Friday 25 July 2014

Dukhtar: A mother's extraordinary courage

00:00 By Lollywood Online No comments

It’s a story oft repeated in this side of the world. An issue that has been discussed, written about and riled against by human rights advocates numerous times and yet it persists like a disease that refuses to go away no matter how much you treat it — child marriages. According to reports, the number of child marriages that take place in Pakistan average up to 1,000 per year.
That issue has been taken up by filmmaker Afia Nathaniel and set against a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop of Pakistan’s northern region — scenes from the trailer of her upcoming film, Dukhtar, depict a brown, rocky valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Of characters that live in a village that is as remote and far away from mainstream society as is possible.
That remoteness gives stunning views of the natural beauty that surrounds them but it works against the residents of the village because there is no one to listen to you and nowhere to go when something terrible happens. Especially if it is something wicked that a close member of your family has done or is planning to do.
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
Samiya Mumtaz, an accomplished theatre and television actor in Pakistan, is the mother in the story. In her introduction through the trailer, we see her trapped in what appears to be a rudimentary basement. Later we discover she has been hiding there.
A very young and precocious Saleha Aref plays the character of Zainab, the daughter who is to be married off to Tor Khan, a man much older than her. In a previous scene, the father can be seen conversing with a man who concealed his face with his scarf, so one is assuming that whomever he’s speaking to is not one of the good guys in the film.
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
When the mother finds out, she is gripped with fear regarding her daughter’s future and resolves to run away with her. They make an epic but perilous journey through the mountains, always seemingly staying a step ahead of the murderous manhunt that is fast on their heels. “She was your honour. Now she is ours,” says seasoned Pakistani actor, Ajab Gul’s character in one scene.
The mother and daughter hitch a ride on a truck being driven by popular Pakistani actor, Mohib Mirza, whose character is also an ex-mujahid. They continue to be assisted by him throughout the trailer.
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from film "Dukhtar". – Courtesy Photo
The locations, the photography, the set design all provide for a visual feast. The theme is old and somewhat clichéd, but even old stories can be told anew.
It reminds one of several other films that came out in the past decade. By no means does this imply that there was any kind of ‘inspiration’ taken from them by the filmmaker. There’s a bit of Bollywood’s Highway (for travelling on road in a truck and parts where they go through the mountains). Some of it reminds one of a beautiful Turkish film called Mutluluk, for the setting in the village, the tribal customs that dictate the actions of the people, the youth and innocence of the victim, the oppression of men in power, the concept of honour and that of protecting and/or avenging it and the theme of choosing the ‘flight’ over fight option.

The filmmakers recently released a qawwali by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, 'Ya Rahem Maula Maula', which will be featured as a part of the soundtrack. They are also currently working on a video featuring a song by Amanat Ali who has also contributed to the soundtrack of the film.
A recipient of several awards and grants, Afia Nathanial (scriptwriter, director and producer of the film) graduated in Film Direction from Columbia University. She has previously directedNadah and Long After — the latter features Tillotama Shome (Monsoon Wedding).


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