Love in the time of Slackistan

A behind-the-scenes exclusive with Shahbaz Shigri and Aisha Akhtar.

Rayan Khan June 22, 2011


It’s mid afternoon in Kohsar Market’s Mocca Coffee and the temperature rises something fierce when the couple walks in looking frosty and unfrazzled; if looks could kill…

The long-time on-screen/off-screen lovebirds need no introduction for anyone worth their paisa in Islamabad. For the clueless: Meet director Shahbaz Shigri, 23, and screenwriter/actor Aisha Linnea Akhtar, 21; they are the capital’s prize celebrity duo. After their Slackistan stint, they began Incahoots Films, churning out projects like last year’s Sole Search (a tongue-in-cheek retrospective on Islamabad’s Jinnah Market scene) and the soon to be released Gol Chakkar, a Sole Search spin-off.

This information is neither exclusive nor au courrant — the twosome broadcast their activities and goings-on via Facebook diligently. Project updates are a hop, skip and log in away. But what is little known is the way they work together; how that effects production; and how they negotiate between the professional and personal.

I know that you two are old friends, but when did the chemistry start?

Akhtar (A): Well, we started spending a lot of time together during Slackistan. It got a little awkward.

Shigri (S): Haha.

A: Yeah, so I guess that’s where the chemistry started. We started seeing each other post-production, May 2009 onwards.

Did the cast members suspect anything?

A: They knew something was going to happen. We’re all very close.

Ok, cut to Sole Search. The first project you two worked on together. What were the roles?

S: I did the directing and Aisha did the script. I don’t and can’t write, so Aisha does all the writing.

A: But we both pretty much do all the editing together.

And what’s it like working together?

S: It’s stressful.

A: You put it wrong!

S: Ok, we’re always on the same page.

A: Well, there are never any silences. We’re both very engaged on set.

Oh come on, that’s way too diplomatic. Get to the issues.

A: We’ve never really had any massive issues. If we ever had a spat, it would get resolved pretty quickly because we have to work.

S: Ok, well, sometimes Aisha can’t handle me being too direct. When I’m on set, I talk in a certain way; I’m not there to have fun. I also assume she’s on the same page, technically. I get irritated when she doesn’t get certain things about film-making.


A: Ok, look. Shabby and I are supposed to be a two-man crew. But when you’re involved in a film, it’s a whole bunch of people that need delegation. So when Shahbaz is sitting pretty behind the camera, I have to do everything else, like five things at once so I get irritated when I get flak from him.

So no deferential treatment for the lady?

S: Haha, she gets mad because she doesn’t get special treatment.

A: I don’t want special treatment from him! I want special treatment for doing five things at a time. [The two proceed to shoot daggers at each other].

Ok, ok. Let’s ease up. What was it like working on Gol Chakkar?

A: A million times more intense. It’s a full feature film and just try to manage eight Pakistani guys, ages 12 to 29.

S: Yeah, we’d go into a shoot and have to deviate like five times just to accommodate the actors.

And where’s the film at right now?

A: We’ve done the rough cut and know exactly what we now need to finish it. It’ll most likely be done by August-September(ish). We want to release around Christmas time because there’s already a lot of Christmas themes in the movie.

Any other projects?

A: Next up is Adil Omar’s video, which Shahbaz and I are doing, “Paki Rambo.”

S: Here’s an exclusive for you and nobody knows this. Characters from Gol Chakkar are going to be in the video — making cameo appearances.

Do you two ever get sick of each other? I mean, you already spend so much time together and you work in the same capacity.

A: I never get sick of him.

S: We have to spend time apart whenever I’m away for film school in Dubai or when Aisha is travelling for her own projects so, yeah, I don’t get sick of the time I spend with her.

Everyone pretty much knows you two are an item. Do the families know? And how are you two received in public, a la Brangelina?

A: Both our families know about us and are okay with it, I think. Oh and people actually come up to us for autographs, which is really sweet.

S: Yeah, but Aisha gets all the attention; even the girls are all looking at her.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.


Weirdos | 10 years ago | Reply Completely agree with "Pretty Sad" above.The fact that you own a professional video camera or have a Facebook following of your own friends/friends-of-friends does not make you an 'artist'. What are the credentials of these kids apart from being great at Photoshop? Again, why would anyone want their autograph? That's hilarious..
jungli billi | 10 years ago | Reply she is not that bad looking but her face looks so plastic.. no expressions at all.
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