Director: Hammad Khan
Starring: Shahbaz Shigri, Aisha Linnea Akhtar, Ali Rehman Khan and Osman Khalid Butt
Slackistan, dubbed as Pakistan’s first slacker movie, is a low-budget independent flick with an edgy musical soundtrack (from local rapper Adil Omar and punk-rockers The Kominas) which chronicles the lives of Pakistan’s young and rich, and their search for meaning and motivation in their sleepy hometown of Islamabad. Although the main protagonists of the film all hail from the ‘elite’ and are generally disconnected from the wider travails their country is facing, the ‘serious’ issues – such as class and terrorism – very much form a backdrop to the lives of the characters.
Despite their general aimlessness however, the narrator Hassan (Shigri) and his friends are all likeable types. In particular, Hassan’s friends, the smooth-talking Sherry (Khan) and nice guy Saad (Butt), do a great job playing the role of disillusioned young men whose stagnant lives revolve around multiple rounds of coffee, cruising around in their fathers’ cars and comparing invitations to weddings.
The movie has been criticized for featuring such an inane topic when there is so much else going on in Pakistan. But that happens to be the beauty of this film: it presents a side of our country that is rarely seen from the outside. As the director Hammad Khan said at a recent film screening in London, there are countless topics in Pakistan that deserve the attention of its filmmakers, but in no way does this movie claim to represent the whole story. In fact, no work of art can ever capture all aspects of a subject. Instead, this movie presents “one slice of the cake”, with its accurate portrayal of the lives of some privileged Pakistanis.
But notwithstanding the feedback from this film, one can certainly find great objection to the decision of our Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC), which has blocked its release in Pakistan. The long list of official reasons cited for this decision include the depiction of alcohol in some scenes and the fact that the word ‘Taliban’ has been used in the film. The CBFC’s decision reflects a sense of denial -as if hearing the word Taliban is something extraordinary for the average Pakistani! – and hypocrisy, considering the content of the countless Lollywood, Hollywood and Bollywood movies approved for cinema release without any censorship at all.
Most viewers of the film testify that it contains very little controversial material; the average talk show in Pakistan could feature worse language and more salacious material. Furthermore, slapping arbitrary bans on such independent projects serves to dishearten those who to take on creative pursuits despite the lack of resources and support available in our country.