KARACHI: The story of Sindhi cinema in Pakistan is quite an interesting one. From its rise with the first Sindhi film Umar Marvi produced by Sheikh Hassan in 1956 to its first blockbuster Abana in 1958 and then to its fall in the last two decades. While India continues to produce Sindhi films, although at a very small scale and not many in number either, in Pakistan it is a different ballgame.
Now, the slow rise of mainstream cinema in Pakistan has resulted in opportunities to experiment and explore what works and even expand the audience. Film-maker Jami Mahmood is producing a Sindhi feature film in Pakistan, which may possibly be the first since the recent rebirth of local cinema.
Titled Jugnu, it is directed by Ali Abbas Naqvi, an Iqra University faculty member. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Naqvi said the project initiated in 2013. "I graduated from the University of Karachi in 2012. In 2013 we had a screening of thesis films in Aga Khan University, where Jami was part of the jury," he shared. "After the screening, he approached us with an idea about a boy and his goat."
The Sindh Film Festival: a good first attempt
The team then worked on the script for several years. "We wrote 14 drafts and now the 15th one is the final, which we are currently shooting. We had to work on a lot of things and we realised that the city would be better off if it's set in a rural environment. So, we spent a month in Moro to research and observe our surroundings and understand how people live to get a vibe," said Naqvi. "We decided to focus on issues that aren't talked about a lot usually, such as weak electricity poles etc."
He shared that the film also includes Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai's vision. "There is a local Sufi touch to the film and for that we have Saif Samejo as the music composer. It's not finalised yet but there will be three or four songs in the film.
"As I am a non-Sindhi, I personally spent about a year in other cities of Sindh. The fact that a number of our crew members are Sindhi speakers helped in direction." He also added that they cast Sindhi actors from Napa but to choose the lead child actor, they auditioned about 1000 children from the local areas and eventually found one in Moro, where the film is set.
Celebrating culture: Film festival hopes to put Sindh ‘on the map’
Naqvi also pointed out that the film isn't completely in Sindhi language and will have Urdu as well. The film-maker is inspired by Iranian films, especially Majid Majidi's movies. He hopes to bring similar sensibilities to Jugnu. "I just want to tell people a good story and this film has such a human story. I saw that when we were talking to people here, they related to it."
As far as Jugnu triggering the revival of Sindhi cinema is concerned, Naqvi feels it might just do that. "I really hope so because we see a lot of interest in the people here but they don't have a lot of resources to use."
While a Sindhi language film must definitely create curiosity and possibly do well, the tragedy of cinema is that there are no theatres in most cities across the province. For that, Naqvi said they intend to hold screenings once the film is out. "Moreover, we plan to send it to festivals and then go for a theatrical run."
Jugnu is what Pakistan needs. Rethinking how to live in the future – without fanatics, without corruption, it’s a Sufi journey inwards to find itself, not the world.
Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.