KARACHI: No matter how many years go by, Noor Jehan’s songs will always remain evergreen. The melody can transport you into a whole other dimension, steeped in nostalgia. Her voice is enough to lift one’s spirits and at the same time, pine for the one that got away.
It is this quality that film-maker Umar Riaz has attempted to capture in his short film Gul-e-Daudi. Shot in a monochromatic, minimalistic style, the 15-minute film revolves around a love story that spans a lifetime: boy meets girl while on the brink of adolescence and they love one another till death does them apart.
Gul-e-Daudi will be screened at the British Council in Karachi on December 3. Talking to The Express Tribune, Riaz explained how it came about and why he opted for such an experimental style to shoot it with. “I was approached by EMI Pakistan for this project last year and they gave me complete access to all of their digitised music archives,” revealed the film-maker. “That’s basically how the project was initiated.”
With an all-access card to virtually every piece of music that has ever been composed in Pakistan, Riaz realised it was only the ‘Malika-e-Tarannum’ who could encapsulate romance in its purest sense, given her voice and wide range. “I must say that, although I had great respect for Noor Jehan and liked her music, I have never really been obsessed with it as such. It was during the research phase of Gul-e-Daudi that I got to explore her music properly and so, learned to appreciate it,” Riaz confessed.
With this film, the director hopes to re-introduce Noor Jehan to the younger generations. “One of the main reasons I chose her music is that I want to get classic songs out there for the younger generations to enjoy. We aren’t really aware of our musical history here in Pakistan. Not many people listen to it anymore.”
Gul-e-Daudi boasts of some of Noor Jehan’s staple hits, including Chandni Raatein and Aankh Macholi, amongst others. Each song serves as the soundtrack for a different stage of the protagonists’ life. The music undoubtedly transcends the mood and Riaz’s visuals create an intimacy that does justice to it. An infinite sea used as a transition, the up-close voyeurism of the couple’s relationship enhanced by the chiaroscuro lighting and changing soundtrack, all connect to make for a surreal experience.
When asked about his unique visual treatment, Riaz stated, “I wanted to create a feeling, an atmosphere of the old and the new, at the same time. The black-and-white look and the studio setting created that perfectly.”
Gul-e-Daudi features no dialogues and thus, relies heavily upon on-screen action. Riaz justified his decision to do so, saying, “I wanted to experiment and see if I could create emotion on the screen with only silent human interaction.”
About whether he doubted how the audience would react to something it has had little exposure to, Riaz seemed unconcerned. “I don’t worry about that. I think if the audience demands something from film-makers, we can do the same. It comes with more exposure. If our audience is not exposed to something, how will we know they don’t like it?”
Riaz, a Student Oscar nominee, believes there should be more such films that pay tribute to other legendary artists of Pakistan and said he would surely try and make one himself. He also plans to send Gul-e-Daudi to film festivals around the world.
Watch the short film here.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.