UK-based Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi talks about ‘Cake’ and more!

Many directors are debuting at the silver screen in coming months and years with several interesting projects in the pipeline. The future of our film industry, undoubtedly, lies on the shoulders of these men and women, coming up with novel ideas and big plans to change the face of cinema. Among them is the UK-based Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi, who is on our radar since he revealed he’s making ‘Cake’ for us earlier this year.

‘Cake’ is not a dessert but a film starring the dynamic trio of Adnan Malik, Aamina Sheikh and Sanam Saeed. The film has been in making for couple of months and is lined up to release by end of this year.

Also Read: Get ready for sweet treat of ‘Cake’ starring Adnan, Aamina and Sanam

Asim Abbasi studied Economics at London School of Economics and Global Cinema at School of Oriental and African Studies, UK. He has previously made several short films in the UK including ‘Little Red Roses’ (2015), ‘Whore’ (2013) and ‘Once a Man’ (2013) and won accolades for them. ‘Cake’ is his first full length feature film and being shot in Karachi, interior Sindh and London.

Besides it being a coming-of-age drama with “story having many layers” like that of a cake, we know very little about this intriguingly titled project.  To know further about the movie and what to expect from it, we got in touch with the director himself. In this insightful and intelligent interview, Asim Abbasi also spoke about the revival of cinema in Pakistan and influence of Bollywood on Pakistan film industry.

Read the full interview below.

What is ‘Cake’ about and what to expect from it?

Asim Abbasi: Cake is essentially a story about passage of time and how choices and mistakes made in the past effect our present. Expect powerhouse performances from the entire cast, and strong, cinematic visuals.

Is it a commercial film or an offbeat/parallel cinema stuff?

Asim Abbasi: I find the differentiation between commercial and parallel very arbitrary, as any film that does well and is loved by audiences, is by default a commercial film. Cake is certainly not a “masala” film, with gratuitous item songs, but for audiences wanting a truly emotional, cathartic experience, “Cake” will be a real treat with its share of laughs and tears.

How and when were you hit with the idea of Cake and, especially, making a feature film in Pakistan?

Asim Abbasi: I have been writing and making short films in the UK for some years, but my roots are here in Pakistan and I believe that the nascent stage our film industry is at right now, there is room to make diverse range of films, and build a true cinema going culture. I wanted my first feature film to be as truthful to the realities of life as a film can be. We spent roughly six months on the first draft of the script, and then a few more months working on revised drafts and working with script doctors in the UK. Hard prep for the film started in October 2016.

How did you cast the trio of Adnan, Sanam and Aamina for Cake? How has been the experience of working with them so far?

Asim Abbasi: I was extremely lucky and humbled to have such great actors come on board for Cake, simply after reading the script. I think there was something in there that connected with each of them on a personal level. I am an actor’s director, in that, for me honest performances in a film come before everything else. It has been the most incredible few months working with these actors, and I think/hope I managed to give them the creative freedom that is always necessary for great artists to give truly stellar performances.

Tell us about the music of the film.

Asim Abbasi: Sindh is a big part of our narrative, so we are working with the immensely talented Saif Samejo from The Sketches to compose the songs and background score of the film. The music will have a strong indigenous feel to it, and I am very excited by what is Saif is coming up with.

When are you targeting to complete the shoot and release it?

Asim Abbasi: The majority of the shoot is complete, with a short London spell expected in April/May. It is our aim to release the film towards the year end.

The director Asim Abbasi and Sanam Saeed on the set of 'Cake'.
The director Asim Abbasi and Sanam Saeed on the set of ‘Cake’.

What are your thoughts on the revival of cinema in Pakistan? Are we going in the right direction?

Asim Abbasi: I think it may be too early to talk about that. I think all sorts of films need to be made in the near term, so the industry and audience tastes can develop and expand over the longer term. I do, however, think that new filmmakers across the country, need some kind of a centralised support system financial and otherwise, which gives them the freedom to tell unique stories, be creative and experimental with their art, without having to resort to tried and tested formulas for the sake of commerce.

What is your opinion on the influence of Bollywood on our cinema and audiences? Should we free ourselves of it, or collaborate with the artists across the border more?

Asim Abbasi: Collaboration is always good. Border should never dictate art, and there is always room to learn from others, but to truly grow as an art form, as an industry, and to stand out in the international market, we need to form our own cinematic identity. We also need to trust our audiences to be open to new things, to be able to enjoy narratives that go beyond Bollywood.

As a filmmaker, what types of stories influence you in making films? What genres do you like to work with?

Asim Abbasi: Dramas, thrillers, all sorts of genres. I wouldn’t restrict myself to any one in particular. But the stories that influence me, are those that effect audiences on a personal level and are more than just time-pass. Stories that are intimate and relatable, so the audiences are a little changed in some intangible way, as they leave the cinema halls.

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