In 2014, he was selected for Stories of Lyari, an initiative to train student of Lyari for documentary film making. Along with his group, he made two documentary films ‘Working Women of Lyari’ and ‘Hidden Diamond of Lyari’. Even It was first time for him to work for filming a documentary film but his documentary ‘Hidden Diamond of Lyari’ got first position there.
While being a film maker, he is a good photographer too. In Karachi Youth Festival’s photography competition, he secured second position. His photography has also been published in Roads and Kingdom (an American online magazine).
We got the immense pleasure to interview Syed Ashan. Here is what he shares about his journey, the making of Jaawar, the challenges faced, his future objectives and advise to the youth who wish to have a life creating films.
HL: Tell us about your background. What made you choose film making as a career?
AS: I started with playing guitars. I learned that art and started playing it, that was my own wish, I wanted to become a singer but unfortunately singing was far away from me. On every Sunday, me and my uncle, Nadir Shah Adil used to sit together and talk about different films and arts as he was doing a the role of side hero in first ever Balochi film Hammal-o-Mahgunj.. The stories and his passion for film made my way to this industry. First, I started doing modeling in Omani Balochi video songs, which are mostly made in Lyari with a big demand in Oman and other gulf countries with Baloch population. Then I realized that there are many issues in our society to be addressed. Especially the ones in Lyari. The long tenure of violence has left effects on the youth plus the mainstream media portrayed a very bad image of Lyari. Such things isolated Lyari from the outskirts. I found nothing better than films to bridge the gap and let people know about people of Lyari that they are victims of this violence.
I joined Nosach films, a film production company and worked on many shorts film in Urdu and Balochi languages. Where I realized the impact of film to bridge the gap between cultures and traditions. Film has the power to shed lights on issues and telling stories of people. In 2014, I was selected for Stories of Lyari, an initiative to train student of Lyari for documentary film making. Along with my team, I made two documentary films ‘Working Women of Lyari’ and ‘Hidden Diamond of Lyari’. My documentary ‘Hidden Diamond of Lyari’ got first position there. Later I made a film on ongoing situation of Lyari naming ‘Jaawar’.
HL: Tell us about Jaawar, which has brought you fame.
AS: At that time, the gang violence in Lyari was on peak. I realized that this violence had such a dreadful effect on people that they were frightened to move around. The people here were the victims of gang warfare but the mainstream media was busy in associating Lyari with gang warfare. Due to which Lyari became isolated from outskirts. I thought to play my role in bridging the gap between Lyari and outskirts. Film has the way to do that shift. I with my team decided to make a short film to show the effects of such violence on people and to let people of Pakistan know about the suffering of them. This was the motive to make Jaawar -a balochi word meaning ongoing situation. Later because of my friend’s insistence I sent this film to a festival in Bahrain. Where it was selected to be screened and won first prize in Nasser bin Hammad Youth Creativity Awards.
HL: What has changed your life so far? I mean any life changing experience to share with us.
AS: Jaawar has been the life changing experience for me. That was something to push me forward to do more for my community and nation. I remember, we had very few equipment to shoot and shortage of funds. Now, I have my own production house called ‘Dhanz’, with latest equipments to utilize them in good quality films. Establishing Dhanz has been the biggest challenge for me but the love of people and passion made it easy.
HL: What was the reaction of people and especially media and government after winning the first ever international award for a Balochi film?
AS: When people came to know about it they gathered in front of my house. They took me on their shoulders. People were approaching me to greet and to take selfies with me. That was the moment never to be forgotten. Journalist, TV program hosts and bloggers started to approach to cover this amazing achievement. From government, I didn’t even get a single word of appreciation.
HL: We learned that you didn’t go there in the event to receive award, could you please share with us the reason behind it?
AS: As I told that I submitted my project because of my friend’s insistence. Honestly, I didn’t expect this to win the prize. When I received invitation letter, then only I found that my passport is expired and I didn’t have enough time to renew that.
HL: Share with us about awards you have won at Lyari Film Festival.
AS: Lyari Film Festival has been one of the reasons to motivate me and my team. I achieved Best documentary, best documentary cinematography, and best short film awards in this event.
HL: What motivates you to do more.
AS: The people who don’t like me or my work. This motivates me to do more and better in my field.
HL: What’s next for you? Any other film projects in the pipeline?
AS: We are working on a short film ‘LYARI A PRISON WITHOUT WALL’, being directed by my wife Nazeen Baloch. Soon we will announce the release date and teaser of the film.
HL: What are your goals of life?
AS: To see my films on big screens internationally.
HL: Any message for the youth of Lyari, who wish to follow in your footsteps?
AS: My advice to young film makers of Lyari is to give your best output for Lyari and for yourself. No matter what will be the result. But you don’t have to give up because it’s hard to beat someone who doesn’t give up. Just give your best of the best and you will find unbelievable result.