Hammad Khan, the man behind sleeper hit Slackistan, premiered his feature film Anima State at The Second Floor in Karachi on January 15.
The film is a hard watch.
Its excruciating and painful, strange and disjointed, senseless and random, pretentious and self-indulgent.
It takes you a while to realize that is the whole point of the film. The indie filmmaker wants his audience to suffer for 80 minutes straight.
|While the movie did not have a wide release, many gathered to watch at T2F|
How, you ask?
Well, by taking you on a stroll through Khan's dark, chaotic id.
Welcome to Khan's nightmares where there are multiple false awakenings.
Call this film Khan's catharsis. A distinct departure from his sensible previous projects. This is him coming to terms with the politics and the leaders, the ghoulish media, the disengaged youth, our undying cricket fetish and the inescapable corruption and violence in the country.
It's a whole lot of issues boiled into one narrative. And that's probably why there isn't really a narrative at all. If there is a plot of some sort, it has got more allegory and metaphors than can be handled in one sitting.
Warning: some spoilers below
The protagonist, played by Uns Mufti, is a lonesome man whose face is bandaged/masked and he is on a killing rampage across Pakistan. In some ways, he represents the namaloom afraad, the perpetrators of violence who go unnoticed in a country like ours.
After killing college students, a police officer and pretty much anyone who crosses his path, he hopscotches away scot-free.
Upon reaching a TV station, he convinces a popular TV anchor to let him confess his crimes on his show. Funnily enough, the TV anchor isn't impressed as there are more interesting stories about bomb blasts and disasters happening on the same day. But when the masked man presents the idea of killing himself "live", the callous TV anchor sees the potential for high ratings and agrees.
The questions the anchor poses on air to our masked protagonist wonderfully showcases the media's barbaric role when it comes human tragedies.
Another symbolic scene that stands out is when the protagonist is almost bludgeoned to death with keyboards by the Twitterati. It seems that Khan has a disturbing relationship with the very medium that could and does help him promote his film.
Malika Zafar, who plays a high-end prostitute, remains the standout performer throughout the film and steals the limelight with her daring dialogue delivery.
|Malika Zafar in Anima State. - Photo courtesy: Anima State's official Facebook page.|
Once the film ended at T2F, the UK-based filmmaker was available to face the audience's perplexed faces and answer questions through Skype.
When asked if he was expecting the film to pass through the Pakistani censor boards, Khan said: "I had hoped it would but Pakistan doesn't have space for creative, artistic expression, there is so much subjugation on TV screens."
|The filmmaker chatted with the audience over Skype. - Photo by author.|
While the film has already played at smaller festivals around the world, it wasn't picked up by some of the bigger international film festivals.
"There are only a handful of films selected from Muslim countries, I'm disappointed that Anima didn't go all where it could have gone," said Khan.
An older gentlemen with a rather conventional taste in film couldn't help but ask how Khan manages to fund these visual adventures. The young filmmaker diplomatically answered that he hopes his next venture will not be self-funded.
Female audience members were slightly peeved at Khan because his lead characters for his last two films have been male.
The audience response was mixed at best.
Nadya, who attended the screening, felt that the subject resonated with her. "As a therapist working in Landhi, I've had patients come in dealing with some of the same issues shown in the film."
On the other hand, Samreen Fatima felt the film was "all over the place". Try as hard as she might, she lost the plot every 10 minutes.
|The audience at the viewing of Anima State at T2F. - Photo by author.|
Overall, this is the kind of film where you wonder if copious amounts of marijuana had a role to play in its production, or alternately, you wonder whether a reefer would help stomach the creation.
Marijuana or no marijuana, just don't expect to walk out from Anima State with a hopeful, happy grin.
Saba Khalid lives to write and writes to live. She's an avid cyclist, a travel addict and a vintage connoisseur. She blogs at Let Her Run Run Run