Even as reports of Malala Yousafzai recovering gradually come from a hospital in the U. K., Iram Parveen Bilal, a Pakistani director, will have her film on a schoolteacher’s fight against feudalism premiere in the 14 Mumbai Film Festival on Monday. It is the first time in five years that a Pakistani film will be screened at the festival.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Ms. Bilal and the star of the film, Aamina Sheikh, who is also a popular model, said that it was an exciting time in Pakistan now as films were being made in a continuous stream. When Ms. Bilal started working on her debut feature film three years ago there were only seven films in production. But now, the numbers were increasing, and this year, up to 15 films were in line in Urdu.
Ms. Bilal is clear that the political facade of Pakistan and the reality of day-to-day life are different. “I want to give a picture of Pakistan that you don’t see on the TV news. My film works on class divide, class separations, and it is the story of a young girl from a privileged background, whose life takes a drastic turn due to the disappearance of her nanny,” she said.
Ms. Aamina, who plays Fatima, said her character is that of a schoolteacher who is fighting a system. She has to deal with a lot of opposition and has the motivation to find answers to questions that aren’t easy. Ms. Bilal said the film shows “that if we stand united, nothing can come in our way.” This has a special significance in the South Asian context.
Fatima’s attempts at creating a revolution of sorts form the crux of the film. In response to a question, Ms. Aamina said that everyone was affected by the attack on young Malala, and she had become a global icon. Like the character she plays in the film, Fatima, the issues revolve around education and justice for women. More than making a socially conscious film, Ms. Bilal was keen on bringing the “normal” side of Pakistan, life on the streets of Karachi, and its reality to the people. Pakistan is more than a war-torn zone, she said. “There are people who fall in love, sit around in cafés; we want people to realise there is a different aspect to our country,” she added.
Referring to the recent incident of a theatre being burnt, she said that no one can stop people from making films. “If you continue to make films, people will watch it. Even a country like Afghanistan is making movies,” Ms. Bilal pointed out. In Pakistan, Indian films were watched on videos then, now there were theatres and multiplexes. The revival of Pakistani cinema started with Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Gawah, which became a hit. Now the movement to make films is starting at the lower level, and Ms. Bilal had to raise money to fund her film.