The more we travel, the more we learn, themore we try and define ourselves, in my opinion, the harder it gets as we startrealizing that we are rarely exclusive to a trait, an adjective or an identity.The more we define, the more we feel undefined or lacking of specificinformation.
When we were making JOSH, a lot of things surfaced to theidentity of being Pakistani in me. It was an exercise of project management inPakistan for a dreamer who had mostly started dreaming as a child in Pakistanand then left the country. Upon my return, I was craving to give back, to serve,I wanted to make a film that showed regular people in Pakistan, the heroes andthe victims, the good, the bad and the ugly for unarguably, only half of thepicture does get shown to the world. Something interesting happened though. Theidea of the power of the individual, a unique identity and patriotism is what Istarted out with but very soon it became about the power of the community andthe universality of conditions. Suddenly, it didn’t matter where this story wastaking place but in fact what mattered was finessing the greater message. Inunity, lies independence. Ittehaad main aazaadi hai. And that is why I thinkthe film does work on a global level.
After Caltech, I went to travel for a year under the Watsonfellowship. India. That was the first country I wanted to go to. Of course ShahRukh Khan was a big reason, but a bigger reason was trying to see how differentit really was. I was told that growing up, we chanted against the Indiancricket team without every having met an Indian much like thousands of Indiankids probably chanted against Shahid Afridi or Wasim Akram or Imran Khan withoutevery having said hi to a Pakistani kid. The idea of “I am better than you”, “Iam different than you”. Well you probably know by now, how I felt when I setfoot on Indian soil. It was deeply emotional as I walked the streets of Bombayalmost seeing flashes of people who looked like a khala, a chacha, a mamu. Iwas the same, yet I was not. I felt the same, but I was told I was not, athome, there, everywhere. I bubbled with feelings questioning partition, and theidea of defining identity and the lack of co-existing based on ideologies thatwere apparently created to ease existence and by default, co-existence in thefirst place. It didn’t matter though, I was never part of that decision tomigrate and now that there was a separate state, it best be in everyone’sinterest to move forward and evolve. Loving India and having so many Indianfriends, I was a fortunate Pakistani with so many opportunities and it was myduty to start building a Pakistani dream. Recently, this term, the Pakistani dream, was resounded in a tremendousfilm by Mira Nair on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s book, The ReluctantFundamentalist. What is the Pakistani dream? And proudly associated with thenew wave of cinema back home and the hugely politicized and activated youththat fought real hard in the recent election, I am happy to announce thatPakistan and Pakistanis are finally taking charge and awaking from a slumber ofheart break and depression. What is the Pakistani dream. I ask this myself, dayin and day out. No answers, just reflection.
In these years since Caltech and after making films, I havebecome increasingly weary and incapable of defining differences, I have becomehesitant in knowing too much and of course, I have become a very lenient criticon films, for I know how hard it is to make a film. No one sets out to make abad film. Making a good film is far more challenging than science ever was forme.
In short, I am beginning to see the boundaries melt, theborders insignificant and the identities dissolving, just merging and becomingone. In the spirit of unity and in trueindependence, not from the British, but from ourselves, I present to you my first feature film, my baby, a production of Parveen ShahProductions where Shah does shockingly stand for Shah Rukh Khan, JOSH.