The long-awaited feature film, “Mud House and the Golden Doll” was screened at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts auditorium, on Friday. The event was essentially a private affair comprising friends and family of the cast and crew as well as colleagues from the film industry.
The art film touches upon otherwise tabooed topics in Pakistani cinema such as the elusive nature of insanity, sexual abuse and gender discrimination that led to automatic hurdles in gaining the censor board’s approval and mass appeal. However, the film is unique in not only its subject matter but also its sensitive treatment.
Hamza Ali Abbasi wrote and directed the film and acted as the male lead, Pasha. The script is authentic, communicating each character’s emotions and thoughts with individuality and dialectical precision.
During an introduction to the film, he said, “The fact that this film has premiered despite a meagre budget is proof that filmmakers don’t need money, but conviction.”
Though the film’s subject matter is decidedly adult, one of the most touching performances comes from the youngest of the cast, Tajwar Raza, who plays the lead role of Soniya. She convincingly portrays a young girl denied her childhood as she is pushed into premature adulthood because of poverty. However, even more touching is her performance when she interacts with Pasha, successfully showing her joy and inner turmoil at the new-found friendship.
Soniya’s parents played by Fauzia Mahmood and Ottoman Khan have artfully managed to humanise their antagonistic roles by vividly depicting their struggle to initiate their daughter into adulthood for survival, while wanting the best for her.
Mehwish Hayat who plays the adult Soniya brought a quality of continuity to the character of the female lead that could have been compromised if it weren’t for someone with experience.
The most striking character in the film, however, is not its cast but the location itself.
The film has been shot on the outskirts of Islamabad and director of photography and editor Shayan Latif has done a tremendous job giving life to the film by capturing the mundane in a cinematically exciting yet subtle way.
Fellow filmmaker, Imran Kazmi commented, “I was very impressed with the cinematography as every shot seemed natural yet carefully executed.” Television actress Ayesha Khan also commended the film’s aesthetics. “For me, the most moving moments revolved around Pasha and Soniya’s friendship,” she said while talking to The Express Tribune.
The film is inspired by real life events and has a realistic feel to it. However, it also narrates the harrowing realities of the everyday life. Though a tragic tale, the basic premise of the film is not of heartbreak, but of hope and friendship.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.