Kalki and I shared a similar level of curiousity: Sabiha Sumar

Producer of 'Saving Faces' explores root causes of extremism in Pakistan and India with 'Azmaish'

Ahmed Sarym December 26, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary Saving Faces and the founder of Vidhi Films, Sabiha Sumar, has helmed several projects that have won her accolades both locally and internationally. However, her last cinematic outing Good Morning Karachi featuring Amna Ilyas and Beo Raana in pivotal roles received a lukewarm response.

Talking to The Express Tribune on what might have gone wrong with the film, she said, “In terms of storytelling, it has to do with what the audience was ready to receive. Our sensibilities are mostly determined by TV, and that is extremely emotional and doesn’t always show women in positive roles. A few films are too early for their time, and I think Good Morning Karachi was one of them.”

Pakistani poet Mariam Paracha to perform alongside Kalki Koechlin

Known for making films that comment on the larger issues of society, Sumar thinks artists should indulge in public welfare. “I want to tell stories that touch me personally in a deep way. There are stories that I am witnessing today, and we are responsible for the society that we create and live in.”


Amidst all the chaos surrounding the ongoing Indo-Pak crisis, Sumar’s forthcoming film is a feature-length documentary titled Azmaish: The Trials of Life that explores the lifestyles, religious dynamics and violence stemming from extremism in both India and Pakistan. Her previous documentary, Dinner with the President, revolved around how democracy may come to Pakistan. Interviewing the then-President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, the documentary received critical acclaim and went a long way in bringing Sumar closer to the idea of making Azmaish.

Kalki Koechlin all set to work in Pakistan

“I wanted to do a sequel to Dinner with the President, delving deeper into the society since we’ve now had a complete democratic stay of a government, which is unprecedented in Pakistan. What have we learnt? Where are we? I wanted to start with Mr. Musharraf’s return to Pakistan and take it from there. However, due to his house arrest and the controversies that surrounded him, I was still looking to find a story within this,” stated Sumar.


The next year was followed by Modi’s election in India and he came into power; that having an unprecedented shift, she felt it was important to tell this story from a subcontinental perspective. “It seemed to me that the journey that both the countries are taking was like standing on the opposite shores of the same river.”

What makes Azmaish all the more powerful and stimulating is the fact that the film features critically and commercially successful Bollywood actor Kalki Koechlin. “Kalki was very excited to come to Pakistan,” mentioned Sumar. “We had a very short but a very hectic and successful visit. We went into the desserts of Sindh, we went into the mountains, the city of Karachi and Islamabad. I think it was important because Azmaish is searching for answers and her questions also worked for the questions of the film. I and Kalki shared a similar level of curiousity,” she added.

Kalki Koechlin opens up about her personal and professional life

Sumar feels that Azmaish is an important film since it gets to the heart of the problem in trying to identify what is it that people want? Why is it so hard for them to get it? What are the obstacles?  Never allowing political instability to affect any of her projects, Sumar feels Azmaish too will see the light of the day.  “The usual trade is still happening, so I suppose artists are just the visible target,” sharing her thoughts on the ban on Pakistani artists in India. “If you want to convey a message of enmity, hate, then you might as well target something that is out there. I hope it doesn’t last too long since there’s no wisdom in this kind of behavior. Both the industries can only grow with the exchange of talent.”

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