Brit Director Menhaj Huda returns to the big screen
BANGLADESHI writer and director, Menhaj Huda, best known for the hugely acclaimed ‘Kidulthood’, returns to the big screen this month in his controversial new film, ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’. He takes audiences on a journey that follows four young Muslim boys as they try to overcome the challenges of traditional Asian family life, whilst living in multicultural Britain. Exploring taboo subjects faced by today’s youth, the Bangladeshi director sheds light on the social and cultural barriers that permeate Asian society. Menhaj spoke to The Asian Today about the film and the importance of reflecting the struggles of Asian youth on the big screen…
Tell us about ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ – what type of film can we expect?
It’s a coming of age story about a young man who is deciding which path to take in his life: do what’s expected of him or follow his heart and take a bigger risk. The main character is a DJ and so there is a lot of great music in the film. It also exposes the double life led by young adults and explores identity issues and the dilemmas faced by those growing up in the UK.
How did the idea of ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ come about?
I was researching a short film about identity and realised that this topic was an interesting one as a theme for a bigger dramatic film. I also felt there had not yet been a film that portrayed Asian youth, from the UK, in a realistic fashion where they are the same as all young people, not fanatic terrorists etc and I felt the need to make a film with these type of characters. My background in DJ-ing probably inspired the idea of the main character as I could tell a lot of the story through the music he creates which is a mix of old Hindi film music and cutting edge contemporary dance tracks, ie mixing east and west and old and new.
What type of audiences do you think would enjoy the film?
The film is aimed at a 15-25 audience but I think all ages will find this enjoyable, especially anyone who enjoys music in films.
What makes ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ a different film from your 2006 film Kidulthood?
Kidulthood was a much harder and shocking film, ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ is about a lot of different things and it’s a very different story! In a way it’s a very unique film and will appeal to a wider audience
You’ve said in recent interviews ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ ‘needed to be made’ – why is this?
As I said earlier, the lack of representation recently of Asian characters on the big screen apart from villains is why I feel this film needed to be made, I wanted to see young Asians in a story that shows them being regular people, going out, partying and chatting up girls like all young people, because that is the reality for the majority, and yet the only characters they see represented on screen are villains, which must be a pressure in itself growing up under that kind of a cloud. Most people probably don’t notice but as an Asian film maker in the UK, I am very conscious of it and am always driven to do things that seem obvious and yet no one is doing.
The film deals with young British Asian’s and their struggles in carving out their own paths in life – is this struggle something that you can relate to?
I think I have been lucky to have success early on, if I hadn’t then my ‘struggle’ would have been greater and I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to carry on in this field, but I remember as a young man being totally convinced that I should do what I felt was right in my heart rather than with my head, and I think that is something all young adults go through before they grow up a bit more, and in this film I’ve tried to capture that impulsiveness that can drive you forward but can also lead you into trouble!
A lot of Brit Asian representation on the big screen has been in comedy format (East is East, Bend it like Beckham, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’) the darker issues which ‘Everywhere +Nowhere’ deals with are rarely seen on the big screen – why do you think this is?
I’m not really sure, I don’t think it’s for the lack of talent out there, but perhaps comedy is seen to be a more widely enjoyed genre than drama.
Let’s talk about the ‘Everywhere+Nowhere’ cast – you’ve got yourself quite a diverse group of actors there
I like to audition thoroughly for my films and with this one I found probably the best of the up and coming actors through that process, and of course Adam deacon who I have worked with a few times before. James Floyd, Elyes Gabel and Neet Mohan, all brought something of themselves to the characters.
How important was getting the music right in the film?
The music is a very important part of the film, and I was fortunate enough to meet Nerm who was the music consultant and brought the contemporary edge to the soundtrack. I knew from the beginning that we were going to use some really old classic Bollywood songs in the film and update them with remixes that would be enjoyable for an older audience but also credible for the younger audiences. The remixes were done by Engine Earz experiment, Sukh Knight and Nerm & D-Code, and lifted the soundtrack into another dimension.
What film projects have you got coming up?
I have several projects in development but I think my next film is a horror film called comedown which should start shooting in June hopefully.
Finally, would you ever consider taking the darker side of your filmmaking to Bollywood?
I would if Bollywood is ready for that kind of film!
Everywhere+Nowhere releases in cinema’s on Friday 6th May