Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad – Everything you wanted to know about Jinns but were afraid to ask!
Could there be a filmi success story brewing in here? We saw some young unknown and aspiring filmakers with cinematic dreams – and we saw how far they went! We’re talking M.Night Shyamalan and Nagesh Kukunoor here.
Well, meet Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, a young filmmaker from Detroit with a passion to stir up a devilish hell with his supernatural thriller ‘Jinn’. The film had a glamorous premiere in the fabulous Detroit Institute of the Arts with a packed hall. Get ready to get goose-bumps and some sleepless nights for ‘Jinn’ releases nationwide tomorrow and in Canada.
Supernatural Chills with ‘Jinn’
10 Questions for Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad about ‘Jinn’
1. Tell me about ‘Jinn’ – who are these ancient mythological creatures and where did you get the inspiration for them?
Jinn are supposedly a third race of beings that have lived on this planet even before mankind existed. Over a billion people from India to China to Africa believe in the Jinn. Supposedly, they are very similar to man in that they have free will, however they have powers that we would consider supernatural. To the rest of the world, most of the things that go “bump in the night” are attributed to the Jinn.
On a more personal note, my mom used to tell me “If you don’t eat your veggies, the Jinn is going to come out of the woods and get you”…when I was nine that scared the heck out of me…but I remember thinking, “How come no one has made a movie on the Jinns?”. Well now someone has!
2: I believe the trailer for the film has generated 2.5 million hits. What do you think is the appeal for viewers everywhere?
As I mentioned before, Jinn is based on a concept that is familiar to over a billion people around the world. But, outside of the Genie from Aladdin and a few other cameos, the jinn have been conspicuously left out of mainstream entertainment. I believe the excitement generated by the trailer shows that many people are eager to see the true jinn mythology brought to the big screen. They will finally have a chance to see a mainstream film that portrays the legendary creatures that me and my friends – and so many others – grew up with.
3: How challenging is it to make a supernatural thriller and what were the major difficulties?
There are always challenges with making a movie. Budget, time, random catastrophes. This movie was no different but I’m happy to say we all rose to the occasion as a team.
4. You have chosen mainstream actors – who do you hope will be the audience?
I want audiences of course to be entertained…but there is a deeper hope as well, especially for “brown” people. We hope that for the first time, they watch a movie made in America that doesn’t make the “brown” character a 7-11 owner, nerd or terrorist…in fact it makes the brown guy a hero.
We hope that this audience mobilizes in force to see this movie in theatres on opening weekend so we can show that we are a demographic that has money to spend and deserves content created for us. Projects like this can really move the needle and can encourage others to share their stories.
If we’re lucky, Jinn could lay the foundation for a new dialogue in America…we would be very proud if it did.
5: There’s a lot of buzz about the Firebreather – the car is almost a star in the movie! Tell me about it. Can one really buy it?
The vision was to do something that has never been done before. The Firebreather represents that…the first time you can walk out of a theatre and buy the car you saw in the movie…not as a prop, but as a real 600hp supercar. It’s really a symbol of the thinking we want to foster in Detroit…along with doing it over and over again.
As a native Michigander and Detroiter, we live, breathe and eat cars already. As far as the design goes, I’ve been kicking the concept around in my head for a long time… I’ve always been a huge fan of the Firebird and Trans Am. From Smokey the Bandit all the way up to Knight Rider. As far as the fabrication goes, the Firebreather was forged incredibly well by Classic Design Concept (CDC).
6: How did you start Exxodus Films?
Growing up in Detroit, many people didn’t take me seriously when I told them that I wanted to be a film director. After I spent years in Los Angeles working on large-scale movies, many of those same people thought I was crazy when I moved back to Michigan to start a production company. But, I loved my home state and wanted to be near my family. Furthermore, I wanted to build a company that would do something different in film, and I believed I could do that in Michigan.
So I moved back, and I found tremendous support from members of my community who shared my vision – creating high quality films that tell our story and stories from our culture to the rest of the world. If a team of people is willing to work hard for a united vision, they can truly accomplish the impossible. The Exxodus Pictures team is a great example of this.
7. Do you ever plan to invade Bollywood?
We don’t plan to invade Bollywood or Hollywood, because we think the two can work together. Both offer a wealth of amazing films and beautiful artistic tradition. I believe we can make great films that draw from the best of both worlds, that can be enjoyed Bollywood and Hollywood audiences alike.
‘Jinn’ Premiere at the Detroit Institute of Arts
8: Tell me about your Indian Pakistani roots and how strong are the connections with the homeland.
Well I was born here in America however my family is from India and Pakistan. We still have very strong ties back home and I have amazing memories of visiting Pakistan. My desire to keep a connection even led to it releasing theatrically there on April 18th. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a trip there soon to promote the movie and see some relatives.
9. Tell me about growing up in Detroit and nurturing a dream to make it in the movies.
We believe in the State and the city of Detroit and want to give back as much as we can. It’s also where I was born and raised and I feel a deep connection with Michigan.
10: Your best advice to aspiring filmmakers.
Make films. Over and over. Don’t wait until you have a studio behind you, don’t even wait until you have a film degree. Take whatever resources you can find and figure out how to make a film. If you have a camera and two friends, make a series of short films with two characters in your back yard. If you don’t have access to a camera, practice writing scripts. The more you practice what you want to do, the better you get. You discover what works creatively and what doesn’t, and why. You’ll develop techniques in your backyard that will serve you on a studio backlot. Simply put: practice makes perfect.