Asim Abbasi’s first feature film’s trailer released this February and has made 2018 look an inviting prospect from a filmlovers point of view. The stylish feel of the trailer and the original-seeming storyline have got our mouths watering. “Cake” starring Amina Sheikh as Zareen and Sanam Saeed as Zara in the lead promises to bring out the different relationships that exist within a family….exploring how different circumstances in your life prepare you for everything except for your family!
We love the name “Cake”, it’s very unconventional. Why is it called that?
Aaminah – Cake is made up of layers, similarly every family has layers. Individual ingredients come together in a cake to form something so beautiful and yummy. Also each family maintains its facade just like a cake has one.
Sanam – Cake, in English is cake and also in Urdu, so its universal. At every major family celebration – whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary or even a graduation, there is always cake! It brings people together.
The trailer gave some viewers a feeling that it looks like the ‘female-version’ of Kapoor and Sons. How do you think it differs from KandS? (scroll down for the full trailer at the end of the piece)
Aaminah – I have also heard people comparing the movie to KandS but I think their opinion will change completely once they actually see the movie. The genre of the movies is similar, it’s a family drama that focuses more on stylised reality and less on glamour. Both have a new-age take on film making, but any impression of similarity will disappear once they see the movie.
Sanam – I think the people are comparing them because “Cake” because also talks about the quirks in a family and because both have a very bohemian feel. The story is however completely different – the only thing common is family.
What made you take on the role of “Cake”?
Sanam – For both of us, the script was definitely the deciding factor. Asim had very a clear idea of the cast he wanted. Both are characters are very well thought out, and equally vital to the story. Even other than the leads, all the characters of the film are very well grafted. Even a small role, such as that of Dino, the house help, has its beginning, middle and end with an arc of character development. Family dynamics have been shown beautifully and Cake really explores the nuances of human emotions and relationships through a very engaging story.
How was it different for working with Asim?
Sanam – It’s been the best experience working with Asim. He doesn’t shy away from showing emotions in depth. We have noticed other directors sometimes cover emotions superficially because they are afraid to explore them, however Asim is very clear on what he wants. He completely deconstructs an actor and then brings out the best from him. Like you can’t use your go-to expressions and acting styles – that quiver in your voice when you cry or that quirk of an eyebrow you always use. For him, it was all about the character and he made us dig deeper for our performances. It was a very refreshing and intense experience as an actor. Also people often complain about the editing issue in Pakistani movies, how films don’t seem to flow well but they won’t have that issue with Cake. The flow of the film has been planned so minute and the story develops very naturally as a result.
Aaminah – Asim has done some interesting work but this was his first feature film. As experienced actors we never felt that we were working with a newbie director. In fact he made us explore new dimensions within acting and took our performances to another level. He started working with us and made sure we built our emotions from start. It was amazing to see how focused he was on what he wanted from an actor, not relying on the actors’ previous acting skills. He would make an actor “unlearn” his acting so that the skills could be refreshed. Our workshops and rehearsals included constant reasoning of the character’s behavior just so it brings out the true feelings rather than “what will look good on the screen”.
Sanam – Our homework included listening to songs, smelling our dad’s perfume, picking up an object from home, to trigger memories that would enrich our performances.
Sanam, we seen you last year in an ensemble cast in Dobara Phir Se where you did a gem of a performance but we didn’t see enough of you. Does this film primarily revolve around you two?
It does, but at the same time Adnan has a very significant role to play. Roles mean nothing without their supporting cast. A film is all about teamwork, doesn’t really matter who’s in the top-tier. Samar in DPS had so much fun and I never wished that I was playing any other character in the film. In the end a good performance always overshadows the length of the role. And then again for Adnan, Asim brought the best out of him making this the perfect debut for him. Adnan’s role is different than the regular chocolate-boy role, but we are certain that he will definitely make a mark with his performance.
You both are playing sisters in the film, do you two have sisters? How is the relationship?
Aaminah – My sister is a lot younger to me, she was still growing up when I was in college. She is the most mature out of all of us. The relationship is very different from what is shown in the film, cause our two characters aren’t that far apart age-wise. There is a lot going a lot between the two sisters in the film so the communication between the two is very different from what I have with my sister.
Sanam – I am also the older one and for the longest time I treated my younger sister as a baby until she hit her twenties. Definitely the most mature in our family and acts as a glue to our family. She is is actually very close to the character I am playing as she acts the glue between Zareen (Aaminah) and Zain (Adnan). What I have seen is that affection increases as you go further down the sibling line. Similarly, Zareen (Aaminah) is distant from her parents and Zara is the one who brings her closer to her family. So for me, my sister was something of an inspiration for the character I played, particularly in how demonstrative she is with her parents.
Get to know Aaminah and Sanam better as we put them on the spot with a rapid-fire round
Aarij Hashmi, the head of production design, has quite a name in Karachi for his artistic approach of event management and set design. How was working with him?
Aaminah – Working with Arij, was unlike any other experience. You can see how cleverly he puts things together. The best part is, he brings his entire life experience to work. His research is always spot on and he takes inspiration from all sorts of places, while at the same time delivering what is asked. With so much going on around the set, he had so much responsibility, but he never lost his calm. He thought of dozens of little touches that really made an impact – for example he suggested that I should wear blue eyeliner to bring a little quirk to my character that really worked well with her backstory.
Sanam – From the haveli in Khatian, to the house in Karachi, he gave them a completely new look. Although we have seen havelis before on television, no one has put together this sort of look before. Everything has a meaning – the color palette, the fairy lights, the prickly venomous cactus, wall clocks, ornaments…. all had their parts in the story. They are there for a reason and though you may only register these things subliminally, Aarij’s vision really added to the style and feel of the film.
You guys did a photo shoot for Hello! with makeup artist Natasha. It’s very bold, breaking stereo-types. Is there any message sent through that?
Sanam – It was a very fun shoot that again layered the themes and story of the film – from Aaminah’s more sober style to my more exuberant style to the way Adnan was refereeing between us, it was an extension of the concept of the film. I think the very unconventionality is a reflection of what you should expect from Cake.