Are you a part of Slackistan?
With things like floods and poverty going on in Pakistan I just couldn't relate to Slackistan at all.
“You should talk about the film Slackistan.”
The clock on the wall strikes 11 am: the boy behind me is watching the second hand tick by, his head slumped against the desk. The girl next to him is using her dupatta as a pillow-cum-blanket. Its the cliché free period, but today is too hot and humid to talk, let alone work. The only person wide awake is sitting right next to me.
“You know, Slackistan?” she reiterates.
The film Slackistan? What else could possibly be said about that one year old film? Article upon article about its indie credentials, its alternative cinema feel, its supposed social criticism, the fact that it’s banned-
“I think it’s the worst film I’ve ever seen.”
“I watched it over the summer with my friends, and it was acutely horrible. If I had to torture someone, I would give make them watch that film.”
I wonder if we’re talking about the same film now, the same Cannes going, cool little cult film. But I have to take her word for it- I haven’t actually seen it. Wasn’t it banned?
“Thank god it was. Such an insensitive film. Just this bunch of elite kids abusing each other- oh wow.”
Insensitive? With a name like Slackistan, you can’t win that many friends...
“It’s not just that. There was this scene in the film where like, the main actors were making fun of this spelling on the billboard. It was just this huge mockery of everything.”
“Big deal,” someone from the corner points out. "People do make fun of spellings". “It’s different on film.” the girl insists. “Look it’s just about some stupid rich kids in Islamabad, of all places, who cares about Islamabad?” pips another. “That’s not a justifiable reason for anything,” someone shoots back. The conversation circle is getting larger as more people suddenly wake from their stupor, their interest piqued.
“It just focuses on the completely irrelevant lives of maybe one per cent of this country’s population. It kept showing how the elite were making fun of the backward-ness of this county, and you know what? By now, no-one cares what you think.”
“Just because it’s the so-called one per cent of the population doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” I point out.
“Of course, it exists. But watching it I kept thinking to myself, I don’t know, things like floods and poverty and all sorts of things going on in Pakistan and I just couldn’t genuinely relate to it at all. Everyone keeps talking about how it promotes awareness, and highlights problems etc, but what’s the point of just presenting stuff like that? Why not do something about it?”
Did she have a point? This same girl, and her friends, spent the last month packing relief boxes for flood victims and gift packs for orphans. They - we - were the kind of kids who stayed back in school teaching underprivileged children basic math. We spent our summers volunteering. It was not a one-off thing - it was something that had been collectively going on since we were old enough to understand why we went to school and that child on the signal did not. I could see why the girl suddenly burst out:
“My friends kept telling me, you have to watch this film, it’s so funny, but I wasn’t laughing, I was just so disgusted.”
I have no reply. What do you say to a person who may constitute that ‘one percent’ but wishes to have nothing to do with it? Whose disenchantment runs so deep even a film can’t provoke laughter?
“The fact that it unnerves you must mean there must be something going for the film.”
With that the bells rings, and the people listening in intently suddenly whip out their bags and rush for the door. Me? I make a mental note to ask the DVD-wala if he might just have an extra copy stocked.