LAHORE: Where the whole country is drowned in sorrow, following the blast in Quetta, there’s still some good news coming out of Pakistan. Islamabad-based film-maker Shahana Khan has recently shot a music video for American rock band Walk the Moon, known for its 2014 smash hit Shut Up and Dance.
The band shared the video on its social media pages. “Our friend [Shahana] came to us with the beautiful idea to film a video in her home country of Pakistan,” the post read. “While growing up in Islamabad, she would encounter packs of bright and fierce local children who inspired her to tell a story.”
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Shahana revealed that she has always been a fan of the band and friends with its lead vocalist Nicholas Petricca. When she heard the album Talking is Hard, one song really resonated with her. “I thought We Are the Kids was great but didn’t get enough attention,” said Shahana. “It struck me because I spent most of my formative years in Islamabad and was friends with a lot of street children. In fact, whenever I am in the city, I still meet them. I started imagining the song through the lens of their stories.”
Shahana was not very clear about what she exactly wanted when she had initially discussed the idea with the band. It was upon returning to Pakistan that she began formulating the concept and conducting research. “After putting together a story and visual references, the band gave me its blessings.” The video was shot in Islamabad’s popular Saidpur Village through November 2015 and uploaded around May/June this year.
The director is of the opinion people from all over the world can relate to the video, as is evident from the responses it received over social media. Considering the five boys featured in it are not actors, the video has a particular rawness that otherwise may not have been achieved. The boys study at Mashal Model School,a charity set-up in Islamabad and work on the streets to make ends meet. “When I sat the five of them down, they started completing my sentences because they knew the reality of the story and what it is like to be on the streets,” recalled Shahana.
Although a major theatre buff, Shahana’s career has gravitated towards music-related projects. “I feel storytelling is tied heavily to music. So when I edit or direct short films, the music involved is very important,” she stated. It was stories that lead her to music, instead of the other way round. “I always try finding music that is in sync with the story I want to tell. When I heard We Are the Kids, it just clicked.”
Shahana recently got a stint as part of the production team for Live from the Artists Den, which is now in its 11th season and has hosted musicians such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and Ringo Starr. “We shoot the artists in unique venues so each episode tells the story of the person and the venue. The reason I got the job was my experience of working as the International Production Manager for Coke Studio’s season six.”
She does not, however, consider music projects her ultimate goal, which is acting and film-making. Shahana also starred in the 2010 indie movie Slackistan, which she claims was the turning point of her career. Naturally, she has plenty to say about the Pakistani film industry. “I am glad to see the commercial industry take off but it is still developing its identity,” she commented. “At this point, we need to produce all kinds of films, commercial and independent. Whether we realise it or not, this is our formative phase and it’s the directors’ responsibility to set the initial framework of what Pakistani cinema can be.”