November 
2008

Vol 8-No. 5


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RAMCHAND PAKISTANI
Can it bring India and Pakistan together?

Of late, some movies, including "Khuda Kay Liye", have been made both in India and Pakistan on the sensitive subject of communalism and fundamentalism and their effect on the common people. But they do not seem to have a "calming effect" on the perpetrators of hatred.

 

Ramchand Pakistani won the FIPRESCI Award from the Munich-based International Federation of Film Critics.

 

The story of the film rings true even today when hundreds of prisoners of either country languish in the jails of the other. The vast majority are victims of accidental and inadvertent border crossings and they end up forgotten and lost in the labyrinth of bureaucracy and red-tapism and subject to the vagaries of Pakistan- India relations.

 

"This is a tricky question to answer. But I should think, "Ramchand Pakistani" would have a calming effect in the present situation in India," Jabbar said.

 

"The movies may not help people shed their differences instantly, but if the objectives are clear and sincere, the movies can certainly help people see these differences in proper perspective. This is the least a filmmaker can do," he said.

"It s difficult to change the mindset of those who thrive on communalism and fundamentalism," Jabbar pointed out.

 

Can a movie like "Ramchand Pakistani" bring India and Pakistan closer, he said: "I should think so. But, let me also say that, against one 'Ramchand Pakistani', there are also some which are intended to widen the divide. But that should not defeat our purpose."

 

Jabbar was all praise for Percept Picture Company for coming forward to get "Ramchand Pakistani" released in India.

Ashok Ahuja, one of the directors on the board of Percept Picture Company, said that though the movie was a commercial success in Pakistan, over and above being critically acclaimed internationally, his company was not so much concerned about its box-office success in India.

 

"It is amazing for me that my film is releasing here. I am lucky that I had the opportunity to make my film at a time when Indian films are releasing in India and Pakistani films are releasing here," debutant director Mehreen Jabbar said.

 

Ask about her expectations and the director gives a practical answer, "I have my feet on ground. I am not expecting a blockbuster out of my film because it is not that kind of film. But I am positive that Indians go and watch the film at least."

 

India's critically acclaimed actress Nandita Das, who is playing the lead role of a Pakistani Hindu Dalit in the film says, "The film will not only create awareness about Pakistani cinema but it will show a slice of Pakistani life also."

 

Nandita hopes that film will be able to dispel some of the stereotypes that Indians attach with Pakistan. "No single film can tell you entirely about a country but when you start watching films from a country, you start realising, you start putting the missing pieces together like Pakistan does about us by watching our films," she adds.

 

The film was shot in the deserts of Pakistan's Tharparkar area bordering Gujarat, which is not very much developed with a very basic infrastructure.

 

"It was not an easy shoot in terms of facilities but because everyone was doing it completely for the love of the film it created a different energy," says Nandita.

 

 

 

Synopsis

 

‘Ramchand Pakistani’ is derived from a true story concerning the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border during a period (June 2002) of extreme, war-like tension between the two countries by two members of a Pakistani Hindu family belonging to the 'untouchable' (Dalit) caste, and the extraordinary consequences of this unintended action upon the lives of a woman, a man, and their son.

 

The singular theme of the film is how a child from Pakistan aged eight years learns to cope with the trauma of forced separation from his mother while being held prisoner, along with his father in the jail of a country i.e. India, which is hostile to his own, while on the other side of the border, the wife mother, devastated by their sudden disappearance builds a new chapter of her life, by her solitary struggle for sheer survival.

 

Belonging to one of the lowest castes in Hinduism (one of the “untouchables”), the family is also part of a small minority of Hindus in a country, which is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in which 97% of the people are Muslims. The boy and his father are held captive in India where, in contrast to Pakistan, the overwhelming majority of about 80% comprises of Hindus.

 

The film portrays the lives of a family that is at the bottom of a discriminatory religious ladder and an insensitive social system, which is nevertheless tolerant, inclusive and pluralist. The irony is compounded by the fact that such a family becomes hostage to the acrimonious political relationship between two neighbor-states poised on the brink of war.

 

 

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