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Complexities of expat life framed

What happens when an Indian driver works in a Pakistani household in a multi-cultural city such as Dubai? An award-winning film.

Pinky Memsaab, currently showing on Netflix, has bagged the Best Picture award at the UK Asian Film Festival in the Audience Choice category this week.

Shot in Dubai and directed by a Pakistani filmmaker, the film is not just about self discovery but a peek into the multi-cultural society in the emirate. It highlights the intersecting lives of two women coming from two different social classes.

Pinky is a young woman from a small village in Punjab, who works as a maid at Meher’s house who is a Dubai-based writer/socialite struggling with life and its complexities.

Actor Sunny Hinduja of Ballad of Rustom fame – the film was shortlisted as India’s entry to Oscars in 2014 – plays Santosh, Meher’s lively driver. Hinduja, who has been an on and off resident of Dubai because his parents reside there, is well aware of the complexities of expatriate life there.

“The life of Dubai is beautifully portrayed while showing the class difference,” the Brij Mohan Amar Rahe actor told Mail Today. Dubai often gets stereotyped as a pleasure palace for the rich and famous but the reality on ground is far more diverse and there are so many stories to tell.

“My greatest takeaway is I’ve started giving priority to good people – to sensible, understanding people. It is the relationship that we take back,” Hinduja says while adding praises about the Pakistani crew he was shooting with.

“They were very welcoming like any neighbour. They didn’t seem like people from a different country,” he adds. Santosh, a simple driver from Bihar is an unglamorous character. A lot of times actors don’t want to dress down for a role like that. However, for Hinduja doing justice to his character is more important. He says, “If my role demands, I will wear unglamorous clothes or plain clothes.”

It’s surprising Hinduja is so excited about a low-budget Dubai indie film but the actor says he approaches every film in the same way, regardless of budgets: “First I see the script then I see the people – if I can be compatible with them – and then I see my role. My character should be justifying.”

The actor says Pinky Memsaab is going to be universally relevant because half the world already knows Dubai. “It is a country that has publicised itself so much it attracts many tourists from across the world. But the film is close to real life showing the kind of lives people lead there and the challenges they face.”

The film also shows the fraught relationship between India and Pakistan. Hinduja feels cinema can play an important role in bringing the two countries closer. “But the politics is so overpowering, it’s not allowing it to happen,” he said. Hinduja feels disappointed the award-winning film cannot be released in his own country.

However, with streaming platforms, such films can have “a wider reach and it’s a great thing for independent filmmakers, actors and technicians”, he believes. Reminiscing about his journey from a commoner to actor, Hinduja says he was inspired by the B-Town life since his school days. After completing engineering, he joined FTII to pursue his passion.

“My dad played an important role too. He wanted to be an actor but family pressure discouraged him. I got to know about this when I was applying to FTII. He was very supportive. I happened to live his dream,” he said.

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