Zara Abid with director Ahmad Sarym
Zara Abid with director Ahmad Sarym Image Credit: Supplied

With the YouTube release of his first short, ‘Sikka’, which features the late fashion model Zara Abid (who lost her life in the recent Karachi plane crash), 17-year-old Ahmed Sarym has emerged as the youngest filmmaker in Pakistan. The film, which is part of Qissa Nagri, Sarym’s YouTube channel, chronicles the lives of two ladies — both portrayed by Abid — who are apparently two different people from radically different worlds but their essential agony is very much shared.

It’s a Virginia Woolf-ian journey into the deeper melancholic selves of these characters as they go about their everyday chores in the span of a single day.

Sarym quickly followed it up with his second, four-minute short, titled Alehdagi (separation), for which he famously got superstar Mahira Khan to do the narration. Up next is an untitled web series which he is writing and directing.

For the uninitiated, this precocious Islamabad kid began as a freelance film journalist “while I was in school,” he tells Gulf News in an exclusive interview. “I had been writing short stories, and last year, I penned the monologue for Sikka and the screenplay soon after.” He declares that he always imagined himself making films. Excerpts follow:

Why this particularly sad subject for your first short film?

I’d say that ‘Sikka’ is birthed from a difficult time in my life sometime last year, when I was struggling with quite a lot and contemplating on life and society, and how we view one another or even ourselves. I was compelled to draw a parallel between two women from diametrically opposite lifestyles who want the same things from life.

Having said that, I believe inclusion and melancholy are recurrent themes in all of my writings.

How did Zara Abid come into the picture?

I had initially approached people I knew through my journalism contacts — models and actors who I had interviewed over the years. But somehow since most of them are based out of Islamabad, I couldn’t get anyone to fly in and film with us. We didn’t have any budgets, to begin with. So, getting a recognisable face seemed impossible. Then one day I randomly messaged Zara on Facebook; we didn’t know each other, but the next thing I found was that she had loved the idea. It was all too surreal for me; Zara was a top model and was on her way to debuting in a feature film (that unfortunately never got made); and here she had agreed to work with us rank newcomers who were all a bunch of teenagers, with no money on us. Her magnanimity and infectious smile will always stay with me.

More recently, you worked with Mahira Khan also. Tell us about the project.

Mahira Khan gives voiceover narration to Ahmed Sarym's short film-1592200327696
Mahira Khan Image Credit: Supplied

It was for my short film, Alehdagi, which is out on YouTube. Mahira worked with me on the narration, and she’s done it so beautifully.

What are your future plans?

There’s another short film we had shot pre-lockdown with Usman Mukhtar. It’s a dark comedy and currently in post-production. Hopefully it should be up sometime in July.

But what I’m most excited about is a yet-to-be-titled web series which I’m writing and directing. It’s a five-episode drama which will be an absolute rollercoaster of emotions.

Already, I am part of Qissa Nagri, a YouTube channel I started with my two friends who are equally passionate about filmmaking — Fatima Ali and Mustafa Babar. It’s a platform where we can express ourselves creatively and tell stories.