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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Director Asim Abbasi’s on his new movie 'Cake'

The director discusses his debut on the big-screen

Asim Abbasi 'Cake' film premiere, London
Asim Abbasi 'Cake' film premiere, London

This is your first film. How did you come to make this film?

Abbasi: I have always loved the art of storytelling. However, after an undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics, I pursued a career in banking for almost 10 years. Then, early midlife crisis hit, and I knew I had to explore my creative side in order to feed my soul. So, I left banking to study film and made a bunch of short films for festivals. For my first feature, I wanted to write and direct a story with a universal appeal. So I knew it had to be about family and the theme of ageing and passage of time. My producer Zulfi Bukhari invested in me and my vision and allowed me to make a film that is 100 per cent authentic and true to myself.

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Read more: Asim Abbasi's new film Cake gives Pakistani cinema a boost

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Some have called it a ­feminist film

I didn’t set out to make a feminist film or even a female-centric film. But I am deeply touched that critics have read into the subtleties and nuances that I built into the female characters. These are women as I know them. They smoke; they occasionally swear, and they voice their opinions and make decisions for themselves and those around them.

What has been the reaction in Pakistan?

Almost unanimously the critics have loved it and majority of the audiences have deeply connected with it. A small proportion of people believe that my stance is morally ambiguous, but I am not making a public service announcement or a social message film. This is a slice-of-life drama that attempts to capture life as is, life as experienced.

Give us a sense of the ­Pakistani film industry which has mostly struggled. What sort of challenge does it face from Bollywood?

Bollywood is a much larger beast. It is a well-oiled machine that churns out hundreds of films and has the ability to play with huge budgets. We are still trying to find our footing. Our focus has been to position Cake as a “world cinema” film rather than a formulaic, bad replica of Bollywood.

Are there many young, upcoming Pakistani directors willing to ­explore uncomfortable subjects?

There are, but many are fearful and risk-averse because they are constantly told to stay inside the box. Corporates and governments need to encourage young filmmakers. With the right support, we have so much great talent that can contribute towards a new identity for Pakistani cinema.