Pakistani filmmaker Shazia Ali Khan, who lives in Dubai, has found the perfect way to pay it forward to this bustling metropolis.
Enter her labour of love, ‘Pinky Memsaab’ — an Urdu feature film that explores the lives of the working class of Dubai through the prism of a posh life led by a wealthy couple — out in UAE cinemas this Thursday. Pinky is the gawkish domestic help who arrives in the UAE seeking a better life and it is dramatically altered after her employment at a posh Jumeirah household.
“‘Pinky Memsaab’ is based on my experiences here… I am married to an investment banker who’s also an aspiring writer. For any first-time project, it’s important to draw from your personal experiences to be authentic. I wanted to live the life first, before making a film on it,” said Khan in an interview before the premiere of her film.
‘Pinky Memsaab’, which boasts of an interesting mix of Pakistani and Indian talents, is intent on showcasing the lives of the expatriate community in a realistic fashion. The film takes a wry look into the all-pervasive nanny culture in this region.
“People perceive Dubai as a very glamorous [city] and without soul. If you have lived here, you just know there is more to Dubai than [what] meets the eye. There’s a vibrant expatriat community that forms its backbone. They have their own culture and perspective,” said Khan.
She also claims that she has flouted established conventions when it came to making her first independent feature film, that was shot extensively in the UAE. Khan, an alumnus of London Film School, hasn’t gone down the traditional route of courting studios to produce and distribute her film. Instead, she courted entrepreneurs who were willing to pour in money as stakeholders.
“Production houses wanted a lot of masala in it [‘Pinky Memsaab’]. While they loved the script, but they wanted a particular star to be cast in it. They wanted a couple of wedding scenes and a song also thrown in … While I always love a good commercial film, this is not what the script of Pink Memsaab demanded. I defied them all,” said Khan.
Model and actress Kiran Malik, who plays Pinky’s rich employer Mehr in the film, claims that this feature would showcase Dubai with all its warts and moles.
“This is a complete Dubai story which will resonate with all the expats here… It shows how we juggle our lives here and how many may want to go back, but there’s so much pressure to remain here from back home… Mehr thinks she’s this perfect socialite, but she has her own set of insecurities… It’s a realistic film,” said Malik.
The actress, who bears a striking resemblance to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, believes that all those who enjoyed Pakistan’s selection for the Oscars, ‘Cake’, will also enjoy ‘Pinky Memsaab’ thoroughly.
Pakistani theatre actress Hajira Yamin, who plays the gawkish domestic help, feels the movie is a mirror to the dreams and aspirations of the immigrant experience.
“Pinky is a girl who has her own set of dreams and aspirations,” said Yamin, adding that it took a lot of work to slip into the shoes of someone as submissive and forgiving as Pinky.
“There are so many strong characters in this films… Pinky is not your stereotypical help… I was asked to play her in the most subtle manner. My brief from the director was not to go overboard,” said Yamin.
The men in ‘Pinky Memsaab’ also have a lot to sink their teeth into. Indian actor Sunny Hinduja, who plays a driver and Pinky’s confidante in the film, relied on observing local drivers of this region.
“I play the driver to my memsaab Mehr and Pink… While I am just their driver, I am like their own family. But there are these unspoken class divides,” said Hinduja.
Actor Adnan Jaffar, whose credits include Parwaaz Hai Junoon, Manto and Jalebi, believes that the men too have important roles to play in this women-oriented feature.
“I play an ambitious investment banker who’s so busy climbing the ladder that he forgets to live his life … Every expat will relate to my struggles. Trust me, lots of people are going to talk about the conflicts and struggles after watching ‘Pinky Memsaab.’”
Don’t miss it
‘Pinky Memsaab’ is out in the UAE on December 13.