. After 20 minutes of pushing and prodding from all sides, we managed to find cramped seats in the far left corner.
Within half an hour of settling down, the cast, producer, and director strolled into the dainty little auditorium. Once the excitement had died down a little, our LMA hosts opened up with their introductory spiel highlighting LMA’s projects and vision. Following this, a short introduction to the film Khel Khel Main was made and an enrapturing screening of the trailer was carried out. As Gen Z says these days: the vibes were, no cap, absolutely immaculate.
To satiate their die-hard fans, the entire cast introduced themselves, revealing that for some of them, this was their debut film project. Qudsia (with her fabulous curly hair), Aneesha Altaf, Hasaan min Javaid, Faid (who, by far, was the shyest), and Hammad (who was donning a flawless man-bun) all made a performance.
After this, the director Nabeel Qureshi spoke. He has a history of directing and writing politically controversial films like Actor-In-Law and Na Maloom Afrad, and he shared his keen interest in the historical implications of the 1971 war. He also spoke of his singing endeavors and various awards. Following this, the producer, Fizza Ali Meerza, who worked alongside Nabeel in Na Maloom Afrad, told us about her experience in experimenting with sociopolitical screenwriting.
This was followed by a plethora of anecdotes that the audience listened to in stunned silence. Talking about living together, eating together, and traveling together, the cast established that they had come to know each other very well. The author also discovered that the cast was contractually obliged to eat their meals timely. The novice actors shared what parts of the shooting process they had found rather absurd as well as how the film opened up several avenues of opportunities for them. It came to our attention that during the shoot, Sajal tested positive for Covid-19, and the crew was forced to freeze all venue booking, rentals, and appointments, which proved to be a major obstacle in the filmmaking process.
The cast was filled with nothing but admiration and praise for their director and producer, with Sajal and Bilal mentioning they had never, in their entire careers, seen a director and producer so dedicated to their work; the two were even putting the set together themselves and actively partaking in the smallest of decisions. Fizza, the producer, then highlighted that during casting, she had a true sense of responsibility that came with her authority and in order to choose fairly, the cast was finalized while writing the script.
During the rapid-fire round, we learned some tidbits about the actors’ lives. These include: Hammad would want to wake up as Shahrukh Khan, and Sajal would prefer to be stranded on an island with Mojiz (while Fizza preferred Faid). Sajal also confessed that Mojiz made her the angriest on set as he would always be late. Hammad, however, was unanimously declared the sweetest, although he takes the longest to get ready (hence the perfect man bun). Sajal was known for forgetting her lines most often, but she was forgiven after her hilarious parody of Aneesha. This heartwarming and hilarious episode ended with Bilal being ousted for always sleeping between takes. When asked if they ever felt the urge to abandon the project, they confessed that they wanted to do so “all the time” and that it was impossible to lie to Fizza and Nabeel.
When asked what the set was like, they all agreed it was insane. Their time in Balochistan was especially hectic. Fizza painted a hilariously touching picture of Sajal approaching her in the dead of the night with tear-stained cheeks in a remote guest house of Balochistan, asking to leave for Karachi for 4 hours because her husband, Ahad Raza Mir, was going to South Africa for 3 months. While Fizza did allow her to go, she ensured that Sajal would be back in 4 hours.
The spectacular event ended with the cast holding a mesmerizing dance performance to their hit song, “Nayi Soch” which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. With a few moments to spare, the cast played a short game of never have I ever along with the audience, which we later realized was an excuse to give out promotional gift bags to selected members of the audience.