“It is hard to find a distributor for such film in Pakistan, they keep telling us that such films do not sell and we keep proving them wrong”, said Iram Parveen Bilal the writer, director and producer of Award winning and “made in Pakistan” film Josh – against the grain. Iram was talking to the audience after the special screening of her film this past Tuesday at London Indian Film Festival 2013. Josh – Against the Grain is an independent cinema product and first feature film venture of Iram Parveen Bilal.
The London Indian Film Festival took place in 2010 for the first time to tap the biggest podium for Indian cinema in Europe and showcase Indian independent films. This year LIFF started on 18th July and will be running till 25th July. However, this year there was something different about the event – Presence of a Pakistani film in the festival. Josh – against the grain is the only Pakistani film being shown at LIFF this year. The same film that American media reported as a film that take audiences inside modern Pakistan.
I was at Cineworld Wandsworth to enjoy a cinematic trip to modern Pakistan. Sitting in gloomy hall better known as cinema hall and waiting for the film to start. After bearing adverts for good fifteen minutes I witnessed presence of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi on the screen, movie starts with a quote of Rumi followed by different shots of city of lights – Karachi.
Josh is the story of a teacher who eventually becomes philanthropist after tasting the flavour of cruelty of life outside the highly sophisticated and cosmopolitan life of Karachi. Fatima (Aamina Sheikh) is the school teacher who is very much attached to her nanny Nusrat Bi (Nyla Jaffri). Visiting the area where Nusrat Bi lives and seeing a cruel face of life is the changing point for her. Fatima refuses to accept it all as a result of an accident only. Fatima decides to continue the Khana Ghar (Food Kitchen) that Nusrat Bi was running in her area.
With the help of her friends she manages to launch the khana ghar but this wasn’t the end and it wasn’t as easy as it’s been written in above line. The lack of self esteem, absence of motivation, and fear of local feudal lord were the intangible villains of the story. Story is based on true incidents therefore it might seems to be bit predictable but some of the plot twists were pinned quite well.
The realistic aspect of the story and is the strength which one can see on the screen two with little or no additional glamour. The real glamour of the film is the resilience of the people of Pakistan, their potential to bounce back once they leave their fear behind. Story also highlights the absence of judicial system and justice in the rural areas where feudal lords start playing God. A social system that allows nearly all kind of cruelty and coarse if the real culprits are not caught. But the saddest part is that those who are related to the culprit will face those boorish consequences. It’s up to the land lord’s justice if only death is enough for the subject or another death before death in the form of rape.
As the film ended spectators filled the hall with the sound of clap of their hand. This was an ovation to the determination Khuda ki Basti showed. The other most seen gesture in the hall at that time was clearing the blubbered eyes.
After the screening there was a Question and Answers session with Iram Parveen Bilal. While answering questions that how she got the idea of making this film she was so overwhelmed that her mixed emotions caused tears in her eyes. While answering a question about casting she said, “It took me two weeks to finalise the cast. I wanted to make sure that if someone will be delivering one line in the film I audition him or her first. We were determined to make sure that even if someone is in the film for few seconds those few seconds become memorable with the performance”. She further said, “It is not easy to capitalise on the cost only in Pakistan as we picked the best people for the roles but it was hard to convince financiers with this cast because the leading cast was not as famous back then as they are now”.
She also shared incidents took place while shooting because they were gorilla shooting due to the overall environment in the city moreover they had to deal with the local political figures too who claimed to be owner of the land they were filming at. Iram also hinted about her next project that she will start working on after Eid. “Right now my all focus is on the day of eid when Josh is releasing in Pakistan. It has been very hard to find distributors there. However, the awards Josh won in the different film festivals have helped us a lot this time”. She regarded word of mouth as the biggest source of promotion of the film so far, “I have been telling everyone that if you liked the film you must recommend it to your friends too. Because it’s up to Pakistani cinema goers who they vote for – the strength of such issue based stories or the distributor’s opinion that such subsistence won’t sell.”
This independent cinema is releasing in Pakistan on Eid after receiving awards and appreciation worldwide. Let’s see how good it performs on its home ground after making an impact in London too.
P.S. below is the trailer of the film (sorry for the youtube link if its not working at your end):