After gaining some serious fandom in Parchi and Anaa, Usman Mukhtar is ready to win international hearts with his upcoming short film Bench nominated for the Independent Short Film Awards in Los Angeles, California.
The story is embedded in simplicity, as it unpacks the struggles of a young couple who are at crossroads with their relationship - sitting on a bench in a neighbourhood park.
Speaking to Images, actor and director Mukhtar elaborated on the process of drafting the storyline.
"What inspired me to write the film? Actually, nothing. Me and my friend, Ali [Mudar] were discussing potential storylines for a script that we wanted to explore, and kind of decided why not make it very simple and a dialogue between two people sitting on a bench. The story couldn’t be any simpler than what we discussed; Ali penned down the script and the project took off from there," he said.
The film's cast includes Rubya Chaudhry, Iman Shahid and Usman himself. The trio previously worked as a team on another short film Aasiqui.
In the words of Rubya, the project is "an intimate dialogue between two hearts in despair, looking to find their own truth in life. It takes courage to make tough decisions, to force yourself out of your comfort zone in order to take charge of your destiny. That’s what it’s about; that turning point where you could either settle with the cards you’ve been dealt, or break the mold to find your own truth."
Speaking about her role, she added that she was playing a headstrong woman Emaan who "quietened her essence to conform to the norms of society. She’s conflicted, but stands strong when faced with this challenge that may be the hardest call to make in her life."
Mukhtar exclaimed that the experience of both, acting and directing at the same time was refreshing.
"In recent times, I've worked on commercial films and dramas, and you kind of see the scale is very big with 100-200 people involved. But with Bench, it was so simple and so small. We had a crew of seven people and two actors. There was not a lot of protocol that we went with to the park so it was a very DIY, hand-on experience on this short. It was a lot of fun!" he said.
The short feature will also include a beautiful melody 'Soye Nahi' by Natasha Humera Ejaz, that she composed with a Bengali singer.
Currently, the movie has been submitted to 15 festivals and International Short Awards was one of the first ones to select it as one of their finalists.
Once it's off the festival circuit, it will be screened across Pakistan and put up on YouTube; the process will take another few months. We wish the entire crew our best.