Slackistan's Aisha Akhtar: From slacker to stardom

Published: November 1, 2010
Aisha Linnea Akhtar says her heart is ‘behind the camera’. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Aisha Linnea Akhtar says her heart is ‘behind the camera’. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

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.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • ayesha
    Nov 1, 2010 - 1:16AM

    She is gorgeous. Talented and intelligent and humble to boot. We need more girls like her around here. Recommend

  • Hamood
    Nov 1, 2010 - 6:15AM

    Pakistan’s Angelina Jolie.Recommend

  • Nov 1, 2010 - 9:36AM

    She’s purdy! Btw I saw a fake profile with the same picture on FB :PRecommend

  • Majid
    Nov 1, 2010 - 11:29AM

    I just knew that the one of the most prominent face in “the famous picture of students’ protest against Musharraf’s emergency in Islamabad” is this Aisha Linnea Akhtar :) Good to know.Recommend

  • mariam
    Nov 1, 2010 - 11:39AM

    she is so gorgeous its not even funny! :) Recommend

  • Perplexed
    Nov 1, 2010 - 6:15PM

    Errr…I was at the London showing of Slackistan at the Raindance Festival and saw Aisha Akhtar there along with other cast members and the director who gave a great talk with a Q & A. I’m sure it must have been a very exciting experience for a newcomer. There was definitely a full and appreciative house, but ahem…no standing ovation. I’m quite sure this was the only festival showing in London so well…yeah, okay.Recommend

  • ayesha
    Nov 1, 2010 - 7:05PM

    @ Perplexed- really? Because the movie does look slightly amateurish because it is and indie film made by first-timers, but I was hoping it would be fun to watch anyway. I’m not one of those idiots who were expecting it to showcase Pakistan in an unbiased reporting, National Geographic way (hello, it’s called Slackistan for a reason- it’s not about Pakistan, it’s about the bubble the privileged slackers live in)…so I was hoping it would be something fresh and different. Which really doesn’t take much considering the only other type of Pakistani films out there are Lollywood crap which is so bad that Majajan was celebrated, or half-Indian, half-Pakistani over the top comedic farce like Tere Bin Laden. I really want it to be good- hope it doesn’t turn out mediocre and forgettable. Recommend

  • ayesha
    Nov 1, 2010 - 7:09PM

    It certainly helps that both the leads are ridiculously good looking and romantically involved in real life. (Does this mean we get to have “celebrities” with actually interesting lives now? Because I’m really sick of Meera and the like parading themselves as the only ones we have.) But I’m still hoping there will be more to that in the plot for those who aren’t easily won over by good looks alone. Recommend

  • Nov 1, 2010 - 7:48PM

    People somehow like lollywood crap and that’s where the money is for the filmakers. I’m not a filmaker but a financial planner behind projects like such, Its somehow not financially practical to get 2x of proceeds on 10x budget movie. Masses drive the end product since this is an emotionally driven and glamour controlled market.Recommend

  • Perplexed
    Nov 1, 2010 - 8:13PM

    @ Ayesha Right, .I wasn’t commenting on how good or bad the film was at all. It doesnt bother me in the least if it “represents” Pakistan or not. Couldn’t care less. I just noticed that in her interview Aisha Akhtar says they got a standing ovation at the festival showing in London. But as I was there it was strange for me to read about something that never happened. That’s it. Nothing deeper. Finis.Recommend

  • ayesha
    Nov 1, 2010 - 10:11PM

    I know you weren’t- was referring to the people out there who are actually outraged about that. They’re ridiculous.

    As for the standing ovation thing- that’s crazy. I believe you- you’re not going to get anything out of lying. I was starting to hero worship the girl and now apparently there’s this pretty big discrepency between her interview and the truth. Hope it turns out applaudable anyway..

    btw what did YOU think of the movie? Was it really worth all this hype?Recommend

  • Nov 2, 2010 - 6:56AM

    There was no standing ovation! I saw the movie. I hate when people need to lie about things like this to promote anything. The movie wasn’t bad but it was nothing new either. Maybe it’s because I have studied film for 8 years and have seen cinema in many different languages and all but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story. I feel this movie felt like another slumdog millionaire for me. That movie was also highly overrated and I don’t feel that also didn’t move me as well. The overall camera work was decent Hammad Khan is a decent first time director. I hope he can do great things for Pakistan’s Cinema Industry in the future. Our Industry has suffered greatly due to the impact of bollywood films. Recommend

  • Ali Khan
    Nov 2, 2010 - 8:45AM

    They should concentrate on common man issues.Any way will see if it can live upto its hype.Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 2, 2010 - 3:01PM

    Sad that she lied about the standing ovation.

    She is very good looking though! The acting was okay – its being overrated.Recommend

  • Nov 3, 2010 - 2:26AM

    Completely disappointed by the movie. The direction was decent but could have been better. The acting was also leaning to the weak side in the movie. I don’t think this movie will be well received in Pakistan because it really only shows the small fraction of Pakistan’s population that are rich and western. If directors like Hammad Khan want to do movies for Pakistan they have to do movies that can connect with all types of people in Pakistan. I hope he can provide us with a better second film in the future.Recommend

  • Asha
    Nov 4, 2010 - 5:27AM

    The movie was abysmal. None of the actors could really act. It was extremely forced. The entire message of the movie seemed to be “Although people think a certain way about Pakistan, you now also know that there are spoiled rich people here, too.” The music was pretty good, though. I don’t really see the actors accomplishing much in terms of acting.Recommend

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