KARACHI: After giving Pakistan its first worldwide release in 35 years in the form of Khamosh Pani, director Sabiha Sumar is geared up for her next release Rafina.
The film is based on a novella of the same name, written by acclaimed Pakistani writer Shandana Minhas and is directed by Sumar.
Rafina is a story about a woman, from a very low income group, who wants to be a model. The film is a modern day Cinderella story of Pakistan about a girl who wants to be the next big thing, Sumar told The Express Tribune.
Sumar’s previous film Khamosh Pani, released in 2003, followed the story of a widowed mother and her young son in a Pakistani village under radical influence. Khamosh Pani won seven awards, including Golden Leopard (Best Film), Best Actress and Best Direction at the 56th Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland.
Unlike Khamosh Pani which had the likes of Kirron Kher and Arshad Mehmud in it, Rafina stars Amna Eliyas in the lead role. Other cast members include Yasir, Atta Yaqub, Saba Hameed, Khalid Malik, Beo Rana Zafar, Farhan Ali Agha and Joshinder Chaggar.
It may seem nonserious as compared to Khamosh Pani, given that it has the element of song and dance in it. The only song featured in the film is sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali and was choreographed by Joshinder Chaggar.
With a 100-minute runtime, Rafina is set for a world premiere after September 2011 and Sumar hopes that cinema owners in Pakistan run it.
“We had to create mobile theatre halls for Khamosh Pani and those theatre halls used to travel from village to village, town to town to set up screenings for people. To our surprise, as many as 1,000 people showed up at certain screenings and the questions that were asked afterwards were far more mature than what you expect from a rural audience,” Sumar told The Express Tribune.
Being a documentary filmmaker herself, Sumar believes that making neorealist films is just her style of filmmaking and it is up to the filmmakers to decide what kind of films he or she wants to make.
“Hollywood, Europe and Bollywood have their own styles of filmmaking. Sadly though, we haven’t developed any style of Pakistani cinema because there are no films being made as such. So, whoever is making whatever kind of film is fine because right now we need films; film is an expensive yet effective medium,” said Sumar.
Regarding the screenings of Indian films in Pakistani theatres and the ban on them during Eid, Sumar said that it was just a feudalistic attitude. “By stopping someone from putting up Indian films or even advocating against Indian films, you are forcing a shop-owner [cinema owner] to close his shop, which is pointless. It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world but only in the places where feudalism prevails,” she said.
In the case of Rafina, the preproduction was ready since 2005 and some sponsors had come on board but it took her many years to get the right amount of investment needed for the film.
What remains as a major concern for Sumar today is the absence of a Pakistani dream. With Rafina, she wants to give the people a Pakistani dream to look toward, “Why is the American dream so personal to the people of America, Why is Indian nationalism so strong within the people of India? It is largely because their filmmakers keep promoting it – that is what I want to do through my films. I want Pakistani people to see a Pakistani dream.”
After the successful releases of Khuda Kay Liye and Ramchand Pakistani and considering the controversy regarding the censorship of Slackistan, Rafina seems to be the next big thing to look forward to.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2011.