The UK Asian Film Festival returns for an impressive 21st year with another celebration of South Asian cinema across London, Manchester, Leicester and Edinburgh from March 27 until May 4.

The closing gala film of London edition on April 4 is Pinky Memsaab, which is a powerful Pakistani drama written, produced and directed by Shazia Ali Khan. Eastern Eye caught up with the Dubai-based filmmaker who studied in London to find out more about her debut feature.

What first connected you to cinema?
I grew up in Pakistan in the nineties with just one national television network and a dwindling local industry; so watching movies on the VCR was one of the very few options for my entertainment-starved generation. We watched anything and everything we could get our hands on. This resulted in a potpourri of Bollywood, Hollywood, Iranian and Pakistani influences that stay with most of us movie buffs to this day.

Is there one movie that made a big impact on you growing up?
Monsoon Wedding is the film that made me want to become a filmmaker. (Director) Ms Mira Nair, for me, created a whole new perspective on how a South Asian film could be authentic, relatable, entertaining and have a world cinema appeal, all at the same time. A non-masala film with all the right spices.

Tell us about your film?
It’s a simple story told straight from the heart without any frills. It’s meant to evoke emotions from the audience that can only come out if they see themselves in one of the characters or situations. It aims to be an ‘authentic’ tale not influenced or inspired by other films but by life itself.

What was the biggest challenge you faced with this film?
The budget. Creative independence comes at a big financial risk and I’ve nothing but gratitude for the executive producers who took a chance on a new team with a crazy idea.

What made Pinky Memsaab get screened at the film festival?
My wonderful producers and a very generous review from one of the selectors who saw it in India. I am looking forward to it more than you realise.

Who are you hoping connects with the movie?
Expats all over the world. The people who spend their lives living in homes away from home.

What kind of films do you love watching? 
I watch all kinds of films. I feel that is important to keep your perspective fresh and well rounded.

Who is your cinematic hero?
I don’t have just one as there are many and for different reasons.

What can we expect next from you?
A truly heart-felt story, not one told out of necessity or pressure to churn out yet another project. We would love to do an exclusive project for a digital platform as our least favourite part of the journey has been to deal with the tribulations of theatre distribution.

Finally, why do you love cinema?
I love to tell stories that have a profound effect. What better tool than cinema to do that?

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