Get Up Aisha: the web-series about a high-functioning depressed Pakistani girl we NEEDED
Get Up Aisha is a short-form digital series that focuses on Aisha Rehman after she becomes diagnosed with chronic depression. How would an average person deal with this predicament? Would they take time off? Probably. Tell their family and friends? Maybe. Realize that their current outlook on happiness is not accurate? Definitely.
But obviously Aisha, being the Type A overachiever that she is- decides that she will deal with this minor bump in the way she approaches everything - through Basic Mathematics - a simple ‘solve for x’ sum and she is determined to find ‘x’ in this case; the cure for depression. So with help from her psychiatrist, research and the handy Google, Aisha makes a list of all the things that could potentially help with depression be it yoga, tennis, making a new friend, etc and adds it to her ‘My Depression Checklist’ and each episode would follow Aisha as she checks things off.
For a girl who always worked hard to get her way, Aisha finds control slipping out of her hands as the reality sets in that this perfect life might not be able to stay perfect after all.
We got the chance to speak to Nisha Khan, one of the creators of this soon-to-be hit web series!
Nisha Khan is a Pakistani-Canadian writer who was listed by Spotify as “Britney Spears’ Biggest Fan” in 2020. She enjoys writing dark gritty dramas and too cheesy-for-television rom-coms. Rabiya Mansoor is a Pakistani-Calgarian writer and sketch comedian who loves pizza and multi-dimensional South Asian female characters. Marushka Almeida is a screenwriter/musician dedicated to writing unconventional WOC who know their marijuana and music.
Who are the creators, what’s the story behind Get up Aisha?
Nisha: The creators are myself, Rabiya Mansoor, and Marushka Almeida. All three of us are friends and attend the same writing group. There was this funding body called IPF here in Canada and you pitch them your idea for a web-series - if they like it, they fund the production of a trailer. It comes around every year and I had an idea for something that we could apply for, something that we could all relate to. Mental health is something that all three of us have discussed before with each other, and so I thought - what if we had a girl with mental health struggles, but the catch is that she is a type-A personality? We commonly see a certain depiction of depression, which is someone who can’t get out of bed, their whole world is falling apart and they are visibly sad. But what about the high functioning depressed people? What about people who you would not be able to tell were depressed? These people are highly functioning and very good at holding it in, to the point that it becomes easily missed. What about those people? Myself and the two other creators shared our mental health struggles and collectively agreed that we liked this idea and went forward with pitching it to IPF. And that’s it, we created a pitch package and analysed the funding. It was difficult to create a trailer during COVID, but we took every single precaution wearing masks socially distancing and being tested all while filming. Everything we could possibly do, we did, just to get this trailer out there. And that’s the story about how the idea came about.
Was there anything else that inspired the creation of this web series?
Nisha: Obviously one of the main things is that there aren't many shows about South Asians, let alone South Asians dealing with something like mental health illness. I think that a big part of it is that we talked a lot about tv shows and movies and things that we weren’t seeing, things that we craved - looking for some type of representation. So when we were given the chance to create something like this, we went all in. Around 90% of our cast and crew were people of colour, and we wanted the director to be South Asian.
We were able to make group decisions, and those were important decisions for us. My co-creators and I were set on making the main girl, Aisha, Pakistani, and we wanted to find a Pakistani actress to play her. It’s so nice to have an environment where people were also adamant on finding the right person, making sure that we were representing them properly. It was so important, and it was something that we were also trying to show with this web-series, - although the topic is very timely and people will be able to relate to it, the representation itself might be something you haven’t seen before, and it’s something we should have seen a long time ago, something that should be the norm, something that we should all be able to enjoy.
You said that you’ve just created a trailer, are there plans to make it into a web-series? If so, where can we watch it?
Nisha: Pretty much, the reason why it’s so vital that we share it everywhere and we are asking everybody if you could just share, like and view it is because the next part of this funding is that we show how many people have viewed and enjoyed the trailer. Very clearly there is an attraction for this and that people are interested. This then gives them the green light to give us more funding to create the web series.
So right now it’s about getting the word out and getting publicity for the trailer, with the eventual aim to create the web-series - how can we best support you as a community, as watchers, what can we do to support Get up Aisha?
Nisha: Just watching, commenting and sharing it and telling friends and family, because again it’s showing that there is a need for this. It was touching when I was reading the Tik Tok comments, and people were tagging Netflix, commenting that Netflix should look at the trailer. People are showing us that this is the type of content they WANT to watch, and we need this support to continue! A click of a button, being able to watch it and talk about it. That’s what is going to show, and maybe not even a web-series but something further, that this is something that people would enjoy. All that support would be incredible.
If you could sum up, Get up Aisha, the message and the power behind the show in one sentence, what would it be?
Nisha: If I could sum up the message of the show, it’s that you can’t chase after happiness. It’s pretty much in the little things all around you. Sometimes you are going to be sad and that’s okay. Something else to mention is that Aisha is a high functioning depressed person, but something very common for us when we were talking about our own experiences, was the need to be amazing and great and not mediocre. Most South Asians, at least the ones we know, are in a household where their parents are not saying that it's okay to get a C. We have this extreme pressure to be perfect, and that’s Aisha. She has this extreme feeling that she has to be perfect, she needs to be the smartest in the room, she needs the perfect boyfriend, she needs to be the perfect friend, everything has to be perfect. She has this absolute need for control, and while she does have depression a lot of her anxiety and feeling of inadequacy comes from the pressure she puts on herself. That's what the show is tailoring to, that it's not just the chemical imbalance of the depression, it's the fact that she is also putting so much pressure on herself.
You can follow updates on Get Up Aisha on their Instagram