A Pakistani-American Tale Upends Expectations Onscreen and in Life
Did your parents disapprove?
My mom definitely disapproved, I think, for a really long time. She would be sitting with the aunt and everyone would be talking about how their children went to school and now doing engineering or whatever corporate [job] – And she would just say “Yes, Irm Caltech gone”, and then be quiet. But now I think she is understanding it, and they are proud. It is also difficult for them to understand what success is. For him, success is an Oscar.
How has your science background informed your filmmaking?
I basically believe that the mind of the artist and the mind of the scientist are very similar, because both are intent on curiosity.
In the context of the father-daughter relationship in the film, did you deliberately try to sway the audience’s expectations rather than the South Asian portrayals?
The fact is that there are a lot of fathers in the world, who are very loving and positive for their daughters, and it exists. Even grandfather, he is still a very soft and sweet man. And I was tired of seeing that story. I don’t think it was a conscious thing: “Oh well, here’s that topic, let’s make it the opposite.” I think it was always another thing that I have often struggled with, I think sometimes women have been conditioned to push patriarchy more.
What do you think the film could be like today, especially after the Trump presidency?
Anti-Muslim bigotry is very much present; Protecting communities of color [themselves] Even more in terms of surveillance. And the fact is that this is a family that is just like you – [the film can] Basically humanize and connect so that you don’t consider Muslims as unicorns, but they are actually people you know, such as your neighbors. So we are hoping to provide just one more data point on what it means to be Muslim-American and hopefully create more similarities.
Because at the bottom of all this, it is the story of a family who are trying to reunite. Yes, they are Muslims. But it is about mysteries, it is about inter-trauma, conflict, those things.