Rahul Aijaz speaks to BOL about his film “A Train Crosses the Desert”
With a trailer that sends chills down your spine, Rahul Aijaz, the man behind A Train Crosses the Desert speaks to BOL about what transpired the process to write, direct and produce the film.
This film has been created as part of the ‘Film Talents – Unheard Voices from Pakistan and Afghanistan’ program, sponsored by Goethe-Institut Pakistan. The story revolves around two brothers, one of them being terminally ill, begging his brother to euthanize him.
Rahul tells us that the film comes from a deeply personal place for him, ‘I have been inspired and moved by the idea of death, and particularly suicide, for quite long. Losing my uncle to suicide when I was 5, and then losing my young cousin to cancer two years ago has had a lasting impact on me. And somehow both of these losses came together to instill an inexplicable feeling in me. I sometimes call it guilt. So perhaps this film is an expression of my guilt that I, along with everyone around my cousin, was helpless.’
Hoping the theme resonates with the audience, film-maker Rahul Aijaz shares, ‘with this story set mainly inside one room, I want the audience to feel suffocated in that tight space. I want the audience to feel they are in the room with these two brothers, one of which is dying and the dilemma of the other who has to decide whether to try to continue saving him by any means or give in and pull the plug.’ He further adds, ‘their lives are at a complete halt and by slowing down the pace of the film (to match the pace of the characters’ lives), the intention is for the audience to feel that they are living with these characters. With the subject of death, suicide and loss being universal, I feel everyone would be able to relate to this film.’
Starring Tariq Raja and Nadir Hussain in the lead roles, supported by Arshad Shaikh, Aijaz shares that he’s been very lucky to have found them and believes that no one would have been able to translate the vulnerability on screen as honestly as they have.
The short film was also selected for screening at the Asian Film Festival, LA, Hollywood 2020 (USA), Muestra Itinerante De Cine Mx (MICMX) 2020 (Mexico), LIFFT India Filmotsav – World Cine Fest 2020 (India) and 8th International Silk Road Film Awards – 2020 (Turkey).
Rahul Aijaz has been screening the film in Pakistan as well, ‘we have had 8 screenings so far in Pakistan. Six of them in Karachi starting from the national premiere at Arts Council Karachi to the latest one at the Social Sciences dept. at the University of Karachi, as well as two in Jamshoro including one at the University of Sindh.’ The film has received an overwhelming response, ‘a gentleman after one of our Karachi screenings told me he was so impressed by Raja’s performance that he considered him to be ‘the future Nasiruddin Shah of Pakistan’ and I agreed,’ says the writer, director and producer Aijaz.
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