Yasra Rizvi, who started her journey with theatre and has been acting on television for many years now, has stepped into filmmaking with Senti Aur Mental. She made her acting debut with Manto and also directed the recently held PAS Awards. Rizvi will also be playing one of the two lead characters in Senti Aur Mental that revolves around the story of two individuals: Senti (Yasra Rizvi) and Mental (Yasir Hussain). The film will be a blend of comedy, drama and emotions and also features renowned artist Yousuf Bashir Qureshi in a supporting role. Here are excerpts from Rizvi’s conversation with Instep.
Instep: How did you come up with the idea of Senti Aur Mental?
Yasra Rizvi (YR): Senti Aur Mental is a story that I’ve been thinking about for a good 4-5 years. It initially generated from the loss of a very young friend who passed away at the age of 24. It changed my life and that’s where the story originated. It’s about chance meetings and destiny and how it affects our lives.
Instep: What made you chose Yasir Hussain as one of the two lead characters?
YR: I have known Yasir since he was 16; I was the producer of the first play that he was a part of in Islamabad but then we lost touch and pursued our lives separately. When I met him again somewhere around 2014-2015 and spent some time with him, it clicked to me that he has to be one of the lead characters and somehow I ended up writing the script in a month after meeting him. So, for me it just could not be anyone else but Yasir to play that character.
Instep: What is your role in the film? How is it different from the ones that you have been doing so far?
YR: I am actually playing the other lead character and it’s different because it’s something I have written myself and the last time that I acted in something that I’d written myself was on stage. It’s a lot of me in the character and that’s what makes it different from what I have played on television. It is a very intense character.
Instep: Senti Aur Mental is your directorial debut. What are the challenges that you have to face as a filmmaker at a time when Pakistani cinema is rebuilding itself?
YR: As a debut filmmaker it’s definitely difficult because a lot of financing is going to come from brands and from independent financiers. To be a first time filmmaker, a first time director, I have to constantly prove and sell myself as somebody capable of pulling off a film. I am trying to collaborate with people and that’s the only way all of us can learn.
Instep: How long have you been working on this project and when will the film release?
YR: Actually we just announced the film recently two to three months ago and we’ve been doing our pre-production in this time. Of course we are a new film company and we want to keep our budgets very controlled so we decided that we are going to give ample time to pre-production and construct the film as much as we can on the table and on paper before we actually go on the set. The pre-production will be done by August and hopefully we will hit the floor by September and I am hoping for a 14th February release. I am still not sure but it will be in the first quarter of 2017 for sure.
Instep: Your character in Manto was a powerful one. How challenging was it for you to play such a character in your debut film?
YR: Actually playing Kulwant Kaur in Manto wasn’t really challenging because of the director; Sarmad is an outstanding director. He is a very dear friend and definitely someone who I was extremely inspired from creatively as his work has given me the strength to take this leap of faith myself (going on directing a film). Manto was a breeze because Sarmad Khoosat directed it so beautifully and directed me as a character so beautifully.
Instep: What other projects are you currently working on?
YR: There is a little bit of acting going on but I am mostly busy with Harkat Pictures, the company that is bringing Senti Aur Mental to you. It’s a brainchild of me and my late brother and it’s a group of friends who are working together to make this venture a success. Of course I will also be experimenting with other genres. I am actually a very dark and intense storyteller so I will definitely be dabbling on to that side too.