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Shah...er Shaan of Pak
- Lollywood’s king doesn’t need Khan crown

Mumbai, March 17: The trendy young thing, an anchor for a television channel, walks up to him and asks: “You are part of the Pakistan delegation, right'” He has no choice but to agree, but looks a little taken aback.

Shaan, Pakistan’s hottest male star, has been dubbed the Shah Rukh Khan of Pakistan from the moment he stepped into the country three days ago. Like him, Lollywood — Pakistan’s film industry named after Lahore where it is based — has also been cast as a pale shadow of its big brother, Bollywood.

But while the rest of the industry looks forward to learning lessons — or “exchanging knowledge and information”, as the catchphrase is — from Bollywood, Shaan would like to be regarded as himself, not as a comparison to someone.

It is something Shaan feels himself. “How would Shah Rukh feel if he went to the US and was called the Tom Cruise of Bollywood'”

Dressed in a knitted black kurta and beige trousers, the star of numerous hits like Daku, Pyar Pyar Mein, Mujhe Chaand Chahiye and Guns and Roses actually looks good enough to give King Khan a run for his money, at least with his chiselled features and gym-toned-twice-a-day body.

“He is the number one, number two and number three star in Pakistan,” says Jamshed Zafar, part of the 29-member Pakistani delegation that is attending Frames, the Ficci’s annual entertainment convention.

It is the first delegation from the Pakistani entertainment industry in 38 years.

But as Shaan flits about the venue, a sprawling suburban five-star in Mumbai, he is not spared a second glance, unless it is by reporters who have been briefed. “It feels funny,” says the star who plays the underdog and has a huge fan following of women (“not girls, no”), running his hand through his tousled hair and screwing up his fine eyes, as he tries to find a solo photograph of his taken at Frames.

At home in Lahore, he avoids going out too much, because he can’t take being mobbed all the time. As of now, he can’t even find a photograph that shows him clearly.

In Lahore, he is as busy as SRK, if not busier. Of the 60-odd films produced in Pakistan last year, the 33-year-old has worked in 38 films. The last Id week saw the release of four of Shaan’s films. The Id before that, six of his films were released.

He works eight shifts a day — leaves home at 12 noon, does four shifts, comes back home for a while in the evening, leaves for work again, does four shifts, and comes back home around 4.30 in the morning.

“I am losing a lot of money here,” he says, adding this is his first visit to India because he can hardly take time off from his schedule.

There is not too much similarity between Khan and Shaan, really. Perhaps, it is a mockery to call him the SRK of Pakistan, especially if one compares the prices they fetch.

While Shah Rukh is said to charge around Rs 3 crore for a film, Shaan may get much less than 10 lakh per film, says a member of the delegation who doesn’t want to be named.

“The industry is very small. So a star like Shaan has to work round the clock,” he says. “Sometimes, all the big stars will appear in the same film.”

What SRK is to Shaan, Bollywood is to Lollywood. While Bollywood spends about Rs 10-15 crore on an average film, with the big budget ones now routinely crossing the Rs 50-crore mark, Lollywood spends between Rs 70 lakh and Rs 1 crore on a film.

“You can imagine how much the stars get paid then, and often there are many of them packed into a film,” says the delegation member.

The industry has been reduced to this state over the years, mainly due to piracy, and that too of Indian films.

“We used to produce about 150 films a year in the seventies and eighties. There were about a 1,000 cinema halls in the country then,” says Zafar. “Now, there are only 250 theatres,” he adds. The remaining ones are in a pitiable state.

All these areas need work and most of the delegates, reverential towards the Indian industry, are gushing already.

“It was an eye-opener,” says Jawed Sheikh, a superstar of Pakistani films and television in the eighties, who has turned producer and is trying to introduce “international standards” in Pakistani cinema now. He produced Yeh Dil Aapka Hua in 2002, made with Rs 5 crore, a record budget for a Pakistani film.

He says there is a lot to learn from India. “Five years back, India was where we are now. We also have the talent, but not the technology,” says Sheikh. He will be here again this month to record songs for his next venture.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between two production houses across the border. Others could be on the anvil. Shaan, who also has his own production house, is looking forward to tying up with Shyam Shroff for a film.

Shaukat Zaman Khan, the chairman of the committee on film production and censor board of FPCCI, Ficci’s counterpart in Pakistan, is too glad to be here. He promises that the move is on to screen Indian films commercially in Pakistan, something he believes will open Lollywood’s eyes even more.

Shaan agrees. “Bade bhai ko har koi sunte hai (Everybody listens to the big brother),” he says. But he looks a little uncomfortable with the comparison, as he did with the one between him and Shah Rukh.

He adds that his trip — he is here till March 19 — has been very nice, but there were certain moments of discomfort. “On the whole, everyone has been very nice, but there were times, you know, they looked at you funnily'” He meant condescension, but wouldn’t say it.

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