The Pak-China relationship extends to cinema


Syra Shahroz has had a turbulent run in the cinemas, nonetheless, her debut film, Chalay Thay Saath (CTS) happens to be the only Pakistani film to have been shortlisted for the first installment of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) Film Festival in China. Chalay Thay Saath revolves around her character, Resham’s pursuit of self-discovery as she and her friends visit her hometown near the valley of Hunza, and leads to a cross-border love-story as she falls for a Chinese man.

Instep got hold of the actress, before she flew out to attend the festival, to speak about taking her movie to international heights and more. Syra is accompanied by the film’s director, Umar Adil, producer, Beenish Umar and its leading man from China, Kent S. Leung.

Syra Shahroz and Kent S. Leung in a BTS image from Chalay Thay Saath.

We begin our conversation with how the film made it to the SCO platform and we’re informed that the Pakistani embassy in China had previewed CTS last year and played a part in bringing it in.

“The Ministry of Information/Technology, Pakistan has kept CTS at the top of their list when it comes to projecting a positive image of Pakistan,” Shahroz added of how the film was eventually selected to be screened at the festival.

The starlet would be attending five events in total, starting with the opening ceremony red carpet and concluding with a closing ceremony that would nationally be televised in China, between which she would grace the Film Corporation, a cocktail party and an ‘In Focus’ program composed of press-conferences, screenings and a Q/A session post that, something she seems most excited for, with her presence.

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“CTS is the only film picked out of Pakistan for this program and there’ll be question and answer sessions after the screening,” she revealed ecstatically.

The SCO Festival marks many firsts, including Syra’s introductory global appearance. “This is my very first international film festival. I couldn’t have asked for a prouder moment than to represent my country internationally with my debut film,” she maintains, hopefully and with great credence before adding that she would be seen in Pakistani ensembles mostly.

“I want to represent Pakistan on every level so I’m going mostly for Pakistani designers,” she spoke about her choice of festival wardrobe.

Whilst the film had received a lukewarm response, critically as well as commercially in Pakistan, Syra feels the film’s narrative is apt for the occasion and would well delineate the Pak-China friendship on celluloid. “I have no doubts about people loving the movie. It’s a beautiful depiction of Pakistan-China friendship and I’m certain it’ll be appreciated,” she commented on expectations from the Chinese audience.

Catering to an audience and media from about 12 countries, the film hasn’t been dubbed in Mandarin, but would be played with English subtitles in Qingdao, where the festival will take place. CTS has previously been taken to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Film Festival and played in Hong Kong’s Arts Centre in Tony Wan Chai district.

Apart from preparing for her cosmopolitan foray, Syra has been shooting her next, yet-to-be-titled, cinematic outing; a romance opposite husband and actor, Shahroz Sabzwari. After her supposed second film Project Ghazi was pulled back from releasing the night of its premiere and her backing out of the Jawani Phir Nahi Ani sequel; production seems to be on the cards now.

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“I’m working on a couple of other projects (apart from the film), more on the production side – but it’s in really initial stages. I haven’t really turned to production as yet, I’m still trying to see if I want to,” she told us on a parting note. “Content is most important (to me), so at the moment, I’m trying to create content that would be different yet relatable.”



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