The highly-awaited and much-discussed Slackistan is currently doing the tours of film festivals. Raindance Film Festival founder Elliot Grove said, “It passed with flying colours.” Cast member Aisha Linnea Akhtar talks to The Express Tribune about her experience at film festivals and what the film is about.
What was it like to attend festivals where Slackistan was screening?
The film went way beyond my expectations. I didn’t even think I would be attending film festivals to promote Slackistan. The first festival we went to was in London, which has a huge desi community and we were all extremely nervous. There was a full house and we got a standing ovation. It made us feel very positive and set up the entire run. In Abu Dhabi we were competing against Adrien Brody’s new film and didn’t expect to win, but the fact that we were put in that category was so flattering. Surprisingly, the response in Abu Dhabi was just as strong as in London.
How was the experience of working on the film, especially with director Hammad Khan?
As amazing as it is to go to premieres and travel the world, it wasn’t a fraction of the fun we (the cast) had working on the film. Hammad is amazing; he is such a relaxed, calm person and is so easy to be around. He was great to work with and brought the entire team together.
You said the film was the ‘anti Slumdog’. What does that mean?
That was actually in the first interview I did with a lady from the Guardian. She was asking a lot of odd questions and I could tell she didn’t know what Pakistan is about and she kept asking if the film was like Slumdog Millionaire. So I said it was the ‘anti Slumdog’, that while Slumdog is about poor kids from the slums, Slackistan is about rich kids living in Pakistan.
I didn’t mean anti, I meant the characters were very different.
Why would this film appeal to a Pakistani audience? The target audience knows what it is like to be ‘privileged’ in Pakistan.
You don’t always want to watch a film that’s far from reality, unless it’s sci-fi. A film like this has never been shown and sometimes it’s interesting to watch something you can relate to.
Do you think it would’ve been more potent if someone who had lived in Islamabad their whole life had been chosen for the role?
I don’t think that matters. I spent some formative years in the city (my childhood and I did my O and A levels from here) and Islamabad is not just full of people who have lived their entire life here. Slackistan portrays the little bubble that we live in Islamabad in and it’s true to reality.
Do you have any other projects planned?
I have some acting offers but I’m focusing on college right now. Slackistan was really inspiring and motivated me to get behind the camera. Shahbaz (Shigri, the male lead) and I are good friends now and we’re doing our own little projects and I write every day. I’d be interested in acting but I think my heart is behind the camera.
What do you hope audiences will take back from the film?
At the end of the day, Slackistan is a film. It is not a political message, and it’s not a saviour for the country. Pakistan is going through a rough time and if we can provide some entertainment to people, then it’s not half bad.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2010.