These days the Pakistani film industry seems to be on the rise and booming, specially after the multiple releases of films on this 14th August 2015, films like Karachi se Lahore, Moor, Wrong Number, Shah, Dekh Magar Pyaar Se made a lot of hype before even being released, and many films did good business too. But as the industry shows the face of success, there is a dark side to it that everyone does not know about. Usually most people in the media know about these things but they keep quite and like to move on with it so they can keep the business rolling. These people are usually the same ones who are eating up the industry slowly from the inside and u can’t reason with these kind of people because they are super biased. Today I will tell you about a week of my life out of my 10 years in media as a director, when I experienced what you might call only a small part of “The Dark Side Of Our Media Industry”. I felt like I should talk about this, because I’m a part of this industry too and I want to cherish it but the way these people are eating it up and destroying it from the inside, it is crazy.

Recently I went to direct a commercial shoot to Nathia Gali for a clothing brand. So I eventually had to hire some models so we can dress them, for which I contacted a casting agency (I won’t name the agency because, it belongs to an old friend of mine) which is one of the best in Pakistan. I haven’t dealt with them for a long time, because I usually know the models personally and I give them a call directly. So I was working with the agency after quite a while, but this time I wanted some new faces so I had to contact them. Before I tell u what happened here, let me tell you about the old times which u need to know so you can understand the difference. When I was regularly working almost every day (Musharaf era) the talent (models/actors/VJ’s) used to behave and were very nice and cooperative. It was a really good time and it’s not that long ago. Models like ZQ, Vinnie, Sanam Jung, Anoushay, Kanza Wayne, Mahira Khan, Ayesha Omer, even though after being pretty famous were the most well behaved, basically nice girls to work with, full of positive energy no matter what the conditions were, rarely complained about any thing, never asked for star treatment, used to have student biryani with the rest of us. These were the classy times when I worked the most and I loved it because these individuals made your day.

Now let me come to this era and tell you what happened during the casting process with this certain agency. I had to select 2 girls from the B category, which eventually became a pain because of firstly the over excessive photo shopped picture you get of the model, which u have to select from, some have videos others don’t. To make sure they actually look what they seem like in the picture you watch their audition videos and when u watch the video they look nothing like the picture they had sent, these pictures have been altered and manipulated by the casting agency because usually the agency is trying to push a model on you, and then secondly the nakhras of these B class models had were so un reasonable, they had so many unprofessional question and issues before even getting selected for the commercial, which the casting agency was catering to. After 4 painful days of unprofessional questions and solving the models life problems, that they all had, finally 2 girls (Suzain Khan and Ghanna Tahir) were selected. I had a feeling these girls will also create trouble somewhere or the other later on, but so far these girls had been the least painful.

I spoke to the person who was handling my cast in the agency, I told him not to cater to any nakhras or issues which don’t make any sense or are un reasonable, but the this guy (let’s call him Humair), Humair kept catering to their every want, and said things to me like “aap ko to pata hai models to eysi hi hoti hai na” (“you know very well this is what models are like”), to which I replied, “no man this is the first time I’m having so much trouble dealing with a cast”.

Now many might say why didn’t you just call one of your model friends and made it easier for yourself, to that I say that: it’s my job to look for and bring something different to the screen than what you are already seeing, we are the people who pick these models work on them and make them famous. But models nowadays don’t understand this part. Anyways after flying to Islamabad, I got both of these models picked up from Lahore where they were finishing a shoot, and brought them to Islamabad.

Every time a shoot usually takes place everyone is on a strict schedule because no one wants to waste time or money, but these girls had no regard for that whatsoever. After committing me a time, they left 5 hours late from Lahore, then I had to stay up till they arrived so I could brief them before leaving in the morning for the shoot. Finally, these girls arrived to our guest house, and started their nakhras (“we don’t want to stay in this room, we want a new room, We want food from “falaan falaan” place, I cant shoot for 3 days, I need to be in Karachi for a shoot after 2 days, I need u guys to book a ticket for me from Islamabad so I can get there quicker, I need a personal spot boy, why don’t u have a bigger crew”, etc.) which I sort of catered to because I wanted everyone to be in a happy mood before the shoot day. I understand if you are the hottest, most famous or the prettiest girl in the media industry, then you are allowed to make these nakhras, because you are in demand and we really need you, which most famous people tend to do so they can make some stupid point, but when you are none of these things there is no room for this attitude to fly by.

Ghanna Tahir very conveniently had forgotten her accessories, which were part of her look for the commercial (for example hair extensions which makes her face bearable to look at). Suzain Khan left at 3 A.M. with a boy without telling us, and told the makeup guy that she will be back in the morning by 7 A.M. and she is going to stay the night with her family relatives at Serena Hotel (and we all know what that means) but whatever she does in her personal life is none of my business as long she is on my shoot on time. This girl never came back. We got worried in the morning and started tracking her down but her phone was off. After 5 hours of no sign from Suzain Khan we were convinced that this girl will never show up and we are screwed. So my crew and I went to Islamabad Bird Park to do some thinking and we made a decision that we do not want to work with this agency anymore who keeps such models in their bank who are careless, unprofessional, waste your money and don’t give a crap about your shoot. We decided that we will look for another alternative.

Finally after 7 hours Suzain Khan shows up making all sorts of excuses and was apologizing. But we had already made our decision and I was done with these girls and the agency.

This whole experience made me realize how much these casting agencies have spoiled their models, by catering to their every senseless needs and wants, which makes my job a living hell, because I have much more to do than just being a doormat to these girls and taking care of their nakhras. Though I’m the one who is hiring these girls and paying them to do a job, but in this whole process I felt like I was their servant and they were doing me a favor by agreeing to come to the shoot. Everyone told me they were doing this because I as nice to them, and rest of the people aren’t, so I should’ve treated them like shit. This did not make any sense to me: why should I have to be mean to someone in order for them to do the job they are hired for. So I had decided not to work with these agencies ever again because they are producing a lot of unprofessional talent who really does not want to cooperate with you. They come to the set so they can dish out their tantrums and you are supposed to take care of them or else there will be a problem on the set, which is no way to work, because this affects and compromises the commercials’/films’ quality and content, and if this keeps going the way its going, the shittier and misbehaved the models will become and the crappier your commercials/films quality will be.

So after realizing that these people will eventually slowly destroy our industry because there will hardly be any people left who will agree to cooperate with you while you are trying to make something good and creative. So giving them business was something I didn’t want to do anymore, I felt like telling my other director friends so they can stop catering to the agencies too, because eventually this is going to affect our jobs and our community. But I still had a shoot to finish so I had to figure out what to do, so we decided to get models who aren’t associated with any agencies, and therefore won’t be retarded – but I was wrong.

It became more difficult than ever. A friend of mine who organizes BCW (bridal couture week) arranged me a Lahori model (Farah Shah) at the last minute. Obviously the model had to take advantage of the situation and quoted a more than usual price because she knew we were in need. Through another friend we got a number of a model from Islamabad who runs a talent agency named Xpress Models, and her name was Nasreen Jadmani. She agreed to provide us with an Islamabadi model (Fatima).

Now Farah Shah apparently never goes anywhere without her dog (a husky) and this dog was no small dog that can be carried around everywhere, but since we were in need I got someone to agree to accommodate the dog in the car while travelling from Lahore. After arriving 4 hours late as usual (because being late is some kind of ritual models have to perform), with in one hour this girl had sucked our brains dry. This girl had issues and attitude to the max. The first thing she said to me was, “I was actually planning not to come, but then I saw the driver waiting outside my house for 3 hours, then I felt sad for him and then I decided I should go” and I couldn’t absorb this information, I couldn’t believe that someone could have the balls to do such a thing and say it too. But I controlled my anger because I could not risk anything at this point. The rest of the hour was about her dog and how it was not happy, and complaints about things that had not even happened, and criticizing and taunting the crew. So now we were trying to make the dog comfortable (which it was, it is a freaking dog, like it cares about anything), so we can get on with our travelling plans to Nathia Gali. Again I’ll say if you are famous and drop dead gorgeous then it’s somewhat understandable when you do such dramas, but this girl was not even close to that. Because this girl was now not happy (and I personally think, insane) she called her boyfriend after every 15 minutes and complained to her boyfriend, then her boyfriend called me every time. After an hour we were convinced that this girl couldn’t last 3 days with us, because we will end up killing her, and her dog with her. So we decided to ditch the retarded model and left her there at the guesthouse.

Let come to the other model (Fatima) who was 17 years old and was very naïve. This girl was provided to us by Nasreen Jadmani who works for Xpress Models. We had no plans what so ever to deal with agencies but we desperately needed someone from Islamabad, since we had no time to bring them from Karachi or Lahore. We trusted our friend who referred us to Nasreen, and said she is a nice person and she will help you out. But Nasreen Jadmani, being a typical Pakistani, took advantage of the situation too, because we were desperate to shoot as we were running out of time, we told her we want a model who charges around 90k (in this price you can get a decent model who has worked on a few things before and is pretty professional). Nasreen being a typical Pakistani, did what every exploiter in media does: she gave us a model who had never worked before professionally, who usually took 20k and Nasreen offered her 30k, so obviously Fatima took the job. But we not aware of that at this point.

Obviously the excessively Photoshopped pictures arrived and we had to select from that because no videos were available, so we selected Fatima and we were paying 90k as promised for her. When Faitma arrived, obviously she looked nothing like her picture, and this point I was convinced that I’m pretty screwed. But this had to go on because I had a shoot to finish and there was no other choice. After talking to her on the way to Nathia Gali she told us that this is her first time ever professionally working on video, and also told us how much Nasreen is paying her. At this moment my associate Jam Yasir and I looked at each other and nodded, that we literally got screwed. And so the shoot went on.

Now my question here is: Why are these casting agencies picking up models that are not are even qualified to be a model? They need excessive make up and accessories and then Photoshop to look somewhere bearable and then they possess no set of skills besides the fact that they look very sultry. I’m not exaggerating, but the pictures that were sent to us were of model that looked fine and nice, but when I call to explain to them the concept of what we are shooting and that there will be a lot of laughing and smiling, they tell us that they have braces. This did not happen with one but 2 of them. I mean what the hell? It’s not the model’s fault because people who are not qualified to do a certain job do come and try their hands at jobs (for example American Idol). Instead of sending them back and telling them to work on themselves, they select them after over excessive use of make up, accessories and Photoshop, and after that they push them down your throat and people like us have to select them because we out of options. So basically the casting agencies make a fool out of us. This is a rip off, the way I see it, because this will play a role in destroying our industry.

My week ended on my last night in Karachi. I went to Cinepax Cinema to watch a movie called “Shah”. This was a story about a boxer from Lyaari and this story was literally worth telling. The guy who directed SHAH (Adnan Sarwar) is a good storyteller compared to the talent we have today in our industry, but by watching the movie and its quality I realized how people screwed him over too. Being part of the industry I obviously hear things, so I know the prices people charged Adnan Sarwar for the color grading, film score, sound and folie, and man was he ripped off. This made me realize how these vultures in our industry who are growing day by day, kill the genuine people who are part of or just entering the industry. They will eat the industry from the inside eventually demotivating the genuine people who work in this industry for passion, and one by one, the passionate people will all leave. Then all we will be left with will be item songs and sad attempts at copying Indian Cinema. This is my salute to the Pakistani media industry.