Last year, Shahbaz Hamid Shigri and Aisha Linnea Akhtar of InCahoots Films brought us Sole Search, a short independent film that introduced viewers to the world of the Jinnah Boy. Yes, the Jinnah Boy. For those of you not from Pakistan’s capital, Jinnah boys are an intrinsic part of the Islamabad fabric – the guys that hang around Jinnah Market sporting slicked-back hair, loud knock-off designer clothes, and oft-cringe-worthy comments for passing ladies. In Sole Search, an American born Pakistani meets the quintessential Jinnah Boy, Candy Bhai (played by Ali Rehman Khan). Hilarity ensues.
This summer, Candy Bhai is back in the feature length film Gol Chakkar. Directed and produced by Shigri and Linnea (who starred together in Slackistan), the film reunites us with Candy and introduces us to a misfit cast of merry characters, including Teddy (Hasan Bruun Akhtar) and Shera (Usman Mukhtar). Shigri told me,
[After Sole Search] We realized we weren’t quite done with Candy and his world. Sole Search was always an experiment. It was quite amateur, rushed, and I was a lot less experienced and knowledgeable on the whole process at the time… I don’t think [Gol Chakkar] really is a sequel. Candy Bhai is in it, but that’s about it. It’s a feature film with seven new characters. We just wanted to expand on what we thought was a pretty nifty idea the first time.
Khan, who reprises his role as Candy Bhai, discussed the chemistry among the Gol Chakkar characters, noting, “All of us were actually friends in real life, so it felt more like a family production than anything else…we understood each other’s characters so well that we would constantly give each other feedback in order to improve a line or a scene.”
On the development of his own character, both from Sole Search and in this upcoming film, he said, “I think one of the main challenges I had while developing [Candy] was not to create a caricature of an already flamboyant archetype…a Jinnah Boy is a self-exaggerated segment of society. I had to be careful not to represent him as a cliche and give him his own personality.” Of course, having a grasp of Jinglish (Jinnah-style English, and yes, there should be a special Urban Dictionary) further helped in this portrayal, as well as his amazing wardrobe. Linnea, who not only dreamed up the Candy Bhai character but went on the hunt for appropriately loud and tacky clothing, added, “His outfits are all from Landa or Juma Bazaar, though when I’d ask the price of anything they’d hike it up like 150%.” She added, “I want to go back there sometime, though. It was a blast.”
Both Sole Search and Gol Chakkar possess a raw and gritty quality, which was consciously done to portray this world in a darker and more realistic light. Shigri noted, “The subject matter of these two movies is fun, quirky, even a little Bollywood-ish. We’ve seen movies similiar to them. I wanted to present this world and these characters in a new way, that it’s not just fun and games and bright colors and loud jokes. The way I chose to shoot it gives a certain contrast to whats going on, and the way it looks.” He added, “As a cinematographer, I personally favor shots in which the camera isn’t completely static or on a tripod. I like the frame to be breathing a little.”
Part of Gol Chakkar was shot in Rawalpindi, and while it proved relatively more difficult than [twin-city] Islamabad, both cast and filmmakers alike spoke of their incredible experience filming in Lal Kurti, one of the busiest hubs of the city. “It’s a beautiful place, in an unconventional way,” Shigri said. “I was seeing sights I never even knew existed, and meeting wonderful and hospitable people.” Khan echoed, “Lal Kurti spoiled us a bit with all the warmth and love we got, because as soon as we moved on to another location in Pindi – lets just say we missed Lal Kurti!”
Gol Chakkar will be released late this summer, and filmmakers Linnea and Shigri want you to be entertained. As the co-founders of InCahoots Films, they already have other projects in the pipeline, including music videos for artists Uzair Jaswal and Adil Omar, a short film called, “The Little Master,” featuring Hasan Bruun Akhtar from Gol Chakkar, as well as their next big project. Needless to say, it’s a busy year ahead for InCahoots, a name Linnea came up with to reflect the founders’ real-life relationship and ability to work extremely in sync with one another. Both directed and produced the film, while Linnea wrote the screenplay and Shigri was the cinematographer. Both were basically a two-person crew, supported by a cast who have all acted together and known each other for some time (several also starred in the recent film Slackistan).
You could say that type of magic can be likened to a Judd Apatow-style approach to film making, in which cast and crew are part of a family-style collaboration, and chemistry is genuine, organic, and comes from a very real place.
From the perspective of a Pakistani filmmaker, Shigri emphasized, “I hope to inspire other future Pakistani filmmakers to step outside the box, to not be conventional, and not be limited by a lack of resources and funds, to let their only limitation be their creativity. The most important thing I learned from shooting Gol Chakkar is when it comes to making a movie, short film, or music video, your limitations are only self-created. Anything is possible right now.”