• Thursday, July 18, 2024


‘Before Nikkah’ explore British Pakistani singletons’ experience using ‘Before Sunrise’

Talented young actors Sasha Vadher and Aakash Shukal play the lead roles in in the British Asian cinematographer and filmmaker’s directorial debut.

A still from ‘Before Nikkah’

By: Eastern Eye

AN INTERESTING highlight from this year’s London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) is the world premiere of Before Nikkah.  

 The romantic comedy set over one day in London, follows two British Pakistanis on a blind date, as they prepare for a prospective arranged marriage.  

Talented young actors Sasha Vadher and Aakash Shukal play the lead roles in British Asian cinematographer and filmmaker Haider Zafar’s directorial debut. The homage to iconic Hollywood film Before Sunrise is the beginning of an exciting journey for the new talent.  

He discussed the unique movie with Eastern Eye, along with the challenges of getting it made and his love for cinema.  

What sparked your love of cinema? 

 I think it probably began with Hindi cinema. I used to stay with my nani as a child whilst both of my parents were working, and we would watch a film together most days. She had a huge VHS collection that I would peruse like a bookshelf in a library. I really miss those days.  

What inspired your debut feature, Before Nikkah?

When Marcus Flemmings (the film’s writer and producer) first introduced me to Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset 15 years ago, I immediately fell in love with the characters and world that had been created. It was also interesting to see how, just as their relationship developed, so too did the technology used to make the films. The first two were shot on celluloid, and the third on digital. I hope they do a fourth one about the characters in their old age, shot on IMAX.  

Tell us about your film.  

Using the Before Sunrise concept, I wanted to explore a story about British Pakistani singletons’ experience, and what it means to be a contemporary Muslim in today’s overly complicated society. 

 What was the biggest challenge you faced making this film?  

Just like any film, getting it made in the first place, and getting it from script to screen, involves a lot of puzzle pieces. My biggest hurdle was asking the actors to perform over 10 pages a day while directing and shooting over our short nine-day schedule. 

Lead Haider Zafar Before Nikkah Director Headshot
Haider Zafar

What is your own favourite moment in the movie?  

 One of my many favourite moments is when Sara tries to teach Isaam a dance. 

 Did you learn anything new during the making of the film, Before Nikkah? 

 Making an independent film is a constant learning experience, pushing the boundaries of your craft with limited resources. Being able to give the actors what they need is of paramount importance and sometimes, when the sun was going down, I would just have to point and shoot, hoping for the best. 

 How important was it for you to get two talented lead actors in the lead roles?  

I had worked with Sasha on a short film before, and thought she did a fantastic job. The challenge was finding our Isaam. Sasha recommended Aakash, as they had worked together and known each other previously. Since they both had real-life chemistry, that ensured smooth sailing for their performances. All I had to do was point the camera at them. 

 How do you feel being a part of the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF)?  

It’s an absolute honour to be a part of LIFF, and I’ve been an audience member since the early days of the festival. I’m super grateful that our film was selected this year, and that it will be screening at cinemas up and down the country as well, in Birmingham, Manchester, and Yorkshire.  

Your movie is set in London. What do you love the most about the city? 

 London is a gem of a city, with a mix of old and new architecture. It also has diverse cultures and cuisines. I love walking through the city and stumbling upon something or somewhere I’ve never seen before.  

Who is your own filmmaking hero?  

It would be a disservice to any filmmakers I leave out, so let me just say that I have too many to count. However, Hong Sang-soo, a South Korean filmmaker, stands out for his simplistic approach, grounded narratives and modest budgets that usually make their money back.  

Do you have a favourite movie?  

I don’t really have a favourite movie, but I enjoy anything by Fincher, Nolan or Villeneuve. 

 Why should we all watch your film at the London Indian Film Festival? 

 I think it offers something fresh and different for moviegoers. I feel that there is a lack of contemporary narratives that truly represent the British Asian diaspora, especially ones with lighthearted and generally positive vibes.  

This film has two wonderful leads, and we hope you’ll come and fall in love with them, whatever city you might be in.  

London Indian Film Festival runs from next Wednesday (26) until July 7 across various cities. Before Nikkah has a world premiere at BFI Southbank in London next Sunday (30). Visit www.londonindian film festival. co.uk 

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