By Ilmana Fasih
Just when the two South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan, were celebrating their Independence Days with pride, Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival made history by making a world premiere of a Pakistani-Indian collaboration film called Zinda Bhaag.
I had no chance to see the ratings and reviews, before deciding to watch the movie. But then I had no choice either, as I have the task to blog for Mosaic Festival events. To tell you the truth, I had pondered over the last two days, how would it be possible to blog on a movie, as neither am I a film critic nor a journalist. However, decked up in a sari, I was there to watch it.
The theme of the film is no alien to any South Asian who has young loved ones back home. Their burning desire to make it to greener pastures across seas and the himalayas of hurdles that lie ahead of them is no secret either.
Rightly quoted by a character in the movie: “Where there is a hill, there is a will”.
While talking about the Indian Pakistani duo co-directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, MISAFF director Arshad Khan related the irony of how the two were unable to attend the World Premiere in Mississauga, as they could not get visas for Canada on time.
In the sparkly eyes of the three young boys Khaldi, Tambi and Chitta, I could identify several of my own lesser fortunate cousins and nephews, who hold visions full of dreams to make it big in life. The (mis)fortunes that life offers these vibrant hearts born in modest homes in the small crowded dark alleys of so called megacities like Lahore or Karachi ( or even Delhi or Dacca) is nothing more than opportunities which metaphorically do not look much different from these narrow dark alleys themselves. And around them exist the powerful elite shelled in their own cocoons, who not just don’t care but are condescending towards them.
Khaldi and his friends love life, frolic, party, sing, dance, get drunk, fall in love, and even dream ‘big’ of bringing comforts to their families. But limited resources and opportunities bestowed upon them by virtue of their birth, compels them to seek brighter pastures in far off lands.
Rubina is another such youngster, who choses a different modus operandi, owing to her different gender. She does not have the luxury to think of acquiring a visa or taking a trip in a dunky or a container to the land of success. So she attempts to carve her own bumpy road to success, within the same alleys, by putting to test her own skills.
Somewhere in the first half of the film, I lost the feel of sitting in a theatre, watching a movie. It felt overwhelming enough as if seeing real life scenes, picked from day to day lives of not just three nor thousand, but millions of youth back home.
Inventing shortcuts to make it big has become everyone’s business, whether it is a mother who begs her brother-in-law in UK to call her son to drive a taxi or a father to pays for his son’s fake passport or an aunt who wants her niece to marry an ailing man aboard, or a boy who steals whatever little jewellery his mother hides in her closet to pay to the agent.
Kudos to the story writer and the directors who took efforts to show the gory details of the ‘predatory businesses’ that mushroom in places where helplessness thrives – be it gambling houses or fraudulent passport schemes or student visas or the filthiest of them all, the human trafficking.
Naseeruddin Shah’s key role as a pahulwan, who runs one such business, weilding much power and influence in the area, exemplifies thousands of such pehulwans, in the form of corrupt leaders or manipulative bureaucrats or ruthless gangsters who strangle the aspirations of these brilliant youngsters through exploitation.
It is no secret what permutations of possibilities await these youngsters. Few are able to actually live their dreams, others survive as illegal immigrants doing petty jobs, while many are unable to even arrive at their dream destinations, and are returned back to their parents wrapped up in coffins.
Chitta, Khaldi and Tambi have all that one needs to succeed- a vision for a good life, the willpower and the perseverance to go to any length to realize their goals.
Will they succeed in their dreams? You need to watch that for yourself.
Beyond Zinda Bhaag, looking at a broader picture, there are millions and millions of such Khaldis, Chittas, and Tambis, walking on land we call India and Pakistan. What is tragic is that the countries fraction in size and population of these South Asian nations, offer them more hope than their own homelands.
The music in the film was a treat in itself, from Pani ka Bulbula, its English version, to folk song by Arif Lohar and Qawwali by Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. I shall anxiously hunt to buy its Audio CD, when released.
A big pat to the team’s back to have brought Naseeruddin Shah on board, and hence giving a wonderful opportunity to hear and see him immerse in the role of a Punjabi Pehulwan.
After the show, Producer Mazhar Zaidi narrated how difficult it was for others to identify who was Indian or Pakistani while working as a team, and how the technical skills in production and post production process was taken care by mutual cooperation.
I seriously recommend that war mongers on both sides of Pakistan and India must sit together and watch this movie. And then look into each other’s eyes, and ask themselves, whether the luxurious nuclear assets that they have piled up, are giving their young men and women the dignity of life they deserve in their homelands.
Should Pakistan and India not be fighting the common enemies of poverty, hunger and helplessness, instead of fighting each other?
I know this is by no means a film review, as I am not technically competent enough to do one. But every word here comes from my heart.
Zinda Bhaag was a not just a nice film, but an eye opener to a grave social issue, which affects our most valuable asset- OUR YOUTH.