UAE: Vasay Chaudhry, Mehwish Hayat and Humayun Saeed on their new film 'London Nahin Jaunga'

The Pakistani stars tell us why this Eid Al Adha release will make for a great family outing at the cinema.

Photos: M. Sajjad
Photos: M. Sajjad

Enid Grace Parker

Published: Mon 4 Jul 2022, 5:02 PM

Last updated: Tue 5 Jul 2022, 7:50 AM

Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed (Bin Roye, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani) stumbled upon the idea for his new film London Nahin Jaunga when he was celebrating the success of his 2017 hit Punjab Nahin Jaungi in the cosmopolitan British capital city, whose South Asian diaspora presents a big international market for films from the subcontinent.

The idea, however, was just a title at the time but Humayun, on a visit to the Khaleej Times office on June 28 with co-actors Mehwish Hayat and Vasay Chaudhry, revealed how it turned into a full-fledged film, now scheduled for an Eid Al Adha release in the UAE.

When Punjab Nahin Jaungi was released, Humayun joked about how people asked him ‘what kind of a title is this’. “And when the film was a hit everyone said that it was successful because of its name,” he added.

He hopes the same holds true for London Nahin Jaunga, where he teams up with his Punjab Nahi Jaungi co-star Mehwish. “When I was in London some friends said ‘make something on London also’, it’s like if you’re in Dubai or the US someone might say the same. So it may have been in jest as I was very happy at the time, but I said I would make London Nahin Jaunga!”

It may have been an impulsive statement at the time but the film helmed by Nadeem Baig with a screenplay by Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, is creating waves even before its release; its trailer has racked up over a million views so far on YouTube and the film’s music tracks like Yaar Chadh Gaya and Mahiya Ve Mahiya are as melodious as they are engaging.

While the names may be similar, London Nahin Jaunga is not a sequel to Punjab Nahin Jaungi, reiterated Humayun, but a “different story” altogether.

When Sara (Mehwish Hayat), who resides in London, stumbles across her mother’s diary that throws up some astonishing facts about her roots, she sets out on a journey to find out more and encounters her cousin Chaudhry Jameel (Humayun Saeed). Will their love find a happy ending? Will he be able to help Sara not only return to her roots but find justice for a dark incident that occurred years ago? Elements of drama, mystery and humour come together in this family entertainer which the actors say will be enjoyed by viewers of all ages.

When asked about the layers in the story and whether it went beyond being just cinematic entertainment, Mehwish said there was a “serious underlying message” in the film as well, but one that’s done in a “humorous and light-hearted” manner. More could not be said, she insisted, as it would give away the entire plot. She added that London Nahin Jaunga didn’t follow a “singular track” but was about a whole lot more and that was what made the film meaningful; it was also about “experimenting with something new”.

Humayun said the idea was to “do something more than portraying a love triangle”.

A ‘complete entertainer’

From the mother-daughter angle to the romance, a death and the search for roots, is this the typical film one could take their families to watch during the festive holiday?

Mehwish asserted that it was the “complete entertainer” that comprised of “barah masale”… action, romance, drama, emotions and more. Humayun said that while there is a “dark” and “mysterious” aspect to the film (which Mehwish referred to as “meaningful”), “it is not typical. This is the genius of what the writers have done — interspersed the serious scenes with sudden doses of humour.”

When asked if it was important to bring light-heartedness to a mass entertainer such as this one, especially in light of the current scenario where people are looking to cheer themselves up through various art forms, Mehwish responded; “Absolutely. When you turn on news channels, you see current affairs, the state of the economy… we’ve all gone through the Covid pandemic; generally people are depressed, and movies are meant to let you escape for a bit. You know you are going to be entertained as you enter this world. I think that’s what is desperately needed. So I think London Nahin Jaunga is going to be a breath of fresh air. We really need entertainment and if someone is paying money to watch a movie, I think that’s what we owe them.”

Vasay Chaudhry, an accomplished drama (Dolly Ki Aayegi Baraat) and film (Jawani Phir Nahi Ani Parts 1 & 2) writer as well as actor and host, said he was supposed to star in Punjab Nahin Jaungi but couldn’t at the time so was happy to come on board for this latest project with his contemporaries Mehwish and Humayun.

A ‘bouquet’ of talented performers

On whether the prospect of attracting an ever-expanding global audience amps up the pressure on creatives including actors to deliver quality films, Vasay said, “You first categorize what kind of a story you want to make — case in point, this film. It’s a very ‘family’ story, and by that I mean not based on a family but a film that you can watch with your family. That was a decision that was done by the creatives. Of course, Pakistan is a primary market for us, then comes UAE and UK. London Nahin Jaunga will appeal to Indians and Pakistanis who have families because the fabric is the same. On the other hand, if there’s a hardcore action film or an adult comedy, that’s a totally different market — you wouldn’t go with certain members of your family. So the first decision is based on who the story is attracting, then maybe later there are ingredients that you incorporate to attract others — like a song!”

“We do have a wedding song,” said Mehwish, adding on a more serious note that the issue spoken about in the film would be relatable for any South Asian.

Humayun revealed he was pleased to see Indians and Pakistanis together at the recent promotions for London Nahin Jaunga (in London and Dubai) and attributed this to the popularity of dramas (like Mere Paas Tum Ho) that came out of Pakistan.

On what the trio would like audiences to take away from London Nahin Jaunga, Mehwish said, “Movies are and should be about entertainment; especially if they come out during Eid, everyone is in the spirit of having fun.” She remarked how food and cinema were two of the major pastimes in Pakistan. “You don’t really see the ‘guldasta’ - this bouquet - of actors and performers (as seen in London Nahin Jaunga) and the dialogues (by Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar) are the beauty. You’ll laugh and cry and sing along!”

Humayun concurred that “good dialogues are the USP of London Nahin Jaunga”, while Vasay ended our engaging chat with, “I feel as far as you feel entertained after the movie ends, our work is done. Messages are relative.”

London Nahin Jaunga releases July 8 in the UAE.

Mehwish, Humayun on Hollywood

While Mehwish stars as Aisha (the protagonist Kamala’s great-grandmother) in Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, Humayun Saeed was cast as British-Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan in Season 5 of Netflix’s The Crown.

Mehwish said, “I am on cloud nine right now. It just feels amazing; we shot this in March 2021 in Thailand and obviously because of NDAs, I couldn’t speak about it. They kept my character under wraps for a very long time. It was very difficult to keep it a secret for so long because it was a dream come true. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs.

“A project like that which has given so many Pakistani actors a global platform… Ms. Marvel is the first Pakistani Muslim ‘brown’ superhero. For the longest time I’ve been speaking on different international platforms about the misrepresentation of Pakistanis and Muslims in particular. It’s something that I felt strongly about and this show is just the answer to all my prayers. I had actually picked up the comic book years ago and when they announced the show, I tweeted applauding them for that. I also applauded them for casting (Pakistani-Canadian actress) Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel. Little did I know that I would be a part of the show. I think I kind of manifested it but at the same time it was something that we really needed - a balanced portrayal.”

Humayun believes “working in Hollywood is in itself a big thing”. He said, “It’s a good opportunity for Pakistanis. If myself, Mehwish, Fawad (Khan), or whoever, goes and gets work, that opens a path for others. Everyone in Pakistan knows who Hasnat Khan is (his romance with Princess Diana is known about as well); the character is very popular, as is the series (The Crown). But what I like is that despite the fact that I have 25 years of experience, there was a learning. And it’s such that the more I do, the more I learn. And that can be applied in my country, people can understand and learn as well. You could make your work better by applying some of those learnings.”

Mehwish agreed, saying every day was “a learning process” for her as well.

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