GlaswAsian Tales is my first film as a writer. Also my first as a director. And, yes, as a producer too…
The idea for the film grew out of my desire to tell stories about a particular group of communities in the southside of Glasgow, Scotland. I wanted to share the experiences and perspectives I had come to know and love which came from the diverse communities that I worked with for over a decade as Artistic Director of Ankur Productions.
It was important that the stories were told in a manner befitting the spirit, commitment and ethos of our work at Ankur Productions. So the main aim was to find ways to enable people from ethnic minority communities to tell their own stories, to participate where possible, and to do so on their own terms.
This was not an easy thing to realise for reasons too complex to enter into here, but suffice to say that meeting such challenges in the community had always been the Ankur way!
So. A while ago, I took a private taxi in Glasgow. The young Pakistani muslim driver asked me what I did for a living. It turned out his dream was to be a stand-up comic so when he heard about my work, he literally poured his heart out. He talked to me about living what he called a ‘double life,’ and of the corrosive effect it was having on him.
He told me about how he had been pressured, by his mother, into marrying young and having a family immediately. He explained that this in turn had led him into leading this double life, where he sought relief in clubs, drugs etc.
And then he said, ‘where I come from, you’re already half way into the coffin from the moment you are born, because somebody else is living your life for you.’
This conversation haunted me in my time at Ankur. I tried to find ways to explore this particular experience as a documentary project but found it very difficult to get access into the Pakistani community, which lives with an overwhelming fear of mis-representation by the non-muslim and mainstream establishment.
In the end, I decided that the best route was to fictionalise some of the accounts and take the pressure of exposure away from the young men I interviewed. The research process was not without its challenges and many did not wish to speak to me, even under conditions of anonymity. But some did and the stories in this film are a tribute to their honesty and generosity.
The film is shot in a semi-documentary style to create a sense of peering into this otherwise closed world.
The streets, shops, and the people on the streets are all ‘real’ but the stories of the four main characters have been fictionalised.
Most of the performers in the film are non-professionals and many have been involved in Ankur’s community projects over the years. Some have never acted before. But there are exceptions, most notable of which is the hugely respected actor Asim Bukhari from Pakistan, who plays the Grandfather. It was an honour and a privilege to work with him.