Sole Search: a soul-searching lesson for Pakistani cinema
By Beenisch Tahir
I have always been a passionate advocate for the promotion of Islamabads quintessential culture. For years the ‘Islooites’ have been force fed the glamorous and hip lives of the Karachiites and Lahories.
The glossy images of celebrities, smiling behind a backdrop of advertisements inundate entertainment magazines – Islamabad is never invited. The media simply forgets that besides politicians real people live here and real urban entertainment has been growing in recent years. Or may be it’s the lack of cultural journalists from the side of the hills?
When original cultural work emerges from the ‘dead’ city, it’s usually a determined stance to be in contrast to the mainstream, to reflect upon Islamabads many cosmopolitan ‘cultures’. Perhaps it is because there is no mainstream tyrant forcing artists to confirm to the homogenous brand, instead, artists enjoy their creative freedom.
This is exactly why we find short films like Sole Search pop out from Islamabad. The mainstream film industry might not be paying attention (even though they could learn a thing or two), the film is going internet viral. The slick editing and, beautiful cinematography, is enough of a reason to have a watch. The film avoids the lazy shot. Every image’s composition stands like a photograph. The colours and buzz of Jinnah Super Market during winter has been captured. This film is Islamabads quintessential brand of an indie film.
Still in university, Sole Search is directed and shot by Shahbaz Ahmad Shigri and the screenplay is written by Aishea Linea Akhtar, starring Ali Rehman Khan, Salman Ahmad Shaukat and Saad Rehman Khan.
Itisabout an American born Pakistani, Sameer (Salman Ahmad Shaukat) who returns to Islamabad for his winter break and ventures into Jinnah Super Market to find a pair of Nike shoes. During his sole search, he finds himself in a soul searching journey with ‘Candy Bhai’ (Ali Rehman Khan) – A fast talking, street smart, bad-boy. The unlikely duos are stuck with each other for the night as we get a peek inside the world of a ‘Jinnah Boy’.
The ‘Jinnah BoyÂ’ is a revered institution in Islamabad. They are the (fake) American branded ‘studs’ hanging around Jinnah Super, drinking coke, smoking a cigarette, wearing a thriller inspired leather jacket and sunglasses at night. If they like a girl, they’ll probably follow her, throw their number to her and try and get their attention in every inconvenient way. They often surge in numbers during festive holidays and cricket events.
Like the Pathans and French, they are the butt of many jokes in the drawing rooms. When Sole Search came out, many of us simply wanted to see an animated version of the Jinnah Boy. Ali Rehamn Khan does a fine job at creating an irritating yet a surprisingly loveable character. The American born boy, awkward and misplaced, is really our eyes into Candy Bhai’s world.
As I watched the story unfold, admittedly I found myself wondering if the film is truly representative of the archetypal Jinnah Boy. At times, Ali Rehman’s middle class nature did leak. Then I realised, it really didn’t matter. Sole Search is a chimerical view from the eyes of the rest of us. This is what we hear and see but never get to actually enjoy the company of the likes of Candy Bhai.
There is a story with a strong beginning, middle, climax and end. The role of the characters is also developed. There is history behind Candy Bhai and Sameer and they both get to learn some important lessons about themselves, through each other. Underneath the comedy, there’s food for thought, questioning the necessity of the society’s repressed sexuality. The characters also have a story despite all their silliness.
The film is provocative, there is language. It is glossy and hilarious and it’s only twenty minutes. They’re not seeking profits; they just want to be heard. So hear them out on YouTube and Facebook. Have a look at the forgotten city and its version of comedy. Also, have a look at this before deciding to choose how to ‘rethink Pakistani cinema’ because these kids have already got it right.
Beenisch Tahir is a freelance writer and consultant. She can be contacted at: email@example.com