Pakistan’s ‘slacker’ privileged youth uncovered

January 6, 2010

By Shabnam Mahmood
BBC Asian Network

Director Hammad Khan says filming in Islamabad is now very difficult because of heightened security measures

Islamabad is the setting for British director Hammad Khan’s first film Slackistan, a low budget independent feature looking at Pakistan’s young and privileged as they drift around in a world of dating, drinking and parties despite the terror attacks on their city.

“On a personal trip to the country I realised this was a story right under our noses to tell about young people out there,” says Khan.

Khan’s wife Shandana Ayub, from north London, has co-written and produced the movie.

“For someone who doesn’t know Pakistan at all, the images they’ll see on TV is of bombs and bad people – but that’s not the kind of Pakistan we know,” she says.

Some attacks took place during filming.

“It was almost like trying to find a window between suicide bombings in Islamabad and just trying quickly to shoot this film under the radar,” says Khan.

Acting novice Shahana Khan Khalil says the film is ‘painfully honest’

The movie is inspired by a 1991 American movie called Slacker by Richard Linklater.
Khan says his film is “about the slightly privileged and disaffected 20-something who’s reasonably comfortable in life but he or she is not quite sure what he or she wants to make of their life”.

“So the title Slackistan spoke out because it was literally about a group of slackers in Pakistan,” he adds.

Most of the cast is made up of Islamabad locals with no acting experience.

“The actors were fresh and new with no experience of drama school or film acting and they hadn’t been in front of the camera.

“But their levels of enthusiasm and energy were really, really impressive,” says Khan.

Shahana Khan Khalil, who plays Zara, describes the movie as “painfully honest”.

“A lot of people in Islamabad will probably be able to relate to a lot of the situations because there are some characters in the film that are representative of stereotypes that exist in Islamabad,” she adds.

Future leaders

The locations used in the movie are real places, says Shahbaz Shigri who plays Hasan.
“Islamabad has pretty much four places to go when you want to hang out somewhere outside so we in Slackistan tried to cover all those places,” he adds.

Shahbaz Shigri thinks it’s important to show a different side to Pakistan

Both Khalil and Shigiri think it’s important to show the lifestyle of the elite.

“Even though we are a minority you can’t deny the fact that we are part of Pakistan,” says Khalil.

“Given the fact that we are from privileged families and we have been educated – I think there’s a responsibility upon us to take our nation forward.”

It’s not just the cast and story that lends realism to the movie. The soundtrack features underground hip hop and rock artists like The Kominas, Mole and Adil Omar.

Director Khan recently returned to Pakistan to complete production of the film but says it’s been hard to shoot scenes this time round in Islamabad.

“Security is so extreme and the atmosphere so sensitive. I think I was lucky that we shot the film when we did last April.

“I am not sure I can be so positive that another feature film will be shot in the city in the foreseeable future given it is impossible to move around town without being constantly stopped and searched.”

Slackistan is aiming for a festival premiere in the spring and a wider release later this year.

Source: BBC News